The Secret to Employee Motivation

Sometimes a simple story can reveal a powerful truth. Such is the case with a story told by my good friend and mentor, Jim Lundy…

Bobby explains how every leader can achieve the deepest understanding of motivation by exploring the eleventh question in the Motivation Survey!

The story is about two bricklayers.

A man who wandered around a major construction project at the south end asked a worker what he was doing.  Using a very negative tone, the employee growled, “I’m laying bricks!”

The visitor wandered over to the other end of the block-long construction site where another bricklayer was working.

Interestingly, when this second man (working under a different supervisor than the first one) was asked about what he was doing, his eyes lit up, he smiled, and he said excitedly “Hey, man, I’m helping to build a great cathedral!”

Wow!  What a difference in the attitudes of these two individuals.  And how significant might be the fact that two different supervisors were involved?

Why did one bricklayer think he was laying only bricks while the other thought he was building a cathedral?

Leadership!  Yep, that’s right.  Leadership!

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

– John Maxwell

Employee Motivation

In my conversations with supervisors, managers, and executives of organizations throughout the country, they often ask about employee motivation.

Their questions are typically along the lines of: “What should I doto my people to make them have my sense of responsibility, dependability, and excitement about providing our customers with value-adding products and services that exceed their expectations?”

That’s an interesting question!  And an important one!

Think about it!  Are the people who work for you human?  Do they have feelings?  Do you suppose they, too, want to feel good about themselves?  Do they (or would they) like to be dealt with in ways that will help them maintain or enhance their feelings of self-worth?  You can bet on it!

Let’s go back to the question: “What should I do to my people to make them….?”

The answer, of course, is to not do anything tothem, but start doing more things with them!

Motivation Survey

In previous blog posts, I offered you a simple survey about our motivations.  You can download the FREE survey <here> so you can easily record your own answers.

I have found that this survey is one of the most powerful tools that is available for discovery and learning.  The statements in the survey ask you to think more deeply about this important topic on motivation.

Every leader can achieve the deepest understanding of motivation by exploring the eleventh question in the Motivation Survey.

The eleventh question wasn’t included as part of the original survey, but in a sense, it may be the most important question of this exercise.

The Final Question

Can you guess the final question that ties this whole process into a powerful experience?

Here’s the question:  “How do you suppose the people who work for you would answer this Motivation Survey?”

When I bring up this question in workshops, there’s usually a moment of absolute silence.  Eventually, someone quietly ventures out by whispering “The same?”  Of course!

What would you like your employees to do?  Would you like them to simply help you lay bricks?  Or would you like them to enthusiastically help you build cathedrals?

As the leader, you may ask yourself, “How can we as a team have that passion, that ‘fire in the belly’ to go and build cathedrals?”

The answer is to adopt the Engage2LeadTM approach to leadership and motivation! When you engage your people to participate in the decision-making process, you lead them to become “cathedral builders”!

You may be thinking, “That’s it?”  Well…There is more to leading a peak-performance team, but engaging your employees is an important and necessary part of the process.


Are you curious about the rest of survey? The three blog posts below break down the first ten statements of the survey:

How are you doing when it comes to employee motivation? Are your people just laying bricks?  Or are they enthusiastically building cathedrals?  Please share your thoughts <here> and share this blog post with a friend or co-worker.

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