At a meeting with several front line managers, I asked each, “Do you know what motivates your team?” Some admitted they weren’t certain. Others said they didn’t know what drove every teammate, and some had a general idea. One manager stated his team was only motivated by money. He shared that when he asked them why they worked for this particular company, they said for the paycheck. The manager was convinced money was their only motivation. He was probably wrong.

Almost everyone needs a paycheck

People work for a paycheck, but that doesn’t mean it motivates them other than to put in their hours and collect a check. What motivates folks to work harder and smarter? What is it that sets some employees apart? Why do some employees go above and beyond? What makes teammates care about product quality, hitting deadlines, or demonstrating excellent customer service? Is it money? The answer is yes sometimes it is, but not for most people. Money gets people out of bed but doesn’t always make them work harder. Motivation does that. Do you know what motivates your team?

Defining workplace motivation

Motivated people buy into the goals of the organization, believe in the companies’ vision, and do more than the minimum needed to collect a paycheck.

Common Motivators


For some money is the primary motivator that will push them to do more, especially when effort is tied to financial rewards. However, leadership is often disappointed when financial incentives don’t inspire teammates to do more. Those primarily motivated by money will overachieve for increased pay, but only a small percentage of workers are motivated to do more for money alone.


In this article from Psychology Today, Study shows recognition matters more than money they state, “…BadgeVille, a gamification company, surveyed 1,200 U.S. employees from a broad cross-section of industries. Among the study’s highlights: 83% of respondents said recognition for contributions was more fulfilling than any rewards or gifts; 76% found peer praise very or extremely motivating; 88% found praise from managers very or extremely motivating; 90% said a “fun work environment” was very or extremely motivating”.


Being part of a functioning, collaborating team is a tremendous motivator for many workers. Feeling that they are an integral part of the operation can be empowering.


Having team members, and a leader who listen, who are approachable as well as considerate, are key motivators for a large number of employees.


Flex time, schedules that fit individual lifestyles are great motivators for many, but flexibility isn’t only scheduling. It can include some flexibility with procedures, policies, and systems when employees are given choices and leeway.


People expect traditional benefits such as health care. However, they’re seldom a motivator to do more. However, added benefits such as wellness, child care, and education are the biggest motivators for some.

Your team isn’t you

One of the most significant flaws in human thinking is the belief that others think as we do. Not the case. Don’t fall into the trap of only using motivators that work for you. They may not work for your team. How do you find out what motivates them? Ask them as a team and individuals.

So, what motivates your team?

At the end of the session, I asked if anyone had ever left a job to take a position at lower pay. Everyone in the room raised their hands. I asked what motivated them to leave. Money wasn’t mentioned. I heard:

  • “Work I believed in.”
  • “They had a gym.”
  • “I liked the boss because I could talk to him.”
  • “I thought the company was outstanding.”

Do you know what moves your team to achieve more than the average bear? If not, try asking them. It might surprise you.

If you’d like to read further on this topic I suggest this Psychology Today post, Myths and truths about employee motivation.

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

So, does your business have a  management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.