Two workers in vests and hard hats fist bumping
7 essential plays for your leader playbook

Get over it! The people who work for you are not you. They don’t think like you, they work differently than you and they’re not as motivated as you. And just because you pay them a good salary doesn’t mean they’re going to work their fannies off the same way you do. To get them to follow your vision, reach big goals and achieve expected results, you have to give them a reason to follow and perform at their highest level. People are motivated for their own reasons — not yours. It is the leader’s job to discover what makes each person tick, do their best and produce outstanding results.

When watching NFL football, you see that the winningest teams are managed by a head coach who motivates and inspires players to achieve championship results. Also note there are many different winning coaching styles. But all of them focus on encouraging players to improve, follow the playbook, implement the plays properly, show up to practice on time and be a team player. They also don’t tolerate poor performers, troublemakers, bad attitudes, and those who don’t follow the systems and team rules.

Think of your children. You tell them what you want them to do, but they don’t always do it. So, you try to bribe them to no avail. Frustrated, you scream, “If you’re not home by 10 p.m., I’m going to ground you for weeks!” 

Well, you don’t, and you let them off the hook. So, they continue to stretch the envelope, because there are no real consequences. It seems like nothing works with your kids — just like with employees. 


Your Input Equals Their Output

Leadership is about influencing others to want to do what you want them to do. The key words are “to want to do.” They need to want to do it. When you tell your kids to clean up their rooms, they decide if they’ll do it based on their needs, priorities and consequences. 

Ask yourself: “What makes people want to follow me?” You know what doesn’t work with children and employees: lack of trust, integrity, accountability and consequences. A lot of managers say, “My people won’t do what I want them to do. I should get rid of them, but I can’t afford for them to leave, so I don’t fire them.” What kind of accountability do you show with your weak management style? If they don’t do what you want them to do, why should they do more than the minimum to keep their job? Your job is to motivate your players to perform.

Productive employees require two things: money and happiness. Money includes competitive pay and good benefits, plus working for a strong company with a good reputation in the market. Happiness requires reasons to want to perform. An effective leader, manager or coach’s job is to motivate people. Happiness is also an outcome of a workplace that is fun, rewarding, enjoyable, flexible and offers a future with opportunities to grow and advance. 

Great leaders, managers and supervisors encourage and motivate people to perform with effort and enthusiasm, so they’ll do more than the minimum. They also regularly recognize and reward performance, meet regularly with team members and provide feedback. There are proven action steps leaders take to motivate others to perform their jobs well. Review the list below to decide what you need to do to motivate your players to win.


1. Motivation Starts With You

People work for a boss versus a company. When players don’t like their supervisor, they stop working to the best of their abilities. Money is not the top motivator to get people to perform. When your players continually ask for more money, they’re not satisfied or happy with their current situation. Therefore, their request for more money will help them tolerate working for a bad boss or lousy company until they find a better job. And when it finally gets too much for them to handle, they’ll continue to go through the motions until they find another company to work for. 

If you as the boss don’t have a positive, inspiring attitude, your people won’t want to perform at their highest level either. If you’re disrespectful, talk down to others, yell at your players, reprimand people in front of others, micromanage and have a negative attitude, your team won’t care much about doing a good job for you.

You set the tone as the leader, and they respond accordingly. You also must take full responsibility for your players’ performances — good or bad. And you are responsible for determining what each team member needs from you to become a great employee. Some players need more one-on-one coaching, encouragement, input, responsibility or trust. I remember when I would walk into the office after a tough negotiation or fire drill on a jobsite, I would stop and tell myself to turn on the inspirational “happy switch” before I went inside.



2. Build a Company People Want to Work For

People want to work at a place they enjoy and appreciate. Today, employees work to live versus live to work. 

  • Make allowances for some work-life balance, flexibility and time to participate in family events.
  • Most employees don’t want to work much overtime and want a reasonable workload they can handle. 
  • Players want teamwork, participation and to be involved in making decisions.
  • Top talent wants rewarding, meaningful and significant work that makes a difference.
  • Everyone wants to have a career with opportunities for growth and advancement.
  • People need to know the company’s direction, including the vision, values, mission and culture.
  • Employees want to work for companies they’re proud of, with involvement in the community and causes.
  • Workers want regular training, education and coaching.  
  • Employees want more accountability, responsibility and trust, which requires information and results.
  • Players want a helpful, caring coach who offers advice, mentorship, feedback and help.
  • Players want a great culture encouraging teamwork with a positive environment. 
  • Top talent also requires competitive market compensation with full benefits, vacation and flexible time off. 
  • People want to be compensated for performance. You must offer rewards or incentives based on performance and accomplishing specific goals or results.
  • Your company must provide the latest well-maintained tools, equipment and technology. 
  • Extra enhancements can include perks like refreshments, food, fun teambuilding events and all-company quarterly meetings.


