When good students suddenly lose motivation, parents may threaten to take away the smartphone or the car. When a fantastic team member suddenly begins producing poor work in the office, a manager’s first reaction is usually to give him a raise. But neither of these tactics provides good, long-term motivation. To get students back on track, parents can instead enlist the help of a tutor. As a manager, you too can draw upon elite tutors’ strategies to motivate your team. Here’s how:
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Identify the Source of Lost Motivation
The first step in motivating a faltering individual is identifying the reason for the changed behavior. While it’s tempting to attribute the issue to boredom or laziness, there’s very likely a more significant problem.
- Loss of purpose: Consider the schoolwork you dreaded most: those tedious worksheets that seemed to serve no purpose other than filling time. As a student, you just tried to get them over with. Similarly, if team members no longer believe in the company mission, they may stop caring about the quality of their work. Evaluate recent changes in your organization’s direction or policies, and ask yourself if your team has become detached from the vision.
- Loss of ownership: Research shows that motivation in the classroom can be linked to a sense of autonomy. Young adults perform best when they feel they have some control over their duties and goals. This also applies to the freedom to suggest shifts and improvements in the workplace.
- Personal problems: When a student’s grades suffer, it can indicate problems outside of school. Likewise, as adults, it’s unrealistic to assume our personal lives have no impact on our professional performance. Life and work don’t fit neatly into separate categories. Develop a rapport with your team so they feel comfortable sharing potential health or family issues with you.
When tutors and students create goals together, they share ownership and a commitment to the learning process. Goal setting can also help you motivate your team.
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- Create a timeline: People are unlikely to meet indistinct goals with vague target dates. Concrete goals with firm deadlines promote a sense of productive urgency, which establishes accountability among team members.
- Make progress visible: A visual depiction of goals on a chart or whiteboard helps people monitor their progress. Moreover, viewing this progress each day provides positive feelings of accomplishment and leads to an increase in the quantity and quality of work completed. This sense of progress ultimately fuels pursuit of the next goal.
Provide Authentic Feedback
Everyone deserves genuine feedback on his or her performance. Feedback rewards individuals for their accomplishments, encourages them to improve and empowers them to achieve their goals. Authentic feedback does more than just validate the person who earns it — it validates the relationship between the giver and the receiver.
- Acknowledge progress: Recognizing when your team has reached significant milestones will undoubtedly keep individuals performing at their best. Acknowledgment not only builds confidence in struggling students but also signals to team members that you notice and appreciate their hard work.
- Give meaningful praise: Don’t offer insincere praise just for the sake of encouragement. You should, however, praise individuals for devoting extra care to a project. Students and adults sense when someone is genuine. Authenticity strengthens the relationship between you and your team.
- Reward accomplishments: Reward hard work to show your team members you value them and appreciate their effort. This can include monetary rewards, time off, or special recognition. Note that this process is different from simply throwing money at unmotivated team members — you’re recognizing behavior you want to continue.
If you notice a decrease in motivation, avoid assuming that the individual is apathetic or careless. Identify the source of the problem, set goals to guide that individual back on track and lead with meaningful praise and purposeful encouragement. When your whole team is earnestly invested, your company will be able to rise to any challenge.
Chuck Cohn is the Founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, a leading national tutoring and test prep company with operations in 25 cities, 2,000 tutors and 80 employees. Prior to Varsity Tutors, Chuck was a venture capitalist with Ascension Health Ventures, a $550 million venture capital firm. Prior to that role, Chuck worked as an investment banker in the Energy & Power Investment Banking Group of Wachovia/Wells Fargo.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.