Leadership and Motivation

Having a team that is motivated is like the effervescence that happens when you open up a carbonated beverage. They bubble up and spread out to get things done. Having an unmotivated team is like the dregs of a carbonated beverage that has been left out overnight – flat and uninspiring. But the real question is how do I motivate my team?

This is a frequently asked question by all managers and supervisors. It can be difficult to answer until you realize that there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. Motivation tends to look a little different for each person.

Money may seem like the easy answer to how to motivate someone.  Yet, every study that has been done about motivation reveals that money isn’t even in the top five list of what truly motivates people. Most things that really motivate people are more internal than money or plaques. Intrinsic motivators come from within; they are more psychological in nature and are typically tied to some deep sense of personal satisfaction, which can be tremendously beneficial for team members to tap into. As we train and mentor new leaders, it is fundamental that we teach leaders three fundamental strategies for internal motivation.

  1. Express sincere gratitude – It’s not just about telling your team or a specific member they did a good job. Be more specific, so they know you were paying attention. For example, “Franco, I noticed that you caught that error very quickly today. You saved us a lot of time and money by getting it corrected. I really appreciate your attention to detail.”
  2. Build relationships with your team members – Building relationships will help you understand what motivates people. Find out their hobbies, their families, and what they are passionate about. What keeps them up at night? What excites them?  Once you know these things, you will know more how best to motivate them.
  3. Provide recognition – Whether it be a shout out in a team or company meeting, a handwritten note, or an email of recognition that copies your boss and HR, recognition is important. It makes your team members feel important, and their contributions matter not just to the team but to the company as a whole.  (And be sure to make it specific!)

Motivated team members are excited to be at work and eager to get their work done. Unmotivated team members lag behind and tend to bring the mood down of the entire team, which can impact performance. As leaders and trainers of leaders, it is critical to remember that motivation is far more than money and is a critical element of success.