As a manager, how do you inspire and motivate your team? A purpose expert shares her tips and tricks for creating a more fulfilling work environment for employees.

Managing a team of employees is a complex and sometimes difficult task. A frequent pain point for leaders is the struggle to motivate and inspire employees. Many bosses ask themselves how to create a more purpose-driven environment for workers.

Apex’s recent Toolbox Talk host Gabrielle Bosché, co-founder of the Purpose Company and best-selling author of The Purpose Factor, highlights key motivational takeaways and shares how to identify and drive purpose in employees.

Build a Solid Foundation

Your goal as a manager is to give your team a strong foundation to build their own purpose.

“I trained my team to find more fulfillment [within themselves],” Bosché explains. “As bosses and leaders, we are responsible for the initial part of their motivation, but you don't want to be in charge of all of their motivation. I train my team to have their own batteries and their own reserves when it comes to motivation.”

Define Purpose

“Purpose is how you can help and bring value to other people,” Bosché states. Purpose and motivation are linked in the workplace. If employees don’t feel motivated to bring their best work to the table every day, they likely won’t feel like they are fulfilling their purpose. This leads managers to ask, how do you motivate employees?

Understand Motivation

According to Bosché, motivation ultimately comes down to one question: is it worth it? To identify and drive motivation in employees, you need to showcase that their work has purpose. “If you have a team member who is coming in late, isn’t staying focused, keeps starting and stopping—it’s because they’re not answering the question, is it worth it? ” she says.

“Sometimes it really is as practical as [asking employees], ‘Is this what you want?’” Bosché states. “If they say yes, [you respond with], ‘Here are the steps you need to take to get [where you want to go]. And if you don’t do them, you won’t get there.’”

Expectations vs Reality

Bosché states that employees often become unmotivated when the expectations of their job don’t align with the reality. “Expectations can truly be the thief of joy,” she explains. “[Employees] come into a situation saying, ‘This isn't what I expected. It's not as fun as I expected, it’s not as glamorous as I expected.’”

Bosché uses her first job after college as an example: “I was placed in a consulting firm, and I had beautiful ideas of, I'm going to have my own office, I'm going to do these amazing things. My first day on the job, they're like, ‘Welcome to the team, we're going to show you your office.’ I'm thinking, my friends are baristas or interns, and I have my own office. I'm decorating it in my head. I'm like, I wonder if it has floor to ceiling windows. What is the bookshelf going to look like?”

“As soon as I walk in the door, I’m instantly hit with this overwhelming scent of bleach. I see two recycle bins and a tiny desk. They had converted the cleaning closet into my executive workspace. My expectations were hit smack in the face.”

Motivation ultimately comes down to one question: is it worth it?

Provide Clarity to Employees                   

Luckily, Bosché didn’t let this discrepancy affect her motivation. Her boss increased her clarity of why this role was important and gave her a sense of purpose. He came into her tiny office and said, “I want to thank you. This probably isn't what you imagined, but by you serving your clients, it helps the rest of us serve our clients as well.”

This moment helped Bosché push through her initial feelings of dismay about the role. She explains, “I needed to do my job every day because there were people counting on me.  My boss created an opportunity for me to say yes to my strengths and gave purpose to my role.”

Avoid this clash of expectations versus reality by clearly communicating job duties, salary, office environment, bonus opportunities, work-life balance, etc. before onboarding a new employee. Ensure your team understands their purpose and how they make a difference every day by doing their work.

Ask the Right Questions

“If you want to create a more fulfilled workforce, you need to create more fulfilling workdays,” Bosché states. Bosché recommends asking employees to tell you about their most fulfilling day at work. She explains, “When I talk to my teams about creating a more motivating environment, I say, ‘Walk me through a day at work where at the end of the day, you feel like, that was incredible, I could do more of that.’”

“I want to find out what activities they were doing that brought them fulfillment. Sometimes it's not even what they're getting paid to do. Sometimes it’s supporting an event or coaching a client. It might not be part of their job description, but these activities were very fulfilling for them. As their manager and leader, I can then determine how they can do more of those things.”

You can also find out how employees want to be recognized when they do a great job. Asking these questions helps you identify and create more fulfilling workdays for your team.

Fulfillment Transactions

One surefire way to make employees feel fulfilled is by allowing them to solve problems. “Fulfillment isn’t necessarily from achievements, it’s most often from finding solutions to problems,” Bosché explains. “It makes people think, that got solved because I was on the team.”

She suggests creating a routine of asking employees about their fulfillment transactions. “On weekly meetings, I ask my team to tell me a fulfillment transaction, which is a situation where they did X, and helped a person with Y. I then ask them, ‘What was the end result, and how did that make you feel?’”

Perfection isn’t the Goal

Bosché closes her talk with the reminder that motivating your employees to feel purposeful every second of every day isn’t the goal. “I can’t always help someone have a 10 out of 10 workday,” Bosché says. “But if I can get them to an 8 out of 10 or 9 out of 10, that’s a great day, that’s a great week.”

Being a successful manager who inspires employees isn’t always easy. However, by building a solid foundation, asking the right questions, providing clarity, and focusing on fulfillment, you can help identify and drive purpose in your employees.