Motivation - a key to success, but how exactly you should do that?

Ferenc Kun

Director of Engineering at LastPass


As managers it is our job to motivate other people. So, how can we motivate others?

There are tons of books and articles about tools and ways to motivate people but the most powerful way to do so, in my opinion, is with finding your own motivation and providing example for others. You yourself should be motivated and be a living example for others how it looks like to work every day in an enthusiastic and energetic way.

But what makes you motivated? Have you ever sit down and think about it?

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily." - Zig Ziglar

Your motivation should be renewed every day. Starting every day with formulating your answer for yourself about the question why I am doing all these, is something that would keep you up and running.

So why are you doing what you are doing? What motivates you?

  • The joy of the job well done - do you just want to do well, what you need to do?
  • Autonomy - do you like the freedom of taking care of yourself, your tasks, your people in the way you prefer?
  • Network - do you like working with other people, collaborate openly and succeed together with others?
  • Personal development - can you find your way of developing yourself, your character and skills?
  • Performance - do you like the challenges, achieving results and perform every day better and better?
  • Recognition - do you like being appreciated by your people, your peers, your boss?
  • Money - do you need financial safety?

If you have more of these motivating you, that's great. If you have more that are intrinsic than extrinsic, that's even better. These are handrails that help you keep standing or you can stand up easier and faster with their help if you fall.

For today, I would pick my favorite item from the list: "The joy of the job well done".

That's something I found the easiest and hardest at the same time to help me to boost my motivation every day.

What does job well done mean for a manager? For me to experience my everyday accomplishments was much easier when I was an engineer. At the end of the day if I could solve an issue, figure out how to implement something challenging, helped others to write better code and learn something new, that easily gave instant feedback for me about the accomplishments of the day.

Even as a manager of one team it was different but still much easier, you are close to the team and to its people so you can see your direct impact immediately. You can see the impact of your actions on the team's performance much faster by eliminating a blocker, brining in help for the team, answering questions about how to move forward, brainstorming with a team about a challenging task, improving a process of the team, etc.

Becoming a manager of managers that changed the game for me. As I am now working with managers and not teams directly anymore and as I’m more focused on higher level vision, strategy, organizational changes, the feedback cycle became way less fast, the real impact of the changes takes way more time to get realized. You are still there to help teams and people but you need to think about a much bigger picture and figure out how to pull the strings to make everything well aligned, how to get people involved and engaged from multiple sides with different ideas, needs and expectations. You need to be able to win them for your cause and lit their mind and heart to collaborate and win together.

On the people management side working with managers has a different dynamic as well. You can see the growth of the given person or the changes in that person’s behavior and actions, but the real deal will be the impact of personal development of your manager on the team that they are working with. At the end those people are the ones whose productivity will bring us to success. You tell your thoughts, you show an example but how the things you discussed and agreed on with the manager will be interpreted by them and will be communicated to the team is out of your control. All the information will go through their interpretation and will be put into action in their own way. You need to encourage and support them, unlock their talents, help them grow their own style and shouldn't expect building an army of clones - we all know that didn't went well even in other galaxies neither.

Hard to see the impact or results of your actions day by day. The reception of your action can turn out different or even controversial to what you expected as the results of your efforts with the best intention too.

So, what can you do to boost your motivation day by day without getting immediate feedback from the outside? Look inside! You are the only constant character of your every days in work. You can always turn inwards and find your answers inside.

You need to build your daily routine, your schedule in a way that it can support you. Building the right habits will make you act, independent from your current, actual mood. If acting in a practical and correct way becomes your habit, it will make you feel good, independent from how things turn out at the end. That's most of the times are out of your control anyway.

How I define the practical and correct way for myself? Acting with the best intention and based on my best knowledge to support others, according to the options and limitations of my role.

At the end of the day, you can go through the following questions to find your motivation for the next day and with it for longer term as well.

And what are the routines that I find helpful to keep me focused and motivated? Solely focusing on the work aspect, I start my day around 9:30 am - before reading any emails or slack messages - with putting my attitude towards the work mentally together.

  • What I want to focus on today?
  • With what state of mind I would like to be present during the day and finish the day?
  • Why am I doing all these?

After that going through emails and messages and checking my calendar to see what I would need to prepare for and focus on work wise. Defining the important and urgent tasks for myself, and/or preparing the things that I can delegate to others.

At lunch I try to keep the from 30 mins to 1 hour lunch time without work and shifting back to the feeling that work is just part of my life and not my life.

At 3 pm, I do a quick "health check". From here I can still save the day or turn things around if the day so far wasn't as it was planned.

  • What are the important topics I still need to take care today?
  • What should I change for the rest of the day to be able to finish the day in the state of mind I wanted to?

At the end of the day, which is around 6 pm for me, closing the day. Making sure that I feel the sense of accomplishment and that I'm not carrying over anything to the time that I will spend with my family in the rest of the day.

You can go simple:

  • Could I cross of the most important items from my TODO list?

You couldn't cross everything out from your original TODO list for sure. That's fine and natural. Things change and you need to adopt. But could you keep your focus still on the most important ones? Are you done with those while you also acted on many other, newly incoming items? Great!

  • Do I feel that I did something meaningful, valuable for others in a way that I feel good about?

If you feel that what you have done and how you could do it was meaningful and valuable and you feel that you have done it with your best intention to help others, it doesn’t matter how things turned out. You did your part, you did well. You max learn from it but you can feel the accomplishment of doing things that way immediately.

  • Do I feel that I couldn't do something in the way I wanted or did retrospectively not in the best possible way? It can happen but could I learn something from it?

Learning from it is the most important aspect here. There will be a tomorrow and something similar will come into your way again but now you have the experience from yesterday and can adjust your behavior, words, actions according to what you have learned from the previous situation. Learning something, thinking about how you could do it better next time, gives you do motivation to eagerly waiting for a next occasion to try yourself and be better that time.

No matter how your day was from work perspective, the most important question is how you do you feel at the end of the working hours.

  • Are you energetic to do something in the rest of the day?

That was a great day then, you did well. Why wouldn’t you want more of that? Why wouldn’t you be motivated to come back tomorrow again to have more of that?

  • Are you tired, depressed, out of motivation to do anything else after work?

If that happens to often and for too long, then it is time to revisit if you can change anything related to yourself, in your attitude towards the reasons of your state or change something in your environment that could help.

  • Thoughts related to work are sneaking in continuously outside of working hours as well?

It can be a good feeling to solve problems or think about improvement ideas all the time, but you should be careful with it. Your free time is for you to relax. If you do not use it that way – even if it feels exciting – will burn your energy and will burn you out on the long run. Use your free time to energize yourself even further with something different. You will see the result of that in work with being even more motivated, more productive, more creative in work as well.

Final aspect - giving back

If you are able to keep or even further improve your mental health and your work life balance within all the circumstance of the given workplace and your given position, you should be grateful for that workplace – and of course for yourself. And how to express your gratitude in the best way?

By being motivated and showing others a great example how to be motivated and bring the best yourself to work day by day.

Do not forget, you would need to do it anyway, why not do it in an enthusiastic way then?

If you are interested in more pratical advices or have question, feel free to reach out to me.

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Ferenc Kun

Director of Engineering at LastPass

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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