Motivate your employees

Managing Staff

Motivate Your Employees – One Mile at a Time


You don’t need me to tell you your employees are one of your greatest assets. With the average cost of recruiting, hiring and training a new employee at close to £2,500, you want to make sure that once you’ve found the right person, you keep him. Sound easier than it is? You’re not alone.

30% of executives say motivating their employees is their toughest challenge.
--The Creative Group

So what does it take to motivate your employees?

As with running a marathon, it takes a huge amount of commitment, dedication (and sometimes tears) to get through it. Let’s pick up some clues from what it takes to run a marathon and turn these into tips for how to motivate your employees.
  1. Get clear about the big picture

Before training for a marathon, you need to know which one you’re going to run. This dictates when you will start training, how you will train (i.e. hilly race = hilly training) and what it will be like to run in the chosen location. I often pick cities I’d like to visit or a course known for its wonderful crowd support. This helps me visualize myself there, gives me something to look forward to and allows me to create an emotional attachment that will encourage me through the training. I ask myself, “How will I feel once I’ve crossed the finish line?”

The same idea can be applied to your employees. Get them connected to their long-term plans. What’s the bigger picture for them? How will they feel once they’ve crossed their finish line? Have them get a clear picture of this. The clearer they can see their future, the more grounded and focused it will enable them to be now. Their role will have more meaning.

Lead by example and be sure to share your vision with your employees as well. This will help them understand where they fit in and the impact they have on the company.


  1. Determine realistic and stretch goals

Once I pick a marathon, I think about my purpose for doing the race: is it to raise money for a cause I believe in, do I want to achieve a personal best or do I want to have fun and see a new city by foot. Once determined, I set a realistic goal (one I could achieve given my past performances) and a stretch goal (one that would send me over the moon if I achieve it).


Having goals not only keeps us on track but also provides a way to measure progress and achievement. Work with your employees to create collective team goals as well as individual ones. Use the SMART criteria below to help you and your team create both realistic and stretch goals:


Specific – What do you want to achieve?

Measurable – By when will I achieve it?

Accountable – Who will help me keep on track to achieve my goal?

Resonant – How will I feel once I’ve achieved this goal?

Thrilling! – Do I feel excited and scared about achieving this goal?


  1. 3. Check in – how committed are they?

The more successful I am at achieving my goals is directly related with how much I really want it. How committed I am to making it a reality. In marathon training, so many things can get in the way, it’s easy to get thrown off track. This is when having the big picture in mind really helps as I can see myself already crossing the finish line.


Once you and your team have set goals, it’s time to step back and let them get on with it. This will give them the autonomy they need while also gauging their level of commitment.  Create benchmarks that will allow them to succeed, measure progress and move on towards the next goal. If they are not committed to a goal, find out what the reason is and adjust or change the goal as needed. Have them re-connect with their vision for their future.


  1. 4. Create a plan – and stick to it!

A key to arriving on race day feeling prepared is having a good training plan and sticking to it. My typical plan includes a variety of runs from short, long, fast and steady. I also check in with my coach for feedback along the way as I may need to adjust my plan due to injury, tiredness or exceeding my benchmark times.


Once your employees have identified their goals, have them create an action plan to keep them on track. Monitor it along the way and vary it so your employee doesn’t become bored. Give them a range of tasks to do. If they need more of a challenge, adjust it and create new outcomes that might be more satisfying such as establishing a career path including promotions or increasing the range of what they are doing.


Provide feedback on their performance at regular intervals. An effective way to do this is to (1) give praise, (2) name the area improvement, and (3) end with praise. For example, “Mary, well done on getting more than enough sponsors on board to support our next event. One thing you might want to try next time is expand the range of sponsors involved as this will increase the company’s visibility across more industries. I really appreciate all your hard work. Keep it up.”


  1. Celebrate!

My favorite thing to do after running a marathon is to go out and celebrate! This gives me time to let lose with my friends and family who’ve shared in the journey with me. I take the time to recognize all the hard word and dedication I put in and truly feel appreciation for each success I had along the way.


Set your employee up for success. Give them opportunities to achieve and take the time to acknowledge them for their contributions, no matter how big or small. Keep checking in to make sure they are on the path they want to be on and keep adjusting accordingly.


A bit of praise and recognition for a job well done, goes a long way. People like to be acknowledged for their efforts. It helps them feel valued. Research shows that in fact people are more motivated by recognition than by money. Mark Twain summed it up quite nicely when he said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”



It’s up to you to create the kind of atmosphere that will support and encourage your employees to be motivated. A great place to start is to understand your own motivations. So, what motivates you? What can you do to better motivate yourself?


Article by Megan Thomas, 8x marathon finisher and Business Coach


For a motivation boost for you or your employees, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to help you get started.