Team motivation is a common workplace challenge. Many leaders are looking for their teams to be full of “go-getters” who go above and beyond for the team at all times.
Unfortunately, this isn’t common. You will find a few of these individuals in your teams, but they generally aren’t the norm. Because of this, leaders have to work hard to improve team motivation and get their team moving in the right direction.
Team Motivation Is About Individuals
Teams are made up of individuals. When you see a “motivated team”, what you really have is a team full of motivated individuals.
If a team is pulling in the same direction and working hard together, each person has a stake in the game. Individual needs are being met for each team member.
Whilst some people are motivated by being part of a team and working hard for their team mates, this will soon cease if their individual needs are not being met.
Introducing the Team Motivation Model
To diagnose issues with team motivation, we’ll start by looking at the components of team motivation. In my experience, this consists of five factors, as shown in the simple Team Motivation Model below.
Next, I’ll step through each part of the model and why it’s important.
Part 1. Individual Goals & Aspirations
Ideally, everyone will have some sort of aspiration or goal to strive for. Without this, there are less reasons for someone to do more than the bare minimum.
Goals will differ for every individual and the first step is understanding what they are. Goals are the source of your team member’s “What’s in it for me?” They are part of the “Why” for your team member.
Keep in mind that not everyone has career goals. Many people work for the money, so they can live their life outside of work. This is not necessarily a problem, because there are many ways that people can find their motivation.
Part 2: A Sense of Purpose
Some people don’t have clearly defined career goals. But everyone can have a sense of purpose, a reason for getting up in the morning. And more importantly, a reason for wanting to do a good job.
Sarah the insurance call-centre worker might not ever want to be the call centre manager. But when Sarah provides her customers with a positive experience, it makes her feel good. That feeling keeps her coming to work, wanting to do a good job.
Team members don’t need to strive to be the CEO. But they do need a reason for doing their best. This is the second part of your team member’s “Why?”
Part 3. A Pathway to the Goal & Purpose
When there is no way to achieve a goal, that goal won’t motivate anyone.
Having a pathway means that the goal is achievable through the work a person is doing, or the person is developing skills or experience that will help them to achieve that goal in the future.
A pathway is often made up of a series of enablers such as skills or experiences. If a team member can see that they are gaining skills or experience that will lead them to their goal or help them fulfil their purpose, there is a pathway.
Part 4: Hygiene Factors
Hygiene factors are conditions that will demotivate team members if they are not present, or fall below a certain standard.
A good example of this is salary. Good wages will make me feel satisfied with my job, at least temporarily. But this feeling is fleeting, because over time I simply forget about it. I just see the money go in my account every month, but it no longer feels connected to the actual work I’m doing.
Another example is a person’s working conditions. If you’re stuck in a sweaty, hot office all day, you’ll likely lose motivation after a while because you’re so uncomfortable.
On the other hand, being in a nice modern, comfortable workplace is far more comfortable. But if won’t make team members work harder or motivate them, especially when they’ve just been yelled at by that angry customer.
Basically, hygiene factors stop you from becoming demotivated. But they won’t make you feel motivated enough to go over and above.
Part 5: Team Harmony & Respect
Team motivation is damaged quickly when there is a lack of harmony or respect within the team. This includes respect for other team members, and respect for you, the manager.
If team members feel that others aren’t pulling their weight or are “getting away with murder”, motivation will suffer because they’ll feel as if their manager isn’t doing their job.
They will rightly start to think “Why should I work hard, when my manager isn’t tackling the problems in the team?” As such, it’s important for leaders not to avoid tackling these issues.
You can read more about this topic here: Why you need to start managing poor performance today.
When team members start to lose respect for others in the team, they’ll reduce their effort accordingly. Why should they receive nothing for their effort, while others get a free ride?
How Leaders Can Support Team Motivation
As with many parts of leadership, not everything is within your control. For example, you can’t force people to have goals or aspirations that are aligned with the work of the team or organisation.
However, what you can do is support your team members’ motivation. Let’s see how.
Support Team Motivation by Discussing Your Team Members’ Goals, Aspirations & Purpose
One way to help facilitate motivation in your team is to discuss goals and aspirations with individual team members. Some leaders will expect their team members to initiate the conversation, but not everyone is comfortable doing this.
An easy way to discuss this is as part of one-on-one meetings. Start by asking about their goals. If they don’t have any, ask them to go away and think about it. Ask them about which parts of their job makes them feel fulfilled.
Whatever you do, don’t pretend that goals or purpose needs to be all about your team member’s current role. Many people have goals outside of work that mean more to them. It’s a mistake to ignore these – because they can still act as sources of motivation.
For example, Joe wants to go and be a professional football player and you are his boss working in a warehouse. Perhaps letting Joe finish early some days to get to training is all the motivation he needs to work hard for you until he makes the big time.
Support Team Motivation By Establishing the Pathway
Establishing a pathway is all about ensuring that your team members can get closer to achieving their goals, or fulfilling their purpose.
This is partly about helping your team do more of the work they like, and less of what they don’t.
You also need to look for development opportunities to help your team get the skills and experiences that will take them to the next level.
Of course there will always be boring work to do that won’t fulfil anybody. But if you can automate manual processes or outsource work that demotivates your team, this is a step in the right direction.
Support Team Motivation By Tackling Team Problems
One of the best things you can do to support team member motivation is to remove some of the demotivating factors in your team.
This includes solving team issues and addressing performance problems fast. Avoiding these problems will eventually lead to perceptions of ineffective leadership, which will cause a loss of respect.
A harmonious team does not mean motivated team members. But it does reduce the chances that team members will become demotivated by their team environment.
Team motivation is tricky, but using this simple model will help you to identify ways to support motivation in your team. It is a never-ending exercise and takes work.
It’s worth it. Because helping someone achieve their goals or fulfil their purpose is one of the most important things that a leader can do.
How do you motivate your team? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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