Business Leadership Today

How To Communicate Effectively To Motivate Employees (7 Tips)


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Leaders set the tone for strong communication by making themselves available and being open to suggestions. Clearly communicating goals, objectives, and expectations provides the clarity all employees need to do their jobs well and with self-confidence.

Communication is always important, but it becomes even more important for motivating employees in remote and hybrid work environments. 

Transparent, respectful communication can promote trust and provide clarity for employees, creating a culture of improvement through frequent feedback between employees and leadership.

Leaders should be skilled at receiving communications from employees and responding to them in a timely manner, and in a way that makes them feel truly heard. They should be approachable and accessible, focus on transparency, and address any issues that impede communication. 

Communicating effectively to motivate employees requires strategies that are focused on building authentic, respectful relationships, helping employees build confidence, and removing obstacles to doing great work. The following strategies can help leaders ensure they are communicating effectively: 

  • Build trust
  • Demonstrate empathy
  • Engage in active listening
  • Exchange frequent feedback
  • Support belonging
  • Ask the right questions
  • Provide clarity about goals and expectations

1. Build Trust

High-trust work environments are conducive to a high level of employee motivation and have an overwhelmingly positive impact on productivity, well-being, and a host of other factors. Trust helps employees engage more with their work and motivates them to perform better on an individual level.

Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies experience 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout. 

In a trusting work environment, good communication, collaboration, and a sense of camaraderie among employees are the norm. When there is a lack of trust, it creates a domino effect. Morale drops, toxic behaviors emerge, and good employees eventually leave. 

This can be avoided by maintaining open, transparent communication and supporting an inclusive, psychologically safe work environment where employees are comfortable contributing to the communication process and do not fear reprisals.

2. Demonstrate Empathy

Empathy can help leaders build trust with team members and is an excellent way to show your employees that you value them and are genuinely concerned about their needs and well-being.  

According to Charlene Walters, author and consultant, the stress many workers have endured over the last few years has made empathy a must-have leadership skill because it has such a profound impact on employee motivation. 

Walters says, “We’ve experienced the pandemic, the great resignation, staffing and supply chain issues, and have been forced to do more with less, time and time again. It takes a strong leader to keep an organization moving forward despite the many disruptive events occurring in our society and business environment.”

Good leaders are authentic and care about their employees. They don’t just focus on profits and statistics; they consider the employees who are working diligently to help the organization achieve its vision, and they are aware of how decisions can impact them and affect their motivation.

3. Engage in Active Listening

Leaders can schedule regular team meetings, coaching sessions, and one-on-one meetings every day, but if they aren’t actively listening to employees, these tools will not help them connect to their work and stay motivated. 

To build trust and establish a good system of communication, leaders need to really listen to their employees and respond to what they are saying in the moment to get the most out of these meetings. 

It’s easy for leaders to fall into the trap of asking the same questions or giving the same advice each time they exchange feedback with an employee, but active listening can be more motivating than any advice a leader can offer. 

Listening improves employee motivation by letting employees know they are heard and that their input matters. This creates a sense of belonging that helps them connect to their work. 

4. Exchange Frequent Feedback

Feedback is a central component of effective communication and can be a great motivational tool. 

Good feedback is constructive, compassionate, specific, focused, timely, and presented in a positive tone. When done well, good feedback provides an actionable and solution-oriented framework that guides employees toward desired behaviors.

For feedback to be effective, whether it’s a critique or praise for an employee’s contribution, it should specifically tie into a larger overall goal, rather than being generic, and should outline a course of action.

Employees can greatly benefit from frequent feedback from their leaders. They can also provide useful feedback to leadership. Establishing a culture of feedback in your organization can lead to greater employee motivation, an improvement mindset, and better productivity.

5. Support Belonging

A sense of belonging at work keeps morale high, improves cohesion, helps collaboration, and is linked to higher motivation. It also prevents work environments from becoming toxic because it supports open, honest communication and a psychologically safe work environment.

Psychological safety is the belief that one will not be punished for asking questions, raising concerns, or voicing ideas. When a work environment is psychologically safe, employees are encouraged to contribute, participate in decision-making, and build authentic connections with each other. 

Employees need to feel psychologically safe at work. They need to feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work every day to build authentic connections with their co-workers. 

To support a sense of belonging in the workplace, organizations should be committed to policies that champion inclusion, foster diversity, support collaboration, recognize contributions, and encourage growth.

6. Ask the Right Questions

To make the most of communications and understand what employees need to succeed, it’s important to ask questions. But make sure you are asking the right questions.

Asking the right questions is key to understanding where your team is at and how they can get to where they need to be. It’s also key for effective delegation. 

The key to good delegation is asking the right questions so that you are guiding team members and empowering them to do the work rather than directing them. Delegation can not only help leaders streamline their duties when their workload becomes difficult to manage but also builds trust with employees and helps them develop new skills. 

I recently sat down with Dr. Wanda T. Wallace, author of You Can’t Know It All: Leading in the Age of Deep Expertise, to discuss the importance of asking the right questions when delegating. 

7. Provide Clarity About Goals and Expectations

When employees are unsure about what is expected of them in their roles, it creates a situation where they experience conflict on a daily basis about their duties and responsibilities. 

This daily conflict can raise stress levels and erode confidence. In situations where job responsibilities and duties may shift regularly, clarity becomes even more important.

To feel confident in their roles and motivated to perform well, employees need to know what is expected of them, have new duties and areas of responsibility clarified for them as situations change, and be made aware that the work they do is seen by leadership.

Clearly communicating expectations through regular 1:1 conversations, for example, can be a great way to clarify job duties. While it may not be feasible for every leader to hold weekly 1:1 meetings with all team members, it’s important to make sure you make yourself available to employees regularly and consistently to ensure they are clear on goals and expectations.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

Others Recent Articles and Podcast Episodes

Would you like to dramatically improve employee engagement?

Get a free training video that will show you how to double the number of engaged, motivated employees in just a few months.