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Motivating People to Change







By Renee Tomlin, Lindsay Bransford, and Erica Lizano (TNU 2008)


In today's business world, organizations must compete in a global environment that is constantly changing. As a result, change is a concern that businesses face every day. The best method to overcome this challenge is through effective leadership. The following are some managerial concepts and theories that explain methods of managing change.






In order for businesses to lower the barriers to change, management must create a positive environment by focusing on good attributes and building enthusiasm. In turn, employee’s fears will diminish and they will be more motivated to change.

Lower the Barriers to Change

According to Karl Schoemer, President and Founder of VisionQuest, there are five things that smart leaders can do to lower the barriers:

  1. They Explain Why There is a Need for Change

  2. They Hold People Accountable

  3. They Reward Positive Influence

  4. They Take Change as it Comes

  5. They Create Positive Momentum

Schoemer, Karl. Five Things Really Smart Leaders do to Lower the Barriers to Change  The New Reality. 2005. 24 September 2008


Present Change in a Positive Manner

Dr. William H. Halbert explains in his book Relationship Management, that “Contrary to popular opinion, change is a motivator and people love it. People tend to support those ideas in which they have a hand in creating.” “Success lies in the way change is presented. As a leader, you have the opportunity to make change an exciting adventure simply by giving your team members, when at all possible, a voice, and a choice. ‘Choice’ is a powerful word indicating ownership and freedom, two elements that boost any team’s morale.”

Halbert, Jr William. Relationship Management. Tennessee: The Halbert Company, 2005.

Appreciative Inquiry Motivates People to Change

A Periodic Report by Merryn Rutledge, President of ReVisions, talks about motivating people to change. She says that’ “Appreciative inquiry” is a way of assisting change. It is a process that begins with the assumption that discovering the best of what motivates us to imagine something new. Organizations and people can be thought of as problems to be solved or miracles to be appreciated. (Cooperrider and Srivastva) Managers can use appreciative inquiry to bring out the best in organizations, departments, teams, and individuals.


Rutledge, Merryn. ReVisions: Ideas for Leaders. 1998. 24 September 2008 


Boosts Enthusiasm

McNamara says managers cannot motivate employees. Therefore, managers need to set up an environment where employees will motivate and empower themselves. What motivates one person will not motivate another. Therefore, McNamara suggests meeting with each employee to ensure his or her motivational factors are understood and met. He also states, “Motivating employees starts with motivating yourself.” When mangers are enthusiastic about their job, it is likely that the enthusiasm will spread.


Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD. Basics About Employee Motivation (Including Steps You Can Take). 1997-2008. 24 September 2008, Adapted from the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision


Diminish Fear

Glaser believes fear influences employees to withhold their feelings from management. Therefore, managers should keep the line of communication open at all times. Good leaders are not afraid to ask questions and are not intimidated by difficult questions. They try to put themselves in other people’s shoes in order to understand how they feel. At the same time, they are not people pleasers. When managers are open and honest, employees know where they stand. In turn, employee’s fears diminish and they become more productive.


Glaser, Judith. Motivation Connect 365. August 2006. 24 September 2008




Leaders who demonstrate good ethics and a servant heart will earn respect and inspire their followers to change.


Ethical Values

Aronson says good leaders earn the confidence and loyalty of their employees through ethical behavior. He says ethical values tend to motivate respectable leaders. Good leaders set boundaries of acceptable behavior and establish mutual respect for all. In addition, ethical leaders influence their followers to pursue mutual goals by establishing a vision of a better future for everyone.


Aronson, Edward. Integrating leadership styles and ethical perspectives. December 2001. 24 September 2008;col1


Servant Hearts

Singh believes a good leader is one that is a good servant. He says, “The leaders who tend to get more cooperation and motivation out of those they lead, are themselves hard workers who without hesitation will get into the trenches with their people.” In addition, Singh states that good leaders are good listeners who show they care about other people’s feelings. When employees believe their manager cares about them, they will eagerly follow.


Singh, Mark A. The Secret Benefit of Being a Servant Leader. 2008. 24 September 2008


Passion and Purpose

Martin Luther King did not say, "I have a very good plan," he shouted, "I have a dream!” You must provide passion and a strong sense of purpose of the change. Feelings are contagious. When someone around you is feeling blue, it can change your attitude. Likewise, when someone is passionate about something, it can have an inspiring effect. Build the change so that others want to be part of it. When you give them part of it, also give them the authority and control to act upon it. Share the power so that they do not feel powerless. You want them to feel useful and enthusiastic. A good manager will make them feel that the change could not happen without them!


Clark, Don. Leadership and Change. November 1997. 24 September 2008




Corporations have to keep the lines of communication open and give on-going feedback.

Talk About Your Mistakes


How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie explains that to motivate people to change and improve their performance, it is important to “talk about your own mistakes first.” Carnegie states, ”Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.”


Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends & Influence People. New York: Pocket Books 1981.