3. Provide Clear, Measurable Expectations

People need to know exactly what you want them to achieve — and how to perform the task or activity. Without specific, updated targets and goals, there’s no reason to work hard or produce results. A football game without a scoreboard is pointless, just like employees without updated targets or written playbooks. Your players need to know expectations, how to do things properly, the updated score and the results. You can’t assume direct reports can read your mind. In professional football, coaches use playbooks, training, review sessions, statistics and scoreboards to develop know-how, hold people accountable and provide feedback for their players. 

The norm is to tell people to work hard and try their best … but that doesn’t let people know exactly what’s expected. People must be told the specifics of what you want to happen, the results you expect and when the task must be completed. Examples of clear expectations include:

  • “By Friday, I expect you to have this installed and 100% complete.” 
  • “By the 30th of the month, all invoices must be sent out — no exceptions.” 
  • “You must finish this project by July 1, within budget and with all punch-list items completed.” 
  • “All timecards must be accurate, have the right cost codes and be turned in daily by 5 p.m.”
  • “All footings must be poured by March 2 within the 750-crew-hour budget.”



To get the results you want, be specific with clear targets for your team to achieve, give them regular progress and positive feedback via weekly project score cards or updates, and meet with them often to discuss the plan to reach the goal. 


4. Provide Regular Motivation, Recognition & Praise

Like winning coaches, effective leaders provide ongoing motivation, recognition and praise to the players who manage and do the work to achieve the desired results. Weak leaders — who don’t take time to thank people for a job well done — continually get poor results. Think of the great coaches. Most are known as great motivators who use various methods to win games depending on the circumstances. Motivation can be provided in different ways: challenges, competitions, one-on-one coaching, training, listening, encouragement, incentives, recognition or praise. Of these motivating factors, the two that provide the biggest incentive for people to perform are regular recognition and praise.

People want and need positive feedback for their achievements. Great leaders and managers give praises at least weekly to everyone in their sphere of influence. To motivate others, use words like, “I appreciate you for … ” and “Thanks for doing a great job.” Winning coaches use recognition to motivate their people to perform at higher levels. Weekly recognition and praise will inspire and influence your players to want to perform and achieve results. 

Keep a simple chart to ensure you recognize and praise all your direct reports on a regular basis. Strive to praise everyone at least every week, and check it off on your chart so you don’t forget someone. Simple verbal comments like “Thanks” or “Good job” are all it takes. Verbal praises work the best, but occasionally write short notes to those who went beyond the call of duty. How often do you recognize and praise your people to improve players’ performance, and would I want to work for you?


5. Provide a Clear Understanding of the Big Picture

Employees need a clear understanding of the big picture (company, employees, customers, projects, etc.), what’s happening, what the future has in store, how they fit in, how their contributions add value to the process, and changes or adjustment required to be successful. Winning leaders share and explain where the company or project is going: its vision, future, positives, negatives and changes required to be successful. People need to know the truth and big-picture situation with transparent, open communication; otherwise they tend to think the worst.  Every month, I present workshops or webinars to managers who are looking for great ideas to build and improve their companies. When they go back to their offices, their people are often afraid they’ve been scheming about how to squeeze their employees to work harder. That’s not the reality, but without information, people fear the worst. 

Great leaders constantly communicate the real deal. They’re not afraid to tell the truth — business is good or bad, sales are up or down, productivity is acceptable or not, people are doing a good job or not, and the bottom-line results. Hold quarterly all-company meetings plus monthly project and department meetings where the big picture is discussed and open to questions. When leaders leave their people in the dark, people are unsure about their future and don’t see any reason to perform at higher levels.


6. Care About People

Leaders let their people know they care about them as individuals. People need to know you appreciate them as employees; you care about their personal goals, their future, their kids and their families; and you recognize their contribution to the company success. People must know they’re important, and their needs and wants will be considered as they contribute to the entire organization’s success. Meet with each report on a regular monthly basis to have an in-depth conversation about their current situation and future. Discuss how it’s going, how it can go better with your help, and what else can you do for them to be happy and produce at the desired level. To continuously show you care about employees, keep a “team member profile” sheet on each person. Include their name, family members, schools, hobbies, interests, goals, challenges, contributions, etc. You can refer to it on a regular basis and keep track of each team member. 


7. Ask

To get started, sit down with your direct reports to ask what they want and value from working at your company and with you. Ask how you can support them and how they want your feedback. Give them encouragement and explain the benefits of performing at a higher level. Make sure they understand improvement is a two-way street, as they must take the initiative to seek improvement. 


By following these simple guidelines, your people will want to do what you want them to do. With engaged and happy, motivated employees, your company’s future and bottom line will improve. All it takes is your dedication to build a great place to work and motivate your players to win.