“Rumor has it you got advisor of the year. Congratulations.”

This above was a sterile email I received from my boss in 2008.  No greeting. No signature. No encouragement. It was demotivating. I have never understood why my boss didn’t walk the 50 feet from her office to my office and personally congratulate me.

My friend, Jen Lindahl shared this article last week by Harvard Business Review: Motivating Employees Is Not About Carrots or Sticks. It brought back the memory of my boss who couldn’t care less about my success.

Every employee has three psychological needs that need to be met for their motivation to thrive. I want to talk about one of those this week: RELATEDNESS.

Leaders need to create connection. Employee commitment rises when an employee feels connected to their work and the people they work with. It begins with clear unity of purpose: a purpose that every team member or employee understands and supports. It is also one of the eight traits of successful teams that I wrote about last week. When employees experience connection, their loyalty increases. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Create a team motto with your team
  • Review the organizational mission on a regular basis
  • Build time into meetings for non-work-related conversation
  • Ask your team to develop rules of engagement

Leaders also need to express caring by showing kindness and concern (a.k.a. Generosity G Factor). A 2015 study, Making a Difference in the Teamwork: Linking Team Prosocial Motivation to Team Processes and Effectiveness, found evidence that kindness and caring POSITIVELY IMPACTS both team processes and effectiveness. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Initiate a real conversation: ask questions and listen
  • Be sensitive to others’ timelines
  • Write a note to a coworker to let her/him/them know you care
  • Start a collection for a coworker in need

Finally, no one wants to be the proverbial kid who is chosen last for a team in gym class (oh boy, the flashbacks I am having right now of name after name being called until “Jeannette” was the only name remaining). Leaders need to build an environment of belonging. Employees don’t like to be left out. When employees believe they matter belonging springs to life. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Don’t allow any one person to dominate meetings or discussions
  • Hold regular one-on-ones with your team members
  • Rotate tasks that anyone can do
  • Invite the quiet people to share their input

One important note I haven’t mentioned yet – relatedness is a two-way street. It is what we give (as you see above). It is also what we get. Be a gracious receiver of connection, caring, and belonging.