Three Little Things That Drive Employee Motivation

I spoke to a few younger employees that were working at a golf club I was at recently and I asked them, "What makes your boss so great?" The way they responded made me think about how the little things really have such a pull in driving employee motivation. Especially when hearing it from the mouths of the younger generation. They looked up to their boss, their leader, in such a way that they wanted to show up for him daily. Working through the heat, carrying heavy bags, and mentally navigating through people not always being the nicest to them. But because he made their day worthwhile, they went above and beyond for him in return.

Treating Your People with Respect

One of the responses that stuck out to me most was one of the kids mentioned, “He talks to us like we’re people.” How powerful is that! They got so much out of their leader just remembering and using their names. Treating them as individuals. Something that in hindsight may seem like you would do without even thinking about it, but many employees out there are just treated like a number. They are never addressed by name and are rarely patted on the back for showing up to their shift. So when you personalize and individualize your leadership approach to each member of your team and allow your actions to speak to the values you hold, they’ll feel more connected to you. This helps resonate with them in a way that they truly feel a part of the team as well as the bigger picture and your organization’s overall mission.

Timely Communication & Responses

Another topic we chatted about was how much they enjoyed their boss’s leadership style when it came to communication. They mentioned how he always responded to their text messages each and every time and did so in a timely manner. That it was refreshing that what they conveyed via text or speech was acknowledged and there wasn’t just crickets and anxiety waiting on a reply.

I remember countless times when I had emailed my managers in the past and waited multiple days, sometimes an entire week, for a reply on something that was of high importance. When your employees communicate with you, act on it to show you take their ideas and concerns seriously. Respond to emails as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours. Follow up on verbal conversations with email summaries of the important points. If you tell an employee you are going to do something, do it. Responsive managers make employees feel heard and appreciated. Learning to be present and aware of what communication styles work best throughout your team will help you when it comes to meeting discussions, conflict resolution, answering questions, providing feedback, and even discussing challenges as a team. You may find that texting, a chat platform, or even consistent Zoom meetings work the best. Everyone’s communication style can be different, so tailor your communication strategies to each team member's style in order to understand each other and how you can help maximize their potential.

Being Thoughtful & Approachable

One of the other kids mentioned that they carpooled with a friend of theirs. They said that their boss was always thoughtful about both kids coming together, and therefore he would schedule them together for each of their shifts. Having overall thoughtfulness about how certain things may affect your employees individually will show a level of care and understanding that makes them feel heard and valued that you would make accommodations for them. Your people should always feel comfortable coming to you with ideas, concerns, or just things going on in their personal lives. Make it known that your door is always open and maintain a positive and friendly attitude, including with your body language and nonverbal communication. Slow down and acknowledge employees rather than acting rushed or busy, even if you are.


If you find yourself struggling with keeping your employees motivated or engaged, step back and think about these little things you may be skipping in your regular day to day. Are you greeting each employee by name as they enter the office? Or are you checking in with them in your remote environment throughout the day? Have you asked them how they’re doing or followed up on the last personal thing they shared with you? It’s in our human nature to crave acknowledgement and the feeling of being treated as our own person. Implementing these three tips within your leadership behaviors will not only improve overall communication, but will optimize your team’s potential to show up for you as their whole, true selves.

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