Creating a Motivational Environment, from the book Great Managers Are Always Nice by Chip Averwater

Chapter 7

An Environment That Motivates Employees

I don’t create motivation—employees bring it. I only create a motivational environment that encourages them to use it.

-Mike Mitchell

Legendary manager Mike Mitchell creates an environment that motivates employees by incorporating the the six motivational needs, TOPSRI. Let's watch as Mike welcomes a new team member:

M:  Welcome to our team, Frank.

     As you saw from our hiring process, we’re very careful in choosing who joins us. We’re impressed with what we see in you, and believe you have the potential to be a star on our team.

Mike’s use of Team” indicates Frank’s coworkers are committed to and working together toward a common purpose. By nature, belonging to a team motivates employees—working with others, sharing objectives, proving their abilities, and being appreciated for their contributions.

His use of “we” instead of “I” implies respect for team members. He indicates it’s an elite group, instilling pride in Frank for being chosen.

He conveys respect for Frank and expresses confidence in his abilities. Surely Frank would like to live up to those expectations.

And Mike lays out a challenge—for Frank to become a star. Challenges motivate employees, especially when they involve proving skills and achieving valued objectives.

F:  Thank you, Mr. Mitchell. I’ll give it my best!

M:  This morning, I’ll give you an overview of what our team does and how we go about it.

     We know we’ll be the buyers’ choice only if we make high quality, dependable products at reasonable costs. To judge how we’re doing, we measure several things: our quality check scores, customer satisfaction ratings, costs per unit, and on-time delivery percentages. We set goals for ourselves for each of these, and we take pride in reaching them.

These are the Objectives—the specific results the team strives for.

Notice that each objective is precise and measurable. “Produce high quality products” is not specific enough to be an effective objective; it’s difficult to measure and would be subject to broad interpretations. Quantifiable objectives are clear, precise, and immediate indicators of performance, creating a motivational environment and allowing the team to see and celebrate their accomplishments and focus on their shortcomings.

Objectives for other teams might include numbers of customers helped, invoices processed, response times, sales, products shipped, customer satisfaction scores, low error rates—measurements of whatever the team is trying to accomplish.

Objectives are motivational when they seem reasonable and attainable. Ideally, a team has significant influence in setting the objectives and, as a result, believes in and is committed to them.


M:  You’ll be in charge of purchasing parts and materials. You’ll need to anticipate which materials manufacturing will need for its production schedule and coordinate with our suppliers to keep appropriate quantities. Your job is important to the team because if we run out of a part, manufacturing stops until we get it.

F:  Sounds like a big responsibility.

M:  [Smiles & nods] And that’s why we were so careful in choosing you.


This is how Frank will Participate.

Team members don’t like sitting on the bench; they want to play a part, show what they can do, and be appreciated for their contributions.

Mike believes responsibility is an honor, not a burden, so he makes a point of telling Frank why his role is important to the team.

Playing a significant part inspires good team members to learn their jobs thoroughly and do them carefully. No one wants to let the team down.


M:  Each day Lisa posts our numbers and any notable accomplishments.

     At our weekly team meetings, we get printed copies of the results and we discuss our successes, shortcomings, and potential improvements. Then we set our goals for the following week.


This is the Score. Good scores are a source of satisfaction; lesser scores point out problem areas and opportunities for improvement.

Discussing scores and goals in team meetings keeps them in focus, prompts thoughts on improvement, and encourages input and suggestions.


M:  We like to celebrate our achievements.

F:  I’ve heard.

M:  At our weekly team meetings, we congratulate successful team members as well as take nominations and vote for an MVP.

     If we reach our goals for the month we have a victory celebration—a catered lunch from a restaurant we vote on. During lunch, we announce outstanding contributions and give awards—they’re just small tokens but team members take pride in how many they accumulate and display them proudly.

F:  Looking forward to winning some awards.


Recognition of accomplishment, effort, and ability creates Respect. We like to do things we’re respected for and, when we’re respected, we work hard to do them better.

Opportunities to show respect are abundant—not just in team meetings and celebrations but in conversations, in introductions, by asking for opinions, deferring to judgments, giving credit, when assigning responsibilities, expressing interest, offering encouragement, or just by listening attentively when a team member speaks.

Respect costs only a little time and thought, yet yields extraordinary returns in attitude and effort.


F:  I’m excited to play my part on the team, Mr. Mitchell, but I’ve got a lot to learn.

M:  [Nodding] This afternoon, Sam, our director of manufacturing, will introduce you to some of our most experienced people and arrange for you to work alongside them. He’ll also give you several of the company’s training manuals; please take the certification tests as soon as you’re ready.

F:  Perfect.

M:  You’ll have continuing opportunities to expand your abilities, including training sessions, skill-sharing meetings, online modules, and company courses. There’s also a library of training and self-improvement books and videos. And if you find an outside course you’re interested in, we’ll try to arrange it.

F:  Great! I’m looking forward to all of that.


Training and education are opportunities to Improve—to enhance our abilities, increase our value, and advance our careers.

Getting an education is expensive; companies that provide it generously not only increase the effectiveness of their employees, they attract and retain more... 

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A Motivational Environment, Great Are Always Nice
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