Communicate to Motivate Your Staff

“Setting and communicating the right expectations is the most important tool a manager has for imparting that elusive drive to the people he supervises.”

– Andrew S. Grove

Recently, I have been thinking about and studying the subject of effective communications.  Where most managers, leaders and marketers go wrong – and are guilty of ineffective communication – is quite simple:

They give an order, or write a memo, or place an ad and … they presume that the message is communicated.  They assume that the order will be acted upon to their satisfaction; that the memo will be completely understood by all who read it (if they do read it) and that the ad will naturally generate orders for the product or service.


Communications is a participatory sport.  At a minimum it involves “give and take” from two parties.  You give me an order and I take away a clear understanding of what you want me to accomplish; how the task is to be done and when it is to be completed.  Simple enough, right?


How often have you been disappointed when your staff did not complete a project the way your wanted it?  Quite a bit if yours is the typical office or store.  Why?  Who is to blame?  What went wrong?  How could they possibly not understand me when I said, “I need this done ASAP!”  How, exactly, did you define ASAP?  Are you sure that you communicated your exact interpretation of ASAP to your employee?  Did he or she tell you what was exactly possible from their perspective? Does their ASAP match your ASAP? If not, you have a problem – that needs to be fixed – ASAP!

This is how communications break down.  This is how morale starts to slip in the workplace.  This is not the right way to motivate your staff.

Let’s examine the opening  words of the Andy’s Grove quote that I used to start this post:

“Setting … and communicating … the right … expectations…. ”

Each word packs a lot of power.  And the power to motivate is included in each one:

“Setting expectations.”  Confident managers and leaders don’t set expectations by themselves.  They involve their individual employees or their team members when setting their expectations.  They ask questions.  They evaluate skill levels and potential.  They are aware of other – possibly conflicting – goals that employees are working towards for other departments.  Today, leaders set expectations in consultation with their staff.  They still make the final decision, they maintain control, but… they actively invite participation in setting expectations.

“Communicating expectations.”  Effective leaders are skilled at communicating clear, concise and precise direction.  And they make sure that their staff completely understand – and are committed to fulfilling – these expectations.  Confident leaders choose the right words when communicating.  They choose the words that work – the words that their team “hears” and understands. The words that the team responds to.

“The right expectations.”  Expectations that are challenging and interesting – but achievable.  Expectations that help the team to grow, learn additional skills and build self-confidence.  And confident leaders realize that they must coach and praise their team members as they work towards meeting the right expectations. 

Offering specific and timely praise for positive performance is the strongest force for motivating your staff. 

Use these tips as tools for “imparting that elusive drive to the people (you) supervise.” 

You will love the results!

Let me know what works for you – and why it works.  Drop me an email – or post a comment about this article.  Share your thoughts with your fellow readers.

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