Who is your best motivational guide

Ability to motivate, strong leadership

Managers perform many tasks today. These start with planning and decision making. For example, this involves developing goals, plans and budgets or preparing and making decisions using various instruments.


general description

Another major area of ​​responsibility is that of organization. Department structures have to be thought about, the structure and process organization defined and constantly adapted. Another big and important task is controlling. Managers have to master TQM and other controlling methods, for example. In addition, new information systems and technologies have to be managed. As far as cooperation is concerned, managers must be able to communicate with superiors, partners, customers, suppliers and employees alike and be able to manage projects that are sometimes very interdisciplinary.
But the topic of “outsourcing” also plays a major role today. More and more in-house activities are being outsourced to service companies. This promises greater flexibility in terms of staffing levels, but also runs the risk of high dependency, apart from the fact that in many cases important operational know-how disappears with the outsourcing.

The entire business environment in which managers operate today is characterized by constant and rapid change and increasing complexity. In order to keep the business under control, they employ numerous analytical methods, techniques and tools. The trick then is to select and apply the right technique for a given situation. These techniques are taught at universities, trained in management seminars and introduced into companies by management consultancies.

Good managers are also leaders, and leadership includes more than the ability to answer questions about quality, costs, service speed or operational key figures. The real challenge is to inspire employees to perform that they would hardly have dared to do before. Ultimately, this also means developing skills and self-confidence as well as transferring responsibilities and not being attached to every task yourself. Ultimately, however, everything depends on whether the manager has the necessary strength to motivate the entire team to perform at their best.

The examination of leadership skills by the personnel decision maker and their proof by the applicant in the interview are equally difficult. Ultimately, whether someone is a good manager or not can only be observed and recognized in real life or in role play. However, not every application process for management positions ends with an assessment center in which the respective candidates can be seen in action. Therefore, the candidate must be able to demonstrate leadership skills in the application documents and job interviews.

theory and practice

Theory rarely looks like practice and practice like theory.
Books, seminars and case studies on key qualifications cannot always fully take into account all practical problems on a topic and all special boundary conditions of the individual workplace. Explanations from seminars and books therefore hardly ever apply in pure form to practice.

When applying what has been learned in the workplace, hurdles and barriers quickly arise. If you still want to apply the new knowledge, more or less imagination is required. Perhaps the pure culture has to be abandoned and practical modifications, e.g. of methods and instruments, have to be created. It is often enough to filter out the few points from books and seminars and apply them that are most likely to help in practice.


The job offer usually focuses on the description of the tasks and the professional requirements of the applicant. Requirements that are more related to personality are usually presented in a catalog of contiguous terms in the lower part of the advertisement. The terms motivational skills and leadership skills are mentioned directly or circumscribed using terms, such as leadership skills and the will to lead. In some cases, however, only individual skills are addressed, which, however, have a significant influence on the ability to motivate and leadership, such as goal-oriented management of employees, convincing leadership personality, etc.

The following explanations show you what you should write about in the application and what you should talk about in the interview in order to demonstrate motivation and leadership skills. The explanations should also be taken into account if leadership qualities are tested in direct action as part of an assessment center. In addition, the corresponding paragraphs from the key qualification “team leadership” should be read.

Key qualification

Focus 1

General social behavior towards employees

  • Adherence to the handling conventions: Greetings instead of just being greeted, salutation by name, no hurtful, derogatory remarks, etc.
  • Replace commands with polite requests in the form of suggestions: "Wouldn't it be better if you followed this or that path ...".
  • Show optimism, humor, calm and serenity in tricky situations instead of irritability. Positive thinking, however, is not an optimism of purpose!
  • “Halo” and distance to employees means renouncing the advantages of employees with above-average motivation.
  • Show genuine interest in employees and their work, e.g. addressing employees about professional and private interests.
  • Visualize what employees are doing, what problems, difficulties and stress factors they have to struggle with on a daily basis.
  • Immediately eliminate significant problems and difficulties that have a strong performance-reducing effect or work to avoid them.
  • Ask employees for help and address problems instead of getting rid of them with great rhetoric or banal statements.
  • Even once admitting a weakness yourself. Apply the same standards for yourself as for employees.
  • To be a role model in terms of time, to give the best in exceptional situations (not only demand this from the employees), to do things that are “below the standard” when there is a “need”.
  • Keep promises regarding salary, career development, training, etc. or at least give a profound reason for non-compliance.
  • Carry out your own activities safely and without errors, prove your saddle strength in all decisive tasks.

