Gary D. Chapman's popular book "The Five Love Languages" dives into the different ways to treat your spouse based on the kind of attention they prefer to receive and how most people respond to each "language." This principle applies to your staff too! Each of your employees responds to a certain "language" or type of attention. If you get to know your employees well enough, you can find out their preferred languages and how they are motivated. We have some common examples of these work-related "love languages" and how you can use them to inspire your employees to perform.

  • Johnny needs initial encouragement. He wants to hear you tell him he has potential and is intelligent, and he would probably love to hear that he can do a great job with tasks you have assigned to him. Johnny is easy to work with. Just let him know you have a project for him because you know he has what it takes to get it done, and watch him go!
  • Angie wants recognition. Unlike Johnny, Angie does not need encouragement to get started and do well. She has that initial drive and gives herself the encouragement. The way to keep her going is to let her know when you're very satisfied with what she has turned in. Tell her you're happy with the report she just gave you, and it pushes her to feel great and motivated when she starts the next one.
  • Gary needs to reach for the stars. He understands how to keep himself on track and already knows when he does a great job, even if you don't tell him. However, Gary will be motivated by lofty goals. Gary is a high-performer but can easily be mistaken for someone who is lazy, as he will reach a goal you set for him and then feel satisfied. If you want to motivate Gary, give him a goal that will really push his limits and let him know you think he is up to the challenge. Reassure him that if he has trouble meeting the goal, you still have an open-door policy to discuss his obstacles and reconsider the goal.
  • Susie is actually a little lazy. She doesn't see her potential, and it even seems like she isn't interested in doing great work. However, don't let her fool you. She is good at many things, and you just have not tapped into her best skills yet! Have a talk with Susie and ask her to come up with some ideas for her job or goals she may want to meet. She may be more creative than you thought. You can help her out by noticing some things that need to be done that no one has covered yet. She will be motivated by the fact that you want her to feel fulfilled in her job and do something in an area where she is skilled.
  • Howard does a good job when he's in control or has a stake in the project. When he feels like he owns a piece of something, Howard will dazzle you. Make sure you give him control over part of a project, or ask his opinion about his piece in the next staff meeting.

There are lots of other ways to motivate your employees. Benefits such as time off and great pay are obviously important, but understanding your team members on an individual level and catering to their "love languages" will help you to build a great team that is more concerned with the work they are doing. You will find out that while getting an extra bonus is a great motivator, nothing compares to a boss that truly cares for his or her employees and how they prefer to be managed and motivated.

Readers: Do you have more tips for personal motivation?