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The Seven Steps of Motivation


Graham Povey, Managing Director of Capital Incentives & Motivation outlines a step-by-step guide to motivating a team.

Managers usually agree that motivation programmes are about encouraging and recognising performance improvement.

In practice, however, while employers usually have little problem in defining performance criteria, they are often vague about how staff are to be motivated.

Yet the ‘how’ is vital in determining whether participants willingly accept the framework of the programme and go for the targets, or reject them.

Before establishing the ‘how’ of motivation programmes, it is important to understand the composition of groups.

The top 10%
This group contains the regular high achievers, motivated by personal success and peer group recognition. Although they usually succeed in anything they do, they must not be ignored.

The middle 80%
This is the backbone of the group who achieve without being dramatically successful. Generally, they will react positively to new ideas and challenges. They may not be ambitious and may be working at less than full capacity.

The bottom 10%
This group holds consistent non-achievers and new recruits who have yet to deliver their true potential.

The percentages may change, but the majority of employees will be average performers. The top achievers and the bottom group like the poor, will always be with us.

Encouraging the ‘averagers’ to greater efforts is the key to successful motivation.


Let us also now consider the composition of the team, as this will also influence a key issue – what to offer as a reward.

They may range from 18 to their 60s and at both ends of the age range there will be men and women of very different priorities, tastes and interests.

Choice and flexibility are essential.

While cash is an easy prize mechanism it becomes part of the monthly salary and isn’t seen as separate, so doesn’t become a reward for achievement.

Vouchers redeemable at a wide range of stores or venues, or stored value credit cards are now generally regarded as the best way to offer choice, flexibility and recognition, giving staff the chance to aim for whatever they want.

Seven Steps

To implement the programme, here is a simple seven step plan aimed at the average performers.

Step 1: Set achievable targets
Targets must be realistic, fair and relevant to the individuals’ job responsibilities. If a significant uplift in performance is required, it must be justified.

The best way of setting targets is often to ask individuals to set their own. This frequently results in figures greater than originally specified by the director.

This approach means that commitment to achieving the target is greater because the figures are ‘mine’ not ‘yours’. They actually become ‘ours’.

Step 2: Have lots of winners
Nothing succeeds like success. Being able to recognise and reward all those who have succeeded provides a more positive environment than one with lots of losers

Step 3: Make rewards frequently
Make awards frequently throughout the programme. If the campaign is for a year, shorten the payout horizon to monthly or quarterly. The award values need not be huge, but the motivation value is. This keeps interest levels high.

Step 4: Have a 'most improved' award
A participant who has a poor performance in a month or a quarter, can be re-vitalised by the opportunity to qualify for an award in the next period, based on improvement. This method encourages participants to keep trying,

Step 5: Have an employee of the month
In a sales environment, it might be for the most orders taken or new accounts opened. This allows Mr/Mrs Average to compete more fairly.

Step 6: Encourage sustained effort
Nothing de-motivates Mr/Mrs Average more than to see Mr High-Flyer streaking ahead from the start, leaving all in his wake. However, if everyone starts afresh each quarter, or each month, with plusses and minuses wiped out, everyone has a chance to compete on equal terms.

Step 7: Present the awards with style
Do not under-estimate the power of public presentation. Mr/Mrs Average will value the experience of being recognised by you and his peers.

Your top performers should not be ignored, but, by raising the performance of the average employee, the whole group becomes more effective and their raised confidence will benefit your business in the long term.

* Capital Incentives & Motivation has recently launched ‘The Art of Motivation’ briefing paper, which contains advice from two motivational specialists. Graham Povey, Managing Director of Capital Incentives & Motivation recommends how to gain best results from motivational schemes and insight into the psychology of motivation comes from Will Holden of teambuilding and performance experts Sewells Training and Consultancy. You can obtain a free copy by calling 01244 625435.


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