Two Secrets to Staff Motivation

How do you motivate your staff?

Professional pep rallies? Cash incentives? Promising to shave your head if staff meet their growth goals?

Cash motivation

No, no, and no.

What really helps engage people in their work is…

  1. Being good at their work
  2. Getting the opportunity to do the work they find rewarding.

So if we want to motivate our staff, the best way is by helping them grow, and capitalizing on this growth within our schools. The Learning from Leadership study says:

The primary aim of these practices [for developing people] is capacity building, understood to include not only of the knowledge and skills staff members need to accomplish organizational goals but also the disposition staff members need to persist in applying those knowledge and skills.

One critically important disposition is individual teacher efficacy—also a source of motivation in Bandura’s (1986) model. People are motivated by what they are good at. And mastery experiences, according to Bandura, are the most powerful sources of efficacy.

Building capacity that leads to a sense of mastery is therefore highly motivational.

The organizational setting in which people work shapes much of what they do. There is little to be gained by increasing peoples‘ motivation and capacity if working conditions will not allow their effective application.

According to Bandura‘s (1986) model, people‘s beliefs about their situation form a source of motivation; people are motivated when they believe the circumstances in which they find themselves are conducive to accomplishing the goals they hold to be personally important.

Learning From Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning, from the Wallace Foundation Knowledge Center, by Karen Seashore Louis, Kenneth Leithwood, Kyla L. Wahlstrom, and Stephen E. Anderson, p. 68-69 (emphasis added)

When people get better, they also get more motivated. That’s pretty good news, isn’t it?

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About the Author

Justin Baeder helps school administrators increase their productivity through the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network. Learn More »

Leave a Reply 2 comments

Christian Newman - June 18, 2014 Reply

I’d add a few more critical ones:
3. Having their ideas adopted
4. Having their opinion count

Justin Baeder - June 18, 2014 Reply

Thanks for your comment, Christian!

Here’s where this issue gets tough for me: people often want opposite things (adopt new writing curriculum/keep the old one), and in those cases, a certain percentage of people is going to be unhappy with the outcome.

But that doesn’t mean people don’t have a voice or aren’t listened to. Process can handle part of this by ensuring that everyone has a chance to chime in as well as (if it’s a voting issue) a vote.

Personally, an excessive concern for process was something I grew very tired of as a principal in Seattle, where inclusive process is treated as a birthright (even if you’ve been extremely inclusive and a great listener). But the basic interpersonal respect of talking to people, listening to their ideas, and letting them know they matter is powerful.

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