Ten Ways to Motivate Your Team

Last Updated Mar 8, 2010 12:50 PM EST

You do not need books or psycho babble to work out how to motivate people. Start by thinking about the best boss you have ever worked for. What did the boss do to motivate you so well? Do you do the same things with your team?

In practice, most of us respond to some simple motivational measures. Here are my top ten:

  1. Show you care for each member of the team, and for their career. Invest time to understand their hopes, their fears and dreams. Casual time by the coffee machine, not a formal meeting in an office, is the best way to get to know your team members.
  2. Say thank you. We all crave recognition: we want to know that we are doing something worthwhile and we are doing it well. Make your praise real, for real achieverment. And make it specific. Avoid the synthetic one minute manager praise ("gee, you typed that email really well...").
  3. Never demean a team member. If you have any criticism, keep it private and make it constructive. Don't scold your team members like school children: treat them as partners and work together to find a way forward.
  4. Delegate well: delegate meaningful work which will stretch and develop your team member. Yes, there is routine rubbish to be delegated, but delegate some of the interesting stuff as well. Be clear and consistent about your expectations.
  5. Have a clear vision. Show where your team is going and how each team member can help you all get there. Have a clear vision for each team member: know where they are going and how they can develop their careers.
  6. Trust your team. Do not micro manage them. Have courage to implement MBWA: Management By Walking