Give Feedback

Steve Beller, PhD is a clinical psychologist and researcher from Health Data Services. He explains that, “information alone is typically not enough. Sure, people must know how to change and that requires good, understandable, readily available information. They also need ongoing feedback, i.e., information that enables them to know how well they’re doing and what adjustments they can make to promote their progress.” “However, not all the information in the world will foster change unless people are motivated to make the changes. I suggest that the greatest human motivator is emotion-both positive/pleasurable emotions (love, joy, satisfaction, peace of mind, etc.) and negative/painful emotions (anxiety/fear, disgust, sadness/depression, shame, guilt, etc.). Therefore, when people feel good about changing certain behaviors and feel badly when not making those changes, motivation maximizes and change is most likely to occur. Well, what has to happen for someone to have (or not to have) such motivating emotions? I suggest that our beliefs and values about ourselves, others, the world, the future, life-purpose, etc. are the primary triggers of these emotions.”


Beller, Steve, PhD. Curing Healthcare. 27 January 2007. 24 September 2008 




The business world is constantly changing. Therefore, managers should empower people to make decisions and be responsible for educating themselves about the changes.

Continuous Learning


According to The DEMING Management Method by Dr. W Edwards Deming, people within an organization “must to be continually acquiring new knowledge and new skills that are required to deal with new materials and new methods of production. Education and retraining - an investment in people - are required for long-term planning.”


Walton, Mary. The DEMING Management Method. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1986.


Education is Everyone’s Responsibility

Due to shifting trends and new technology, the workplace is continually changing. The technical knowledge that people have today will be obsolete in three years. Anyone employed in the computer field must be able to adapt to technological changes. In turn, technology is forcing a change in leadership styles. It has become the technician’s responsibility to find the best way to get the job done, not management alone. Managers in the computer field have to motivate their employees to assume responsibility and educate themselves, in order to compete in an ever-changing high-tech world.


Webb, Robert L. Motivation in the Workplace. 2003. 24 September 2008


Empower Employees

The book Flight of the Buffalo, by James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, explains two different types of leadership. The Buffalo metaphor is the autocratic type of leader, whereby the herd follows his commands. When the head buffalo dies, the herd stands still because they never had to think for themselves. The authors explain that good leaders must empower their employees. The authors compared the team approach to a flock of geese where everyone heads toward a certain goal, but the flock changes formation when necessary.


James A. Belasco, Ralph C. Stayer. Flight of the Buffalo. Warner Books Inc., 1993.




There are many types of rewards and incentives used to motivate people. In order to encourage maximum employee participation, institutions should develop incentives that satisfy several motivations, rather than a single incentive program directed to only one individual.


Participation Motivates People

Rewards and punishments produce temporary compliance. However, they are ineffective at producing lasting change in behaviors. Rewards only motivate employees to get rewards. They do not create an enduring commitment or long-term improvement in the quality of performance. Kohn says, “We have to stop asking how motivated employees are, and start asking how employees are motivated.” This is not an easy task due to the fact that each individual is motivated differently. Employees who love what they do are the ones who excel. The goal is to get employees intrinsically motivated, not extrinsically motivated. Managers should allow employees to participate in making decisions, express their ideas, and collaborate with others to form effective teams.


Kohn, Alfie. Rewards Produce Temporary Compliance. 1994. 24 September 2008. The Small Business Forum, Winter 1994/1995 issue


Non-financial Rewards Motivate People

Managing Human Resources by Luis R. Gomez-Mejia, David B. Balkin, and Robert L. Cardy says that it is important to use motivation and non-financial incentives. “Although pay is certainly a strong motivator, it is not an equally strong motivator for everyone. Some people are more interested in the non-financial aspects of their work.” “Non-financial rewards include public and nonpublic praise, honorary titles, expanded job responsibilities, paid and unpaid sabbatical leaves, mentoring programs, and 100-percent tuition reimbursements.”


Gomez-Mejia, Balkin, Cardy Robert. Managing Human Resources. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.

Various Incentives For Different People

The ERG theory (as explained in the next section below) coincides with the ideas presented in Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. According to Covey, developing highly effective incentive programs requires understanding the nature of individual motivation. People are motivated by the following factors: spouse/partner, family, money, work, possessions, pleasure, friends, enemies, church, self, or principles.

Examples of Motivators:

  1. Employees motivated by "spouse/partner" value extra money they can spend with their partner, time off to spend with them, or incentives such as dinners or vacations, 4-day weeks.

  2. Employees motivated by "family" value family events, company picnics, or time with their family.

  3. Employees motivated by "money" value cash incentives, commissions, bonuses, or pay raises.

  4. Employees motivated by "work" value doing a good job and receiving recognition.

  5. Employees motivated by "possessions" value status symbols (corner office, fancy desk, public awards, special parking place).

  6. Employees motivated by "pleasure" value "fun" incentives (tickets to Disneyland or local entertainment).

  7. Employees motivated by "friends" value social incentives (parties, theater tickets, picnics, potluck events, other get-togethers).

  8. Employees motivated by "enemies" value the challenges associated with competition and winning (Blue team vs. Gold team, our company against their company, becoming #1).

  9. Employees motivated by "church" value money if it supports their church and/or family activities. Incentives that are in harmony with their beliefs or their faith tend to motivate them.

