Ask Root November/December 2014

Do you have any tips for motivating my team? I can’t seem to get them excited about anything.

If you feel your team isn’t motivated or is apathetic, here are four key steps to improving your team’s motivation:

  1. Diagnose and Clarify: Ask the team to gauge their current level of motivation. Use questions or discussion points to start the conversation:
    1. Talk about the meaning of motivation and let the team decide what great motivation “looks like.” Incorporate your view, but don’t dominate the conversation. Visualization is important in this process too. Have them draw out what motivation looks like to them (stick figures are welcome!).
    2. Have the team memebers rate their collective motivation against the definition(s) they’ve created. Share these ratings – either anonymously or not, based on the team dynamic. Based on the team’s definition of “great motivation,” discuss the areas where they see the team performing well in and the areas in which they can improve.
  2. Engage, Plan, and Take Action: Once the team has a shared definition and has assessed their current level, it’s time to plan for what they (and you) can do to sustain the good and improve  areas that have gaps. As a leader, be very curious about what you can do differently to engage your team members in ways that are meaningful to them and meaningful for the business.
    1. As a team, identify experiences when personal motivation was high (in or out of a professional setting). Then, on your own, look for patterns that contributed to the motivation and cross-reference them with the team’s definition of motivation. This will give you a stronger sense on how you can motivate the team.
    2. As a team, create a plan to improve motivation and engagement. This may include assessing the assignments people work on, initiating peer recognition, removing processes that aren’t adding value, adding ways the team can make a difference to the business, etc. People are more likely to act on their own conclusions vs. yours, so make sure the plan is one the whole team is committed to delivering.
    3. Don’t take all the “to dos” yourself! You can help while also engaging your team in owning their way forward.
  3. Track Progress and Keep Talking: If a motivated team is important to you, keep it top of mind and make sure you have a desire to learn how to motivate more effectively.
    1. Track the progress of the action plan. Keep asking questions, find out what the team is interested in and help keep them focused on what they can do to improve.
    2. During the meetings, ask them what things you can do to set an example.
    3. Involve the team in decisions that impact them and create an environment that people want to be in and that is respected and admired by the business.
  4. Spend Time with Individuals and Address High and Low Performance: It’s important for managers to focus on each individual as well as the team as a whole.
    1. As part of a highly engaged and motivated team, you need to hold everyone accountable to the standards they identified in step 1. This includes calling out high and low performance.
    2. Rewarding great behavior cannot be neglected. Make sure top performers feel special and valued. Help coach everyone to be strong members of the team through their individual contribution and their support of others on the team.