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How to Motivate With Progress

How to Motivate With Progress


Of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work, when a job gives them the opportunity to experience achievement.

Workplace Motivation Tips from Shoveling Snow

This is another post under the topic of Managing Underperformers in the lead up to my upcoming webinar and course under the same topic.

Shawn Stratton Perplexing to many, I have always enjoyed shoveling snow. Besides the bonus of fresh air and exercise that comes with shoveling a driveway, I was mostly motivated by seeing continuous progress in meaningful work. Fortunately, progress is easy to see when shoveling (when it has stopped snowing) and sure it may not be the most meaningful work but the driveway does need to be cleared to get the car in and out and my family will be happy to have a clear driveway. That’s meaning enough for me…. When I have the time to do a good job.

As a leader, if you are struggling with unmotivated team members, take a close look at not just their roles and responsibilities but the actual work they do day in, day out. Are they able to see the actual progress in their work and how it is contributing to the project or team goal?

Perhaps they are unaware of the impact their progress has on the team.

Shawn Stratton When we think about progress, we often imagine how good it feels to achieve a long-term goal or experience a major breakthrough. These big wins are great, but they are relatively rare. If the progress of someone’s work is not clear to them, you may have to restructure their tasks so the progress becomes more obvious.

A way to do this is by setting key milestones for them to achieve and celebrating small successes along the way. For these people, it is important to acknowledge the milestones. For employees who show little motivation, it is even more important to see progress and know just how meaningful their work is in contributing to the overall goal, mission, project, etc.

Research out of the Harvard Business School noted that across all types of work events their participants reported, a notable proportion (28%) of incidents that had a minor impact on a project had a major impact on people’s feelings about it. Major accomplishments are achieved by climbing a series of steps. Many of these steps may be included in the mundane day-to-day work that needs to be accomplished to achieve a significant goal so they should still be recognized accordingly for their contribution to the team.

Leaders of teams and projects are often given the most credit and limelight for significant accomplishments but you know there is much going on behind the leader to achieve the goal. Everyone, from the janitor who kept the workspace safe and clean to operate in, to the engineer who designed the framework had milestones they achieved along the way and played a role in completing the project. There should be no job that doesn’t have milestones attached to progress to.

The next time you feel someone is falling down on the job or appearing unmotivated ask yourself how am I helping them see the progress they are making in their role and how am I celebrating their milestones of progress?

[RELATED – Are You Showing the Right Appreciation at Work]

For me, shoveling the driveway had obvious signs of progress. More and more space to park the car was opening up with each shovel full of snow. Depending on the amount of snow, I may celebrate a milestone by simply taking a short break to soak up the fresh air or run inside for a hot chocolate.

It is not the size of the celebration that matters: it’s the act of acknowledging progress!

Action: Highlight a team member’s progress by celebrating a milestone in some small way.

Until next week… Embrace the Adventure!


Shawn Stratton is an international leadership and team building consultant, professional speaker, bestselling author, Ironman competitor, and expedition guide.

Click here to learn more about how Shawn can help your organization.