  10. Employees motivated by "self" value incentives that give them freedom of expression and self-development (allowing them to be part of the team creating a change program, finding ways to improve processes, allowing them to express their own creativity).

  11. Employees motivated by "principles" value opportunities to use their talents and abilities in a meaningful way (seeing the results of their work improve working conditions for them and others, working with company-sponsored community programs, creating new jobs in a plant or office's new location)


Motivating People to Change - Through Incentive Programs, Motivating Employees . September 1996. 24 September 2008 




Expectancy Theory

People are motivated to behave in certain ways if they believe what they are doing will produce results that benefit them.


Victor Vroom defines expectancy as “a momentary belief concerning the likelihood that a particular act will be followed by a particular outcome.” The degree of influence weighs heavily on a person’s expectancy level. A person is not motivated if they are expecting a low or undesirable outcome. However, if they are expecting a high outcome then they are more motivated.


The Free Library. 2002. 24 September 2008


Even though Julian B. Rotter’s theory is known as Social Learning Theory, the basis for his theory is the same as the Expectancy Theory. Rotter believes a person’s personality and behavior are changeable. By changing the environment, a person’s perception is altered. In turn, the person’s behavior will change.


Mearns, Jack. The Social Learning Theory of Julian B Rotter. 2000-2008. 24 September 2008 


Equity Theory

The Equity theory “Calls for a fair balance to be struck between an employee’s inputs and an employee’s outputs.” John Stacey Adams believes employees have greater motivation if they feel their outputs are equal to their inputs. If the employee feels there is a shift and their input exceeds the output from the employer then the employee may leave the establishment, seek more pay from the employer, or become less likely to keep the company’s best interest in mind. In addition, an employee on this end of the shift is at risk of developing burnout. On the other hand, if the employee feels there is a balance then they are more likely to experience job satisfaction, be highly motivated, and experience high performance.


Fowler, Kellie. TimeAnalyzer. 2006. 24 September 2008.Adams’ Equity Theory – Balancing Employee Inputs and Outputs


ERG Theory

The ERG Theory is a streamlined version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. Clayton Alderfer reduced the number of needs from five needs in Maslow’s hierarchy to three, known as ERG Theory. Alderfer relates Growth with Self-Actualization and Esteem, Relatedness with Social, and Existence with Safety and Physiological. The ERG Theory suggests that a person who is unable to move forward will regress to a lower level. The ERG Theory also allows a person to have more than one need at a time.


Paul Hersey, Kenneth H. Blanchard, Dewey E. Johnson. Management of Organizational Behavior. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2008.


Goal Setting Theory


Goal setting is a powerful motivator, whether it is for personal or group growth/development.

Edwin Locke believes that the results of tasks performed depends on the level of difficulty and the amount of information given. Those who receive a difficult task with specific information have more positive results than those who receive a vague but easy task to complete.


Mind Tools Ltd. 1995-2008. 24 September 2008 


Two Factor Theory


Job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction act independently of each other (also known as Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory).


The Two Factor Theory was developed by Frederick Herzberg. He distinguishes between motivators (recognition, responsibility, and challenging work) and hygiene factors (status, job security, salary, and fringe benefits). Hygiene factors may not necessarily provide job satisfaction, but these factors ensure an employee will not become dissatisfied. Motivators provide a positive influence on employees and contribute to higher performance.


Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia




Through our research, we found that all of the concepts are interrelated with one another. Every theory hinges on the employee’s expectations, equity, or personality. These characteristics influence the degree of motivation experienced by the employee. However, they are different in that each theory suggests a specific influential characteristic.




Aronson, Edward. Integrating leadership styles and ethical perspectives. December 2001. 24 September 2008 <;col1>.


Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD. Basics About Employee Motivation (Including Steps You Can Take). 1997-2008. 24 September 2008 <>.


Clark, Don. Leadership and Change. November 1997. 24 September 2008 <>.


Fowler, Kellie. TimeAnalyzer. 2006. 24 September 2008 <>.


Glaser, Judith. Motivation Connect 365. August 2006. 24 September 2008 <>.


James A. Belasco, Ralph C. Stayer. Flight of the Buffalo. Warner Books Inc., 1993.


Kohn, Alfie. Rewards Produce Temporary Compliance. 1994. 24 September 2008 <>.


Mearns, Jack. The Social Learning Theory of Julian B Rotter. 2000-2008. 24 September 2008 <>.


Mind Tools Ltd. 1995-2008. 24 September 2008 <>.


Motivating Employees . September 1996. 24 September 2008 <>.


Rutledge, Merryn. ReVisions: Ideas for Leaders. 1998. 24 September 2008 <>.


Schoemer, Karl. The New Reality. 2005. 24 September 2008 <>.


Singh, Mark A. The Secret Benefit of Being a Servant Leader. 2008. 24 September 2008 <>.


Steve Beller, PhD. Curing Healthcare. 27 January 2007. 24 September 2008 <>


The Free Library. 2002. 24 September 2008  <>.


Webb, Robert L. Motivation in the Workplace. 2003. 24 September 2008 <>.



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