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And why leaders need to deal with it effectively
Everyone loses motivation from time to time. As leaders, we need to proactively address demotivation and help our people turn it around. Because if we don’t, that demotivation may be contagious.
Demotivated people have stopped caring about what they are doing. This may because they are tired or distracted, or they may be bored or feel unrewarded by their ongoing tasks. If you notice that a previously competent team member has lost focus or is “getting sloppy” in their work, don’t let it slide.
Ideally, speak with them privately. Ask them if everything is okay, “because they seem to be a little off-their-game today.” Hopefully, you have a strong enough rapport with each of your people that just showing that you have noticed and that you care what’s going on with them will get them to explain what’s going on with them. Sometimes, it’s not related to work: “the new baby kept me up all night—she’s teething right now.” Sometimes, it’s not related to work, but it’s not something they may feel comfortable sharing in a professional setting (marital/relationship problems, mental or physical health issues, etc.), so don’t get too “pushy.”
If it’s work-related, though, you have a lot of options to help them re-focus. “I know how good your work on things like this usually is. What do you need from us to help you get you there on this project?” Sometimes, they may need some of the other things taken off their plate—overloaded employees can become demotivated or even burn-out, and too many bosses “reward” their top performers with more work. Sometimes, they need an extra set of eyes or hands on a project. Sometimes, they need some additional training or resources. Sometimes, they need more structure, since they are not sure where their work fits into the big picture, but sometimes they need more autonomy to do things their way, since they feel like they are being “micromanaged” and that you don’t have confidence in them. One size does not fit all—there are many things that can demotivate people.
And sometimes, they need a pep talk—they need someone (and that’s your job as leader) to build up their motivation, so that they want to do it and do it well. Help them to care again. Help them to feel valued and respected as a person and a team-member. Help them feel competent. Help them feel like a winner. Help them feel appreciated.
And don’t stop helping them feel that way once they are re-motivated.