"I just can't seem to motivate my employees" is a common complaint among corporate leaders.

My response to them is: "Stop trying. You'll never be able to motivate them."

Are these the words of a quitter?

Not at all. Following that piece of advice, I say: "They're already motivated. Find out what motivates them, and use this knowledge to channel their energies in the direction you want them to go."

Some people are like water in a tap. It is already motivated to flow, but it does not have the opportunity until you turn the tap on. Your people may be bursting with energy and waiting for you to provide them with the opportunity to use it constructively.

Others are like mountain streams, which flow swiftly but follow their own courses. If you want them to turn your wheel, you have to provide them with a channel.

Your organisation may be full of people who are moving energetically towards their own goals. Your challenge is to open up channels that will focus their energy on corporate goals.

Remember, people are motivated by their own goals and rationale. You have to provide them with reasons to do what you want them to do.

These reasons may involve either pain or gain. When the pain of remaining in the same way outweighs the discomfort of leaving the rut, or when the gain from making behavioural changes outweighs the comfort of remaining in a rut, a person will alter his behaviour.

Pride is a powerful motivator. Everybody has something to be proud of. When you know what makes your employees proud, you can use that knowledge to channel their motivation in the right direction.

But remember: You can't change people. You can only alter their behaviours. To change their behaviours, you must change their feelings and beliefs.

You may think that what they feel and believe in is preposterous. But to them, perception is reality. What they perceive is perfectly reasonable and rational. When you understand this notion and respect their perceptions, you will be in a better position to motivate them.

Good behaviours can be reinforced. Look for ways to reward employees for doing the things you want them to do.

Conversely, use disincentives to discourage unfavourable behaviours that are not aligned to the organisation's goals.

By doing so, you will find yourself leading an organisation of motivated employees with energies focused on the things you want to accomplish.