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Motivation in Management: How to Motivate Your Managers

  • Human Resources
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 04/07/2021

motivation in management

Table of Contents

Your business depends on managers to set the tone and pace for others in the organization, which is why it's important to take steps to keep your managers engaged and motivated. This starts with understanding and addressing the wide range of motives influencing them. As with any employee, what drives one manager won't necessarily do the same for another. That's why motivation in management typically includes a blend of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Read on to learn about different motivational tactics for managers, and approaches to keep them productive and engaged. After all, their motivation levels are critical to the business's success.

External vs. internal motivations

Motivation can be either external or internal. Intrinsic or internal motivation is a drive that comes from within a person and relates to their individual aspirations. Intrinsic motivation aligns with a person's morals, ethics, or convictions. A manager who's intrinsically motivated is driven by doing a good job and producing results that make a difference. External or extrinsic motivation originates outside the person. In the workplace, examples might be working toward a promotion or bonus. While both types of motivation are important and often work together, they can have different effects on how managers work.

Extrinsically, working toward a reward can be helpful when a manager needs to complete a challenging task or project. But intrinsic motivation can be a more long-term strategy for reaching work goals. If a manager works on a project, they might be extrinsically motivated to complete it to get a promotion, while their intrinsic motivation may be powered by their personal value in doing quality work.

External motivation

Managers who are primarily driven by external factors are motivated by praise, financial rewards, promotions, or to simply keep their job. A competitive compensation package, along with opportunities for recognition and advancement, factor in significantly when it comes to external motivation. While an external rewards system can effectively motivate your managers to take on a new challenge, learn a new skill, or hit a goal, make sure they have the resources necessary to take on projects, skills, and initiatives they're passionate about.

Internal motivation

Managers who are internally motivated pursue their work based on their values, goals, and ambitions. To support intrinsic motivation in management, consider:

  • Being intentional with your feedback. Providing specific criticism can empower managers and help them better understand your expectations. When they have this knowledge, they can foster an open and communicative work environment with their own teams.
  • Investing in managers' well-being by providing resources such as an employee assistance program to reinforce your dedication to staff's overall work/life balance. Intrinsically motivated managers want to know they're supported and valued for their hard work, even during their off-work hours.
  • Offering training and learning opportunities that include self-paced or instructor-led options along with a range of course topics. A manager can take responsibility for their own development and have opportunities to learn techniques and strategies that enhance their overall work quality.

Encourage continuous learning

Given advancements in training technology and access to continuous learning programs in the workplace, there are always opportunities for managers to keep their skills sharp and learn new things. Help motivate supervisors and managers by guiding them to new ways to support their growth and learning, such as:

  • Obtaining certifications
  • Networking opportunities
  • Mentorship opportunities with senior leadership
  • Industry conferences and professional events related to their work and interests

Allow employee feedback

Constructive criticism and feedback can help all employees grow and develop. Encourage managers to be open to communication with their employees as well as their own supervisors. Open and honest feedback can help managers understand how to take ownership of their career development, as well as foster positive relationships with their team members. When a manager is open to an employee's constructive criticism and works with them to lay out next steps, that team member is more likely to feel respected and heard.

Contribution and connection

When big changes happen in the organization, managers are responsible for communicating with their teams to help them connect daily work to the bigger picture. This can help everyone stay motivated, even during tough times. If managers don't know why their team is being asked to do something, they should feel empowered to ask leaders for the purpose behind the work ahead.


Having your work recognized and appreciated is a valuable external motivational tool for managers and individual contributors. Positive feedback can help your staff feel that their contributions matter, and motivate them to bring the same level of effort to the next project. There are many creative ways to recognize hard work and give praise, a few of which include:

  • Weekly or monthly shoutouts during team or staff meetings to recognize achievements
  • Employee of the month programs
  • Appreciation in company newsletters
  • Sending cards to acknowledge staff's hard work and dedication.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are important ways to drive performance in the workplace. Managers who can pinpoint their own motivations are more likely to be engaged and forward-thinking at work, and are in a better position to help their team members do the same.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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