Team Motivation 101

We do both sorts of Motivation around here, Carrot and Stick. Click To Tweet

In business, we often talk about Team Motivation and look to the team members who “want it” more than others. These are the people who arrive early, work hard all day in pursuit of a target or objective, the ones who will stop at nothing to succeed. 

As business leaders, our job is to inspire and channel this motivation and use it to maximise the entire team’s performance.

Team Motivation comes from two places; intrinsic, which comes from within, and extrinsic, which comes from external forces. 

As a leader, it’s easy to rely on incentives, penalties and other extrinsic motivation – Carrot and Stick as I call it, “If you do X, you will get Y” — but these kinds of incentives only go so far.

The best leaders understand that to build a truly winning culture; you need to create intrinsic motivation. Inspiring those you lead to do great work for the love of the work itself and not because they’ll receive a trophy at the end of the game or a mention in the next company newsletter.

But how do you instil that passion? 

Here are six lessons I’ve learned over the years to foster intrinsic motivation in your workforce.

Link individual to team success.

Motivation soars when team members know their actions can make the difference between a team win or a loss. 

Within sales teams, this can be clear cut – winning a big deal or making a big sale can mean the difference between hitting budget and not.  

In many businesses I work, the link between an employee’s day-to-day work and the success of the business can be less noticeable. Still, employees must understand the importance of their contribution to the success of their department and company as a whole.

Aim for ‘small wins.’

One secret of successful team motivation in leaders is their ability to break down goals into discrete parts. Instead of focusing on the Monthly target, they break the Month into daily targets.  

I talk about “do the day” The theory is straightforward; do each day and you do the week, do each week, and you do the Month, do each Month, and you do the year.   

There’s critical reasoning behind this: psychologist Karl Weick says goals can be counterproductive to motivation. People are often discouraged when confronted with an enormous, daunting challenge. Weick’s advice? Reframe goals into smaller challenges with visible results that he calls “small wins.” Small wins allow your team to focus on making steady progress and motivate them to keep working towards a larger goal.

Praise the effort, not the outcome. Click To Tweet

Practice makes perfect.

Just as professional athletes notice their skills improving, their intrinsic motivation grows, and they work harder. Give your teams the chance to practice and hone their skills, whether it’s through internal training or external resources. There are many great professional development platforms and skill-building events available today, and making these available to your team will only bolster their performance and attitude about their work.

Build relationships.

Team members who care about their teammates become invested in their team’s success as well as their own. 

Great leaders create bonds that spread among team members. I don’t mean shallow token gestures such as friending your direct reports on Facebook or taking them out for drinks. 

I suggest making a concerted effort to understand them, their strengths, weaknesses, passions and fears.

Praise the effort, not the outcome.

Recognise your employees’ contributions, big and small, with positive reinforcement. It’s better to reward the effort than the person. Too much-generalised praise such as “You’re awesome” and “You’re a rock star!” can decrease motivation. 

Researchers from the University of Chicago found that praising children for their performance – for example, “You worked hard” – instead of abstract personal praise such as “You are smart” are more likely to embrace challenging tasks in the future. Your direct reports aren’t toddlers, but the idea is the same: reinforcing the hard work helps an employee understand what made them successful.

Have fun.

Team Motivation and the most motivated teams are also the happiest. But what comes first: the motivation or enjoyment? Economic expert Andrew J. Oswald studied the impact of happiness on productivity and found that a positive mindset can improve performance. 

In one study, Oswald played a video to subjects – either of comedy routines or a “placebo” video that wasn’t as funny. Those shown the comedy video were 12 per cent more productive than those who saw the less funny video.

In summary; intrinsic motivation is essential for high-performing teams. 

Leaders who understand the difference between internal and external motivators and know how to harness them will have the edge on their competition, on the field or in the marketplace.

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