Focus 2

Moderate handling of criticism and praise

  • Handle criticism sparingly: Nothing paralyzes the ambition of employees more than criticism from their superiors!
  • Follow the principle: First praise, then criticize! Criticism is easier to endure for employees in this order.
  • Not only judging results, but also the conditions under which the results were achieved.
  • No small complaints, while excellent results and achievements go unnoticed.
  • Do not just criticize with words. There are many situations in which actions by the manager are much more instructive to employees.
  • In any case, refrain from formulations in the event of criticism that destroy the self-confidence and initiative of the employees.
  • Refrain from reprimanding and insulting in the presence of third parties, especially showing customers respect for employees.
  • Genuine praise mobilizes the best human strength. The need for recognition is deeply rooted in everyone.
  • Praise employees in moderation. The special character must be preserved so that the praise remains a priority for the employees.
  • Do not express praise and recognition "between the door and the hinge" but rather in an appropriate recognition interview.
  • Don't forget “wallflowers” ​​with praise and recognition. If only the “darlings” are praised, it causes more harm than good.
  • Beware of public praise! The praise of the individual usually brings frustration for many others, which can have a serious effect on the performance.

Focus 3

Inclusion, assignment of tasks, environment design

  • Involving employees in setting goals and measures as well as in decision-making.
  • Exploiting the entire potential of ideas and knowledge through employee participation in solving complex problems.
  • Determine the content of tasks for the employee in an interesting and responsible manner, instead of monotonous, specialized and without responsibility.
  • Determine the scope of tasks in such a way that they can be completed in normal working hours, avoid permanent overload of individuals!
  • Outline tasks so clearly that there are no problems of delimitation from other task areas.
  • Clarify cooperation between the individual employees with regard to the various tasks. Who informs whom? What is delivered by whom and at what time? Who helps whom in exceptional situations?
  • Clearly regulate who is responsible for the individual task, who decides who works on it.
  • Determine clearly within which limits the employee may decide alone, with another employee, only with the superior.
  • Determine what the supervisor wants to be informed about and in what form this should be done.
  • Plan hourly workloads for key employees in order to anticipate bottlenecks and take preventive measures.
  • Give employees the opportunity to participate in the design of their direct work environment: work space, social space, lighting, furniture, aids, decoration, etc.
  • “It is the spirit of the place that motivates. The work environment determines the vigor. It affects the mind and behavior! "(Motivation expert Günter F. Gross)

Focus 4

Inform employees in principle and regularly

  • There is hardly a better method than the boss to demonstrate to an employee that it is unimportant than by not informing them!
  • Every employee finds it difficult to identify with a company that they actually don't know anything about.
  • Employees should be well informed about the development of the company, its market significance, basic structure, ownership structure, product range, company principles, etc.
  • If the individual employee is aware of the company's plans, they can assess their value and see a deeper meaning in their work. In addition, they gain subjective security if they are clear about the continued existence of the company and the workplace.
  • Employees should be regularly informed about the planned and current business situation. These include in detail:
    • Economic goals that the company will pursue in the next business period (sales, earnings, market shares, etc.)
    • Ways to achieve these goals: investments, new products, changes in workforce, etc.
    • Major problems that are feared in the future with customers, the competition, authorities, etc. and which could prevent the achievement of goals Successes of the last business period, customer acceptance of product innovations, contributions of employees to success, etc.
    • Important changes to be made in the company in the near future

Focus 5

lead staff meetings

  • Superiors should speak to every employee regularly; at least 5 minutes a week should be worth one of the employees.
  • Talk to every employee, not avoiding anyone consciously or unconsciously, not favoring or discriminating against anyone (at least plan to do so!)
  • Recognition interviews are recommended for special achievements, but they will only be of benefit if they are not mere empty phrases.
  • The supervisor should give sufficient thought to the content and form of the recognition interview.
  • The specific performance and skills of the employee should be praised and he should be told what was so excellent.
  • General praise, on the other hand, only shows the superior's disinterest in the employee and his or her performance.
  • Employees need goals. They should be agreed in discussions and recorded in writing.
  • Goals should clearly and understandably define the service to be provided. Supervisor and employee must both mean the same thing.
  • Goals should be quantified for better verification, and the time at which they will be achieved must be specified.
  • The employee can only identify with the target if he has negotiated it with the manager.
  • Goal dictations do not encourage employees to stand up for the goal setting, especially if they contain completely unrealistic goals.
  • Important changes in the company in the near future, even if these are unpopular measures that are communicated here.

