The Hidden Secret of Employee Motivation

Meet “Ben.” Ben is a shop owner who made several attempts to motivate his manager, “Sarah,” to complete her goal poster. He initially mentioned this during their Monday morning one-on-one meeting.

First, he told her that seeing her goals would increase the likelihood of achieving her goals. Using his Les Brown voice, he said, “Sarah, If you can see it, you can be it! If you can view it, you can do it!” The following Monday morning, Sarah hadn’t seen or done her goal poster!

Next, he showed her a blog post that highlighted the example of an ATI service manager who purchased a house within 18 months of placing the picture on his poster.

Since Sarah was renting at the time, Ben was sure that this would motivate her to act. Surely, he was wrong!

At their next Monday one-on-one, Ben wasn’t in a motivational mood. Feeling frustrated, he said, “Look, Sarah, if you complete your goal poster, you can avoid the embarrassment of being the only one in your next class who hasn’t done one! It’s up to you!”

Early that Tuesday morning, Ben received an email in his inbox that read, “Hi Ben, attached is my electronic goal poster!”  

Ben had unknowingly tapped into the hidden secret of employee motivation.  

By now, you may be thinking: “Twiggs, I’m on the edge of my seat! Tell me what the secret is!”

I have a picture on my goal poster of me revealing it as you read on!

Ideas to grow your businessWant more tips for how to motivate and retain your employees, improve your bottom-line, and grow your business? Discover valuable, easy-to-implement ideas and strategies in ATI’s shop owner events. Register today at atievent.com.

Speak Their Language

Are you frustrated by the fact that your writer still isn’t exit scheduling?

Do you sound like a broken record, because you’re always repeating your request to fill out those courtesy checks?

The hidden secret of employee motivation is to speak their language.

Most of your employees are motivated by either the “carrot” or the “stick.”

Psychological studies have concluded that people are either motivated towards achieving a desirable outcome (the carrot) or away from experiencing a negative consequence (the stick).

In her book, Words That Change Minds, Shelle Rose Charvet concludes that 40% of employees at work are motivated by the carrot, 40% by the stick, and 20% are equally motivated by both! 

Carrot language includes the following words: Have, get, receive, obtain, accomplish, and achieve.

Those fluent in stick will say the following: Avoid, consequences, problem, get rid of, get away from, won’t have to worry about, get out of, etc.

Making This Work at Your Shop

When speaking with your employees about their goals, here’s the question to ask: Why is that important to you?

Whatever they say after the word because will tell you if they’re motivated by the carrot or the stick.

For example, if your tech tells you that he desires to make more money because he wants to avoid, get rid of, or won’t have to worry about something, he’s speaking stick language.

If your service advisor says she wants to save up a certain amount of money by the end of the year because she wants to have, get, receive, obtain, accomplish, or achieve something, she is speaking fluent “carrot.”

If you commit to using the right words at the right time, you can make this work at your shop.


So, there you have it. You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight?” Well, Ben, from the opening story, made the mistake of bringing a carrot to a stick fight!

By speaking their language, you will be using words that change minds and will have mastered the hidden secret of employee motivation!

At ATI, we focus on teaching and coaching shop owners on best practices to get the most out of your automotive repair business. Want to learn more? Find an ATI shop owner event near you.