3 Ways to Provide a Swift Kick in the Pants

Kick in the pants
Some people simply need a swift kick in the pants as a motivator. (iStock photo )

The best answer to providing motivation to team members is to hire people who motivate themselves. Self-motivated employees are the answer to the prayers of many leaders. The reality is most employees lose their motivation because of the presence of dissatisfiers.

Frederick Herzberg was a leading researcher in the study of motivation in the 1950s. Many psychologists have replicated his research and added to the field of motivation theory.

In a nutshell, Herzberg believed if dissatisfiers are present (salary, security, relationships, working conditions, etc.) motivation of workers will not occur. Items on Herzberg's dissatisfiers list could not be used to motivate a worker.

Herzberg believed motivation occurs with achievement and recognition. There are extrinsic and intrinsic factors in play. Most leaders know the power of recognizing the work of their team members.

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But sometimes, we all need a swift kick in the pants. 

"It's hot, it's cold, just don't feel it today, stayed up late watching a Netflix series, and no, I don't want to do that, Fred can handle it better." This is a good, but not all-inclusive list of key indicators of the need for pants kicking.

Recognizing the need to apply a jumper cable to a lethargic worker isn't difficult. However, it requires a gifted leader to apply foot to pants and achieve motivation.

The problem with a swift kick is we only succeed in "moving" the worker. I prefer to achieve more than temporary compliance (Herzberg said "when I kick, I am motivated, but you move").

Obviously, I'm not referring to any sort of physical technique. Leaders look for psychological ways to induce performance. For example, praise is a psychological inducement. 

Leaders may want to consider the following three techniques for jump starting performance:

1. Confront. "What needs to happen so that we can count on you to ________________?" You fill in the blank.

Confrontation is best handled by questioning with purposeful probing for answers. An effective leader can ask questions in such a way as to build esteem in the worker and yet apply correction.

2. Add work. Surprisingly, some workers will do better with more work. Job enrichment is an excellent breeding ground for motivation.

Job boredom is a dissatisfier. A file full of new challenges can be a powerful kick.

3. Get jelly beans. Yes, a reward can serve the function of a kick in the pants. Assign a task. Set a deadline. Distribute jelly beans.

Make it clear that excellent performance on the task will result in THIS specific reward. Resist temptation to respond, "But I shouldn't HAVE to do this. We pay them well." Think on these things ... performance will increase.

Of course, I don't leave out the power of prayer. I prefer to pray for non-performers at the start of a workday. I pray privately that the Holy Spirit will encourage the discouraged.

But sometimes, there's nothing better than a fine shoeshine.


"Let us firmly hold the profession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to spur one another to love and to good works. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:23-25).


Dr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His book, Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity, is now available.

Leaders, Dr. Greene wants to help you understand the spiritual connection between relationships and productivity. Read his new blog, here.

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Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.

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