Proof in the application process

Proof in the cover letter

Five to seven of the most important tasks and requirements from the job advertisement should be addressed and dealt with in the cover letter.
First of all, it is a matter of working through the technical requirements. Some advertisements only briefly describe the professional requirements. This leaves space in the cover letter to address personality requirements. Since these are usually prayed down in a catalog of terms in the advertisement, it is initially difficult to decide which requirements should be addressed in which way in the cover letter. The ability to motivate and leadership are personality traits in demand in almost all job advertisements for managers and should therefore be presented in any case. It does not have to stick to the mere assertion, e.g. "The ability to motivate employees is a characteristic of my personality that needs to be emphasized." the regular exchange of information with the employees, the agreement and review of goals, ... ". However, information on the management range and the composition of the managed employees can already follow in the cover letter, but only if the experience and knowledge really match the advertised position (see in detail under "Evidence in the curriculum vitae").

Proof in the curriculum vitae

Due to the space available, it is easier to address the topics of motivation and leadership in the résumé. Five to seven important specialist areas of activity should be documented at the vocational stations. Words and information aimed at demonstrating leadership and the ability to motivate other people can be included in the appropriate line positions such as team leader, group leader, department manager, etc. Passages such as “Motivation of the team to achieve above-average performance”, “Formation and development of a powerful group” etc. always look good. In the case of project manager positions in the curriculum vitae, you should also not hesitate to provide similar information, even if there were no disciplinary subordinate employees. In any case, it is usually the more difficult management task to form non-subordinate employees into a team, to motivate them and to keep them going, than is the case with employees who report to disciplines. The term “professional management responsibility” can be brought into play here.

Leadership strength and leadership span are closely related. It is therefore worth considering specifying the number of employees being guided to the respective station. But that only makes sense if the number matches the position for which the person concerned is applying. If, for example, 150 employees are to be instructed according to the advertisement and the applicant has only had 10 employees so far, the figure may be problematic. It becomes even more difficult when the reverse is true or when the number of employees being guided decreases from station to station. Descriptive information may then look better, e.g. "Management of a double-digit number of employees".

In addition, the composition of the team led provides information on leadership qualities. In the case of engineers who perform production-related management tasks, for example, the total number of employees managed could be broken down into tradesmen, masters, technicians, and engineers. In the case of senior executives, it can be useful to mention the number of subordinate department heads, group leaders, etc. In addition, the technical areas that were listed should be clearly identifiable in the curriculum vitae. The head of technology could, for example, list: “Leading the electrical engineering, mechanics, structural engineering, etc.” groups.

On the other hand, the question arises whether the management orA specific focus should be devoted to work style in the CV, e.g .: "Leadership and motivation".

Potential managers have no practical management experience. In your résumé, you should point out additional commitments at or outside the university that suggest leadership potential, e.g. head of a youth group, chairman of a social institution, captain of a sports team, etc.

Finally, seminars and coaching on the topics of leadership and motivation should be listed in the résumé under the focus on “further training”.

Evidence on the third page

Some applicants add a "third page" to their résumé, mainly dealing with the questions: Who am I? What I want? What can I? Regardless of the sense or nonsense of such a page, engineers applying for a leadership position should definitely address the issues of motivation and leadership.

