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gears-1359436_1280If you’re a manager, you may be faced with the issue of how to motivate employees on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. It turns out that there is science to support the idea that your words really do matter.

What word you may ask? Together. That is the operative word.

Consider your work teams. Although a project may be a team project, seldom is the work actually done as a team. People work alone, and then join their work together to complete the project. For example, when writing a report, someone must write the first draft all by himself or herself. Other people may contribute to the concept, and certainly other people will review, or even re-write. The original author is typically one person. When analyzing data – it is typically one person working alone – while others may provide input and review.

Each employee acts as a gear, working together, to create a result.

To motivate employees and kick the project into high gear, people on the team must feel that they are working together, even when they are working alone.

“…as neuroscientist Matt Lieberman describes in his book, Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, our brains are so attuned to our relationships with other people that they quite literally treat social successes and failures like physical pleasures and pains. Being rejected, for instance, registers as a “hurt” in much the same way that a blow to the head might — so much so that if you take an aspirin you’ll actually feel better about your breakup. David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, has identified relatedness — feelings of trust, connection, and belonging—as one of the five primary categories of social pleasures and pains (along with status, certainty, autonomy, and fairness). Rock’s research shows that the performance and engagement of employees who research, the feeling of working together has indeed been shown to predict greater motivation, particularly intrinsic motivation, that magical elixir of interest, enjoyment, and engagement that brings with it the very best performance.” Harvard Business Review

A manager can motivate his or her team by fostering the idea of working together, even when they are working alone. Studies show that:

• People working psychologically together worked 48% longer, solved more problems correctly and had better recall
• People working psychologically together felt less tired and depleted by the task
• People working psychologically together found their task more interesting
• The word “together” is a powerful social cue to the brain

Ask yourself, how often have you used the word together, when interacting with your team or direct reports? If you want to motivate employees, it is a powerful word.

Source: Harvard Business Review, “Managers Can Motivate Employees with One Word,” Heidi Grant Halvorson, Aug. 13, 2014