The language of motivation

Have you ever wished it was easier to connect with your colleagues’ motivation so you’re not having to drive so hard? We speak to management and behavioural experts about how to identify what motivates your colleagues and how to connect more directly with their values

According to a survey published in January by Red Letter Days for Business 73% of staff who felt motivated at work in 2015 are highly engaged; engaged staff are happy staff and happy staff are more productive.

Motivated people will care for and work better with patients, they will provide solutions not problems and are more amicable. However, instilling motivation in an overwrought workplace isn’t simple.

A culture of motivation

“Staff, patients and the practice all benefit from motivated staff,” Dr Val McGarrell, director of Prima Linea Training, observes. For her, a motivated staff will want to go the ‘extra mile’ that current demand on GP services necessitates. So how do you foster motivation? Open communication channels between all staff, a focus on work-life balance and investing in and supporting staff are key contributors.

From a management perspective, an active approach is required. Survindar Chahal, group content and customer experience manager at First Practice Management, advocates tackling issues and ‘negative thinking’ before they become problems.

The heart of the matter

Giving staff a vested interest is the first step. For Val this is best achieved by connecting the values of people and practice through reward and support. She suggests setting performance objectives in the development plan, thus aligning personal goals with those of the practice.

Helen Woodhead, business development manager of Primary Care Training Centre, recommends personal development reviews to assess individual progress and heeding the results. “Managers must recognise each person as an individual and allow them to develop within their role,” she stresses.

“Let staff see the bigger picture,” advises Survindar, “and include them in communication streams. Share the latest CQC inspection results, updates to policies and protocols; this will stoke interest because these are important to everyone in the practice,” he says.

Two-way street

“It’s about motivating the team and teaching them to motivate each other,” Helen explains. “It shouldn’t all come from the top as staff may feel hard done by.” Emphasising the importance of leaders with strong voices and stronger listening skills, she adds, “There should be a two-way street in place among superiors and team members.” But discipline must be maintained; as Helen highlights, rules and the fairness that comes with them motivates people.

It boils down to giving direction and pan-practice communication because, as Survindar puts it, “You can’t be that leader they need unless you communicate your vision so they that clearly understand what you want.”

Personnel development

“Supporting staff in their personal development, recognising their attributes and their value to the organisation, is core,” says Helen; the best motivator, she advises, is enabling staff to train-up. As an example Helen recalls an instance where management approved training for a colleague with a personal interest in sign-language and the benefit to the practice was evident.

“If staff feel they can do the job better because you’ve allowed them to learn something useful,” Survindar comments, “they provide a positive benefit for you and your practice.”

What the practice needs to do, Val believes, is to, “Recognise and utilise the inherent motivational drivers and personal value base of employees.” Achieving the objectives and values of the practice, you will find, is a ‘by-product’ of this.


 The Village Green Surgery, Wallsend, was rated ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) with specific attention paid to leadership, team building and motivation. What makes them stand out? Practice manager and partner Philip Horsfield shares his insights

I don’t consider what we do to be driven by a need to motivate the team. The entire ethos of the practice motivates staff and makes them feel that we are all working on the same side.


We have a very friendly practice. Everyone speaks to each other; there’s no hierarchy, it’s a very ‘flat’ management structure.

Team spirit

We consciously build team spirit by being a sociable workplace. We regularly go on staff outings. Everyone’s included – nurses, doctors, receptionists, management – and it creates bonds. You see more than just the work person, you see the whole person and you get to know more about each other.


We are a hard working bunch and I like to lead by example. I’m usually one of the first in and last to leave! Seeing the determination of others to do a good job does actually pull everyone along.

Listen and be heard

I never allow loose ends. If someone complains I’ll deal with it – staff or patient. If a member of staff has feedback or suggestions we pay attention and respond.


All staff are aware of our vision for the future and any changes along the way. We consult them and take their input on board. We have a lot of meetings!


I am actually quite strict. I didn’t realise how strict until one of the team told me! Working with someone who isn’t pulling their weight demotivates, while seeing matters dealt with and put right motivates.

Take pride

The whole team sets a high standard and takes pride in achieving it – working together to hit targets. At the end of the year, if we’ve hit our targets and received our bonuses, we share some of that bonus with staff.


But that financial reward isn’t the main thing. People like to work here and the money isn’t the be all and end all.

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