When asked "Who am I?", Personality traits are usually listed. To this end, short sentences or sentence passages can now be added that suggest leadership and motivation skills and address the following phenomena, for example:

  • General willingness to take responsibility
  • Ability to shape performance-oriented teams through motivation
  • Leadership by challenging and promoting employees
  • Leading employees to the best possible workload
  • Convince employees and actively promote cooperation
  • Motivation through information, personnel development,
  • Delegation of tasks and responsibilities
  • Motivation for high performance through professional and personal leadership
  • Achieving low absenteeism, fluctuation, etc. through high motivation

Evidence in the documents

When it comes to application documents, some are spoiled for choice when it comes to attaching seminar, training and education certificates. Candidates should definitely enclose evidence of seminars, trainings, coaching on the topics of motivation and leadership. Managers should also ensure that the description and evaluation of their leadership performance in job references is appropriate, comprehensive and good. The topics of motivation and leadership should ideally be addressed explicitly. Experience shows that seasoned executives have attended countless advanced training courses. You should only attach specific training certificates from seminars on current management topics. In the curriculum vitae, however, it should be mentioned in two or three key words that seminars have been attended “on all relevant management topics”.

Proof in the qualification profile

In the qualification profile, the applicant presents a short biography in four or five areas of focus. In the context of the short biography, one line can be devoted to all personality traits. Here it is important to put together an interesting mix, in which terms on the topics of motivation and leadership should definitely be included. Here is an example of such a mix: Strong team leader, motivating, integrating, strong in communication.

Proof in the interview

When it comes to filling junior management, management or project manager positions, the topics of motivation and leadership certainly play a major role. In the rarest of cases, candidates are confronted directly with situations in the application process in which they have to prove their leadership skills. At most, when recruiting young managers and trainees for management programs, assessment centers are used on a larger scale. As a rule, the interview remains the case that the candidate is asked questions about certain leadership situations, he is asked about his leadership style or philosophy. On the basis of his personal appearance and the verbal execution, it is then decided whether the candidate is trusted to assume the leadership position in the company.

As far as the verbal part is concerned, as many explanations as possible of the above emphases should be incorporated into the verbal contributions. This works particularly well where the candidate makes statements about certain activities and projects. There he can provide information on how he leads, motivates, what above-average performance he has achieved with his team, etc.

When assessing personal appearance, a paradoxical situation often emerges. Engineers who have maintained an employee-oriented working style for years, who lead highly motivated teams, who love soft tones and who are therefore more cautious in the interview, are usually less likely to have leadership skills than the extroverted, rather briskly imagining “doers” who later do a lot of porcelain in the company smashed. Anyone who has concerns about this should work on their appearance in individual training or in preparation for a discussion. In many cases, the contrast also arises from the fact that the job advertisements are looking for a socially competent and highly motivated leader, but a tougher pace is actually preferred within the company.

If the candidate's appearance is then too team-related, in other words “too soft”, one does not trust the candidate as much.

Applicants for management positions would therefore do well to obtain sufficient information in advance of the application and interview as to which management style is actually practiced in the company. Thus, the statements in the job advertisement can be better assessed.

Proof in practice

From day one, managers are viewed critically and curiously not only by superiors, but also by employees. This very quickly results in liking or dislike. This has a significant effect on the basic motivation of the individual. Because this initial phase of cooperation is so important, wise superiors initially adopt a cautious tone. They observe the team, obtain information in individual and group discussions and only then announce the path to be taken, the rules of the game to be followed, their own leadership behavior, expectations of employees, etc.

With regard to the type of motivation, it is important to pay attention to where the team stands. If the team was led in an authoritarian manner by the previous supervisor, the new supervisor must introduce each individual employee to thinking and working independently, building self-confidence, interest and fun in the job. For the motivational artists among the executives, this presents a real challenge. It looks different with a highly motivated and well-established team. Here the successor is measured against the predecessor. There is a great risk for new managers of wrong behavior and wrong words stepping from one faux pas to another and ultimately having to set off for new stars with a winged team. Hopefully the team's performance will be enough to convince senior managers of the new manager.

Ultimately, the question arises as to how the new manager recognizes a motivated and less motivated team. First of all, there are some statistical values ​​such as high fluctuation, high downtimes due to illness, little-noticed company or private training, few or no suggestions for improvement, etc., which speak volumes. On the other hand, the behavior of the individual employee also provides information. If he likes to contribute his knowledge, if he thinks about better business processes and services for customers (also in his free time), he dares to take responsibility, to carry out the work independently (or if there are constant queries and reinsurance), treated he internal / external customers are nice and friendly, he is usually in a good mood, etc., can be assumed to have a good basic motivation.


