How to Motivate Employees with 6 Easy Questions

Beatriz Boavida
Feb 05, 2024
7 min read

As soon as you know how to motivate employees, you are so much closer to getting your team to achieve outstanding results.

Nevertheless, this seems tricky enough, as leaders and managers often struggle to keep their employees motivated, engaged and productive.

Why is it so tricky? And how can you, as a leader, overcome this challenge?

Matt Mochary, an expert in CEOing and leadership, has noticed that two things often work against leaders:

People do great work when they feel fulfilled in their role, not just in their role in the company, but also in their life. Matt Mochary

Having this in mind, Mochary created a framework based on a set of questions that effectively boost employee motivation. In this article, we will walk through each step, so you can easily apply it in your team.

Your job as a leader is maintaining employee motivation, not creating it

Some managers fail to realize that most people, when they enter a new job or role, already feel motivated. So, your goal, as a leader, is not to create that initial motivation. It is to maintain it in the long run, and perhaps even increase it.

One way to do this, which is one of the most consolidated strategies, is through giving praise in a timely and specific manner. How you acknowledge your employees’ efforts can significantly increase their satisfaction with their work and consequently keep them motivated and engaged.

Another effective way is to apply Matt Mochary’s magic questions framework, which addresses the 6-key areas that strongly impact motivation. In this method, you start by assessing the current state of motivation of each team member and grow from there to eventually turn all 6-areas high in fulfilment.

Ask the 6-magic set of questions to increase your team's motivation

To effectively apply this method, you should reserve some time in your monthly 1:1 with each team member to ask these 6-sets of questions – if you are not yet doing monthly meetings, revisit your schedule to start doing them now.

As you aim to gain insights, you want to avoid short and broad answers. So, each team member should answer the majority of questions on a scale that ranges from 1 to 5, where 1 means “it couldn’t get any worse”, 3 “meeting expectations”, and 5 “it couldn’t get any better”. This way, you get an accurate and visual representation of their perception in the 6-areas.

How are you feeling about your life at work? (1-5)

This is your chance to gain insights into their situation and how to support them at work. Take advantage of this time to not only focus on the present, but also on the future. As a leader, you can help an employee bridging the gap between where they are and where they want to be. So, make sure you also ask them:

These questions make your team feel seen and heard not merely as employees but especially as human beings.

How are you feeling about your personal life? (1-5)

This question may feel somewhat intimidating to ask.

You can follow Mochary’s advice to overcome this sentiment. He suggests introducing the magic questions by saying: “Hey, I would like you to feel phenomenal in life. Therefore, as your manager, I want to talk to you and help you achieve satisfaction not just in your work life but also in your home life. Is that something that would be interesting for you?” – If they say YES: “Great! So here are the questions I want to ask you – and the goal would be to eventually score the highest possible in each.

According to Mochary, this question unlocks joy and boosts productivity and loyalty – “People feel honoured that I care enough about them to help them tangibly improve their personal life.”

How are you feeling about your Work-from-Home (WFH) setup? (1-5)

Working remotely has its own unique challenges. It is crucial to understand what your employees’ main productivity blockers are, even if they are only partially remote.

How are we performing as a company? (1-5)

It is not only leaders that have worries and hopes for the growth of the company. Employees also have expectations of what success looks like, and they can also have valuable insights. Take this opportunity to get to know them.

What is it like to work with me? (1-3)

Most leaders do not know their team members’ perceptions of their leadership – this will confront you with that. Take this time to embrace and listen instead of reacting - how you react to negative feedback can greatly impact the trust your employees have in you. Make this a moment of appreciation instead of punishment.

What is it like to work with the rest of the team? (1-5)

The most productive teams are the ones where collaboration, synergies, and great communication take place naturally. It is important to assess this question to understand how your employee’s relationship with the team is and how cohesive your team is.

Co-create an action plan

From the four questions that require actions from the employee – life at work, personal life, WFH setup, and work with the team – pick the one with the lowest grade and ask the person to share more (verbally). From there, create an action plan to take the category to the next level. Then, track those actions.

From the two questions that require actions from you – company performance and work with you – pick again the lowest graded and ask the employee to share more. Then, ask them to formulate an action plan. Remember to prioritize tracking those actions to ensure change.

The ultimate goal is to have all categories scoring 4 or higher. Mochary says it only takes a few months to achieve that goal – and that’s where the magic begins, with the first sign being their productivity skyrocketing.

Even if I don’t succeed in creating a perfect 5 environment, my team feels very heard and cared for, simply because I ask questions and cause them to think about it. Matt Mochary

How to improve and maintain employee motivation when it fluctuates frequently

It is expected for employees’ motivation to fluctuate over time. However, in some cases, it happens rather frequently, which can become a roadblock if you do not have a strategy to overcome it.

For Mochary, the solution is still to ask questions – two in particular:

Your goal is to ensure they are motivated or increase their motivation. So:

  1. If they are excited about some of the actions, it means they are motivated to do them – no need to worry in this case.
  2. For the ones which they are not particularly excited about, ask them to allocate each action to one of the following categories:
    • “Doesn’t need to be done”.
    • “Needs to be done but someone else can do it” – ask them who it could be.
    • “Needs to be done but only you can do it” – ask them what conditions could make it pleasant for them to do it.
      • Tip: suggest doing the task while co-working with someone else. This other person will be an Accountability Partner, as they are also focused on tasks only they can do.

Key takeaways

The secret how to motivate employees lies in creating the space for each of them to feel seen and heard about the 6-key areas that lead to motivation in work and life:

  1. How are you feeling about your life at work?
  2. How are you feeling about your personal life?
  3. How are you feeling about your WFH setup?
  4. How are we performing as a company?
  5. What is it like to work with me?
  6. What is it like to work with the rest of the team?

As a leader, your job is to support them in this journey to fulfilment by meeting with them monthly, creating and tracking action plans, and supporting them when their motivation plummets.

Remember, it only takes a few months for magic to happen!

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