As we glide into the final month of 2016, leaders have their sights set on ending the year positively. The key to such a desired outcome is motivating employees to "dig deep" and pull out their best performance. Money works, but for only a short time-period. Food works as a motivator until it's taken for granted. In short, these go-to forms of motivation have a diminishing influence on employee performance.

What, then, can a leader or business do to inspire all-star performances? Here are some savvy solutions that may help you and your team finish the year strong.

1. Let them Watch Football

Yup, turn on the game in the boardroom and invite employees to come, watch, and mingle. Dominque Jones, Chief People Officer at Halogen Software, encourages employees to view important games as a way of giving people a mental break from work and to connect with colleagues.

2. Focus on Belonging

Central to Jones's openness to viewing the game at work is our human need to bond. The game serves to bring people together. In their 2008 Harvard Business Review article, Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria explain that, "At work, the drive to bond accounts for the enormous boost in motivation when employees feel proud of belonging to the organization . . . People become attached to their closest cohorts."

3. Look Backward, Then Forward

Researchers from Kellogg Northwestern University found that when we aim to achieve a goal, we often lose steam or get distracted in the middle of the effort. To keep employees motivated, have them look back at what they achieved early in the effort. As employees get near the end of the goal, have them look forward. Focus on the good things that will come from accomplishing the goal.

4. Maximize "Good Motives"

It's widely known that company culture influences performance. Authors Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, in Primed to Perform, write about why it's important to focus on "play," "purpose," and "potential."

Play, according to the authors in an HBR article, is "when you are motivated by the work itself."

Purpose is when you work because of its impact. Potential is when work's outcomes benefit your growth.

5. Perform Mental Dress Rehearsals

Intrinsically motivated people may want to tap into mental imagery or symbols. To use this technique, visualize a fantastic outcome related to the work. Picture what success looks and feels like. Imagine yourself overcoming challenges along the way to accomplishing the goal.

6. Create Experiences

HR software development company 15Five takes employees surfing. The experience together helps employees share positive emotions, spreads goodwill and boosts camaraderie. Memories from experiences linger longer than the fleeting emotions that come from extrinsic motivators like money, benefits, or promotions.

Motivating employees doesn't need to cost your business much. In some cases, it costs nothing. One last tip from former CEO turned author and consultant Douglas Conant is to write "Thank You" notes to employees. Conant's notes were a central part of his time as Campbell Soup Company's CEO. He sent notes to express his appreciation and to recognize employees for their hard work.

Motivating employees isn't a year-end only management trick. It's a leadership belief that will guide you throughout the year. It could make the difference between mediocre and exceptional results.

Published on: Nov 29, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.