Technical / management career

Skilled workers do not deal with the issues of motivation and leadership skills or deal differently than managers. Perhaps one or the other is interested in the question of how he can best motivate himself every day or how he can manage the boss better. At the latest, however, when it comes to leading the first project team or taking on the first smaller management task, motivation and leadership skills quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. It then shows who can lead and who cannot. Good and bad managers differ primarily in how well they can motivate people and lead them towards a goal. Even authoritarian leaders who work predominantly with negative motivation lead the team to performance. The only question remains, at what price and whether a lot more performance would not have been possible.

Occupational field-specific importance

The occupational field-specific significance for the key qualification “motivation and leadership” can be derived from an evaluation of around 4,000 job advertisements that were placed on ingenieurkarriere.de in 2012. The job advertisements searched for terms that directly target the respective key qualification. Accordingly, the following result was shown for the key qualification “Motivation and leadership skills”: Very high importance

  • Technical company management / management

Great importance

  • Assembly-oriented production / process engineering production
  • Occupational safety, environmental protection, plant safety
  • Servicing, maintenance, commissioning
  • Quality, material and quality testing
  • technical shopping
  • Logistics (production, sales, purchasing)

Moderate importance

  • Product management
  • Project management
  • construction
  • Research and Teaching
  • Research and Development
  • Technical sales / technical marketing

Among the 11 evaluated key qualifications, the key qualification “motivation and leadership” only ranks 10th. However, this does not mean that it is of minor importance. It ranks at the top of the executive ads. The vast majority of the (evaluated) job advertisements are not aimed at management positions. This key qualification is then of little importance there.

There were no separate evaluations for the occupational fields “Engineering in Plant Construction”, “Controlling / Calculation / Project Planning” and “Facility Management”. The occupational fields "Engineering in plant construction" and controlling / calculation / project planning "can best be brought on the same level as the occupational field" Project Management ", the occupational field" Facility Management "with the occupational field" Maintenance, repair, commissioning ".

Training opportunities

Seminars / training / coaching

Only the few charismatics among the executives are “managers by nature”. They motivate and lead through their winning personality. Most other executives “tinker” their own leadership style through “learning by doing”. Ideally, this even leads to a very good team performance. How good or bad their own leadership behavior is and how great the potential that has not yet been used is hidden from most managers. It is therefore very interesting to have the personal leadership behavior, especially with regard to motivating and less motivating behaviors, critically examined by a third party in seminars and coaching. Perhaps it will turn out that even minor changes in leadership behavior or leadership perception can decisively optimize motivation and leadership skills.

In the same team, however, it is difficult to correct and modify mistakes or established behavior patterns. Therefore, coaching and seminars offer a great opportunity, especially before an internal or external job change, to test leadership behavior, to reconsider it and apply it to the new team.

Seminar offers are rarely limited to the topic of employee motivation. Explanations on motivation are usually just one component in general leadership seminars. Therefore, detailed information about the various seminars is necessary in advance in order to find out the importance of the topic.


The range of books on the subjects of motivation and leadership is endless.
Most management books deal with the classic psychological theories of motivation. Every business economist got to know them during their studies and probably never implemented any of them.

The theory alone is of little use anyway, show other books that report on the motivational ability of managers on the basis of empirical studies. Most of these books are very sobering and don't give German executives very good marks. Interesting are books like that by Wolff and Göschel, which use everyday operational situations to show where employee motivation falls by the wayside. Regardless of how you feel about such books that hold up a mirror to executives, everyone can learn from them.

Still other books describe, like a recipe book, how managers can best motivate their employees. These guides are best read because they quickly give the reader the illusion that they are not far from the ideal leadership image. However, if the reader reflects critically on his own behavior after studying the books, he will also find some approaches to optimization here.

  • Rath, Tom; Conchie, Barry, Leadership, Redline Business Publishing
  • Dehner, Ulrich and Renate, coaching as a management tool, campus
  • Sprenger, Reinhard K .; Plaßmann, Thomas, Myth Motivation, Campus
  • Elling, Christian, employee satisfaction, GRIN Verlag
  • Carnegie, Dale, How to Make Friends, publisher joke