By Marcel Schwantes

Over the years, I’ve found one consistent and compelling value reflected and actively demonstrated in all “human-centered” leaders. It’s their ability to connect with others. 

They do so through personal relationships. While not the norm in the transactional, and often brutal, business landscape, personal relationships developed at work are a difference-maker in creating high-performance teams that produce results.

To connect the dots, I’ve found plenty of evidence that supports this premise, which is not found in command-and-control hierarchies of fear, secrecy, and control (over people and processes). And it all starts with leaders setting the stage at the top.

Mike Gray is the latest in a long line of executives who live out the principle of putting people first through relationships. He is the SVP of Operations at Club Pilates, the largest Pilates brand in the world. He is a fitness leader respected among his employees, both current and former, for constantly challenging them.

Gray goes so far as tracking his former employees’ long-term goals on his phone and reaching out to check-in–get this–after 5 and even 10 years after they’ve moved on, to see if they’re on track to achieve those goals. I asked him why he does this, which he shared with me below.

4 ways to motivate employees to give their best

Gray, who, by the way, doesn’t quite fit the Pilates fitness genre with his imposing 6’1″, 240 lb. stature certainly fits the stature of a servant-leader. He shared with me four really good strategies for any leader to looking to motivate employees beyond the traditional yearly review.

1.  Identify your employees’ ‘why’. 

Sit down with your employees and get to know why it is that they do what they do every day. This doesn’t always have to be monetary, it could be a fun reason! Once this is identified, you can have a clearer picture of how best to motivate them.

2. Keep track of their goals.

 While you are getting to know your employees, ask them about their goals–both short and long-term, and remember them. It’s easy to lose sight of the end-goal for an employee and a manager you get entrenched in the day-to-day grind. 

3. Challenge them.

As a leader, it is critical to constantly challenge employees. When you push them hard and remind them of their ‘why’, they will be motivated to continue working hard. 

4. Check-in on their progress

Most importantly, check-in on goals — whether it’s a short-term goal like finishing a big project or a long-term goal like settling down and starting a family, even after employees have moved on to other jobs and careers.

This is where it gets interesting and sets Gray apart. He explained to me that people tend to lose track of their long term goals. This can happen for numerous reasons, but, he says, “I have found that few are reminded of their ‘why,'”.

He adds, “Why did they originally set this goal? Why is it and was it important and what has changed, if anything? It’s perfectly okay to change your goal but it’s not okay to give up if you feel things are getting too hard or it seems unattainable.”

Spoken like a true fitness coach who values a client’s commitment to change, growth, and progress, and holds them accountable to achieve their end goal, Gray’s empowerment of employees extends beyond their job tenure. 

“Look at New Year’s resolutions as an example,” he says. “How many actually hit their goal? Not many, and the ones that do typically have reminders along the way to keep them focused.

“Once I have invested time and energy into someone,” adds Gray, “I’m committed to holding up my end of the deal. In the end, it’s the least I can do.”

Originally Published on Inc.

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