Have you ever been in a situation where your team seems unmotivated? It’s not a good place to be because you rely on your team to do the work!
Understanding the motivation problem
In many cases, when you see demotivated teams, take a look at their situation and ask yourself three questions:
- Does your team have work to do that is interesting?
- Does your team have any long-term goals to aim for that don’t just involve keeping their job?
- Is your team learning anything new?
If the answer to one or more of these is “no”, then you need to understand how to motivate your team. Only a rare team member can remain motivated without at least one of these three things.
How to motivate your team
I’ve never been a fan of buying things for my team or throwing big parties. I don’t believe that these things really improve team motivation for the long term. I might buy people coffee once in a while for a job well done, but these are short term measures just to say “thank you”.
The secret to understanding how to motivate your team is to give them a long-term view. You need to give them a future that looks positive or at least, interesting.
It’s not all about promotions and more money, either. In fact, these are often unsustainable if you are working in a smaller team where there is no room for layers of leadership roles.
1. Motivate your team by understanding what drives them
Firstly, it is impossible to motivate your team if you don’t know what interests them, what they like or what their future goals are. Ask them. Find out.
Then try to align the work that they are doing with these goals. If it’s hard to get the team to open up about these, then throw some different projects at them to see what works…and what doesn’t.
Learning how to motivate your team can be a process of trial and error.
2. Motivate your team by learning something new
Send your team on training or get them to find a new way of doing something that they care about. Don’t just get them to do a course that they have no interest in. That’s not motivating, because they won’t be interested in using those skills in the future. Learning new skills means they can use them on future projects or in future roles.
You also need to stop worrying about whether they will develop new skills which may lead them to taking a better job elsewhere. If they do, wish them well and say thank you for their help.
Constant learning is fundamental to understanding how to motivate your team.
3. Motivate your team by delegating responsibility
Some people aren’t naturally proactive. They find it hard to “step up” and take on responsibility without somebody asking. Sometimes, it’s good to ask team members to be responsible for something in your team. They get to own it and they can have pride in seeing it done well.
This can also make your team member the “boss” for a particular aspect of your team’s work. This can help them feel like their work is important and valued. Let your team members be in charge of something that they care about.
Understanding how to motivate your team can be about letting other people lead things.
4. Motivate your team by getting rid of the demotivating goals
Having a goal to “complete all of your projects within +/- 10% of the allocated time” is not motivating. However, a goal to use new technologies in an upcoming project might be. Demotivating goals are often those that a person doesn’t have complete control over.
When I was consulting, we had to be working on client projects at least 80% of the time. The only problem with this was that it was not always up to me whether I was allocated to projects. When there was an industry downturn, some great people still couldn’t get project work.
5. Motivate your team by remembering that it never ends
Once somebody is interested and motivated, that’s not the end of the story. Once they achieve their goal or learn and apply their new skills, they will need to find something else to interest them in the longer term. Getting promoted is nice, but once you’ve achieved it, it is amazing how quickly the new role becomes “normal” and your motivation levels can drop.
Most people need to feel as if they are progressing in some way to maintain their motivation, otherwise their thinking becomes focused on the short term. Instead of heading towards a goal, your team will start focusing on 5pm and the weekend.
The secret to improving team motivation is to give your team a future that looks interesting. Try and change “What’s the point?” to “What’s next?”
What ways have you used to motivate your team? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.