How to Become a Sherlock Holmes of Employee Motivation

Finding out what motivates your employees can be a fun activity to pursue besides the one-on-one meetings you may have with your employees.

When you can find out people’s interest and what is meaningful to employees without them really knowing then your recognition actions take on an extra value of respect and appreciation.

To discover the personal motivators of those you manage and work with you must become like Sherlock Holmes.

Thinking Like Sherlock Holmes

If you pin down the quintessential skills the detective character Sherlock Holmes has you could probably boil it down to two core skills: observation and deduction.

Observing people at work and in their workspace provides you with opportunities to make note of physical items on walls or cubicles, if permitted. You can also pick up on explicitly expressed personal interests or more subtle cues during conversations.

Your task is to train yourself to focus on relevant areas that appear important to employees about their interests, significant others and recreational activities.

Deducting What Makes People Tick

Knowledge about your employees’ personal lives and interests will help you determine appropriate recognition items to give them when the occasion arises.

You must learn how to listen and observe everything around you at work to help identify employee motivators.

Former U.S President Theodore Roosevelt is attributed to saying, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Listening for personal interests, hobbies, insights on family and friends, and things that excites people helps you to know how to give better recognition to your employees.

By adding this more personal touch to your recognition you are demonstrating that you truly care.

Applying Your Field Notes To Recognition

In speaking with Mark in his office you look around his work area.

What do you see?

You notice the personal touches he has on and around his desk. You can see two paintings on the wall, a golf club in the corner, and a football on his shelf.

He displays a “Daddy’s Girl” framed photo of his daughter and another photo of his wife to the left of his desk.

Observing the items on display on and around Mark’s desk gives you a potential list of motivators to draw upon and confirm. You can then use these ideas whenever you need to acknowledge him for great work.

Some potential motivators include art lover, sports participant, and family importance.

Such suggestions won’t apply in open environments or shared workstations where personal items are not permitted. But they may well be identified in one-on-one meetings.

Standing at Catherine’s desk you observe potential motivators around the wall, on shelves, and on her desk.

She has dog photos on the wall so she may be a dog lover. A note card on display suggests she enjoys written acknowledgement and it seems she likes to display tangible items of appreciation.

In other employee situations, what are some examples of personal items that could lead to identifying personal motivators?

  • Learning about a person’s favorite sports team could spark a fun idea for a sportswear with their team’s logo emblazoned on it
  • Hearing about hobbies can lead to the perfect next thing they really need
  • A specific family situation can inspire a very personalized recognition idea
  • Excitement about an author, singer, celebrity or personal wish leaves the door wide open for potential tangible gifts

To think like Sherlock Holmes you will need to be more mindful of what you hear in conversations and learning from what you see in employees’ workplaces.

By becoming a keen observer it allows you to discover key insights on your employees’ personal motivations.

When you apply observation and deduction skills to recognition giving you can become the Sherlock Holmes of motivation.

Listen. Look. Apply. You will always find ways to give better recognition.

Question: How have you been able to discover the hidden motivations of your employees?

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