Practical ways to motivate your team

As a young and inexperienced manager.  One of my earliest recollections was a challenge by an equally young and inexperienced member of staff. He was popular and influential. And crucially, he decided that he was going to make life as difficult as he could for me. With little support from anyone experienced, I pondered my options. I worried that day by day my effectiveness as a manager was being diminished by what felt like his sabotage. One day my dithering was over when after taking an overly extended and extremely inconvenient lunch break he swanned back into the office,  When I asked to have a quick word, he swore at me in front of the team. If you’ve ever experienced anything similar, you will be pleased to know you simply have to know how to motivate your team.

Defining moment

It was a defining moment for me on a number of fronts, the most vital being the consequences of putting off taking decisive action on a team member’s behaviour well before it reached a critical point. Secondly, the subsequent events determined a path I was to tread and refine over the years.

What happened at that moment as I realised I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I didn’t harness the commitment and respect of my team. Nor would they work well unless I demanded and expected the best of who they were.

Expressing disappointment

Once we got over the formality of the strong warning he received, I decided to be wholly frank and I explained the effect his behaviour was having, and at the same time, I also expressed my disappointment that he was selling himself short. I managed to get him to talk about his future and what he wanted and most importantly painted a vivid picture of where his behaviour was headed and asked him if that was what he wanted. Of course, he didn’t. His behaviour changed from that day, and we never looked back. It took him about 5 years, and we had long since lost touch, but when I read he had been appointed to the role he had at that time told me he would love to do, I had to smile.

How do you motivate your team?

Whenever I have interviewed managers and asked: “What do you do to motivate your team?”  The answer to this question displayed a manager’s level of self-awareness. It demonstrated the level of confidence they had about what makes people tick. Often, great motivators are unconscious of the gifts they have as they are natural people managers.  Conversely, they have made a conscious decision to develop a good understanding of people.  They were open and willing to learn what they have to do to get the best out of their team.

If you are a manager and are not sure how to motivate your team, here are 6 practical ways you can improve levels of engagement and increase the commitment and enthusiasm of your people.

6 ways to motivate your team

Help employees develop a personal vision

The first tip on how to motivate your team involves the direction of motivation. People are either “towards” or “away” motivated. “Towards” motivated people need to have their own vision for themselves (hopefully linked to the company vision, but not always), and once they have a picture of what they want then they will work hard to achieve that vision. For these people, your job is to help them develop a personal vision within the company.

Find drivers for change

With “away” motivated people, you need to be able to help them articulate what they don’t want, so necessary actions can be taken to move away from these possibilities. These people fear the consequences of not taking appropriate action or making much-needed changes. Your job is to help them develop the necessary drivers for change. For example, they may feel motivated because they don’t want to get left behind or their jobs may disappear.

Agree on outcome-based objectives

People thrive on being able to make decisions and feeling in control. As a manager, you can support people by allowing them as much autonomy as you can. The best way is to agree on outcome-based objectives or goals, without being too prescriptive about “how” outcomes will be achieved. Give your team permission to try different ways and allow them to “fail and learn”.

Hold problem-solving sessions

Instead of having team meetings, hold team “problem-solving sessions”, or “driving up performance sessions”. Encourage your team members to have a say in how collective issues, problems or challenges are approached and solved.

Celebrate success

There is no doubt, what you focus on is what you get. If you continually focus on what goes wrong, then you will encounter more of what goes wrong. By celebrating success both as a team and with individuals, you will find more and more to celebrate. Successes can be a range of things. Encourage team members to note when things are going well and when they feel good about something they have achieved, no matter how small, it may seem.

Believe the best about employees

Think, say and act as if you believe the best in your team. Develop a mindset whereby you believe that people are doing their best and will do better when they know better. Tell people what you appreciate about their contribution, and find ways to internally and externally communicate your belief in them. If things go wrong, then focus on the lessons to be learned, and don’t personalise behaviour.  Never expect less than the best, and eventually, that is precisely what you will get with your team. When you expect and respond positively to great contribution and good outcomes; mediocre and lacklustre performance or performers will slowly but surely fade away.

This Post was updated in December 2018

I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

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