How to motivate my team? It’s a common but elusive question that many people leaders struggle with. Your team's drive and desire to perform well is key to their productivity and success. Yet the truth is, you can't really motivate people unless they want to do it themselves. So where does that leave you? In this post and this podcast we discuss four focus areas to consider when thinking about how to motivate your team.
A motivated team starts with a motivated leader. So, how motivated are you in your leadership role on a scale from one to five, where five is off-the-charts-raring-to-go? If you’re a ‘feeler’, consider how enthusiastic you are or how much you look forward to working on a particular project or with a particular person. If you’re a ‘thinker’, your indicator might be wrapped around the task itself and the way you respond to questions like, ‘Have I achieved this goal?’, ‘Am I on target?’ and the sense of how much you really want to get things done.
If you’re scoring lower than a three on the motivation scale, it’s time to give your own motivation levels a boost. Consider the tweaks you could make that would help you bring more enthusiasm, focus and satisfaction to your role. Put some goals in place and work towards them, remembering as Wayne Dyer said, ‘You don't need to be better than anyone else. You just need to be better than you used to be.’
When figuring out improvements, it’s essential to first clarify what you want to be different. Pick one, two or three areas you want to develop, for example:
Do I want to create a more inclusive work environment?
Do I want to more clarity in setting the direction of the team?
Do I want to be able to hold people more accountable?
Clarifying these at the outset will help you define what progress looks like to you.
Another really useful area of reflection is examining just ‘why’ it’s important for you to be more motivated and to have a more motivated team. The answer may be that it makes work easier and more enjoyable for you; that a more motivated team will be more committed and engaged; that they’ll operate at a higher level and achieve greater success. It may be that this is important to you because you’ll reap the rewards of these achievements.
Understanding what improved motivation means is essential before you step into discussions with your team.
Have the conversation with your team about their level of engagement and ask them how they think it could be improved. One-on-one check-ins don't have to take up a lot of time. Just giving each person a window of opportunity to feed back on how they feel will give them a sense of being heard that’s motivating in itself. Shine a light on what drives each team member to perform well and you’ll quickly see it differs from person to person and may be on or off track to varying degrees.
If you have a big team and no time to check-in with each individual separately, put motivation on the agenda and ask the group what they’d observe if they were all super motivated. Their answers will include valuable data and could red flag situations that lead you down a new path. Whatever arises from these discussions, encouraging their input will prompt them to focus on solutions which in itself will improve engagement and morale.
Acknowledgement is a powerful tool in your motivational arsenal – and it’s one of the easiest things to give. Studies show that employees who are praised for their contributions are more productive and fulfilled. We all appreciate being valued for a job well done and while recognition comes in many forms, it’s your role as a people leader to ensure each individual is getting the right kind of acknowledgement they need to feel valued and validated.
Remember – the team belongs to everyone not just you as its leader. When we invest our time and energy into something, we’re more committed to driving its success. So, do your people feel a real sense of inclusion and investment? Involving them in decision-making will do wonders for buy-in and motivation. Note that just as they’ll share the rewards of the team’s high performance, they’ll also share disappointments when things go awry. This too is a powerful learning experience and motivator.
Hopefully you can see that apart from incentivising your people with money and benefits, there are simple steps you can take to keep the team happy and hungry. Leading by example, understanding their needs, goals and what makes them satisfied, recognising good work and integrating their contributions will all make a difference in a meaningful way.
We encourage you to reflect on what you’d be seeing and hearing if you did have a team that was motivated and then consider each of these suggestions to help improve engagement in your team. And remember – start with yourself.
How to Motivate Your Team as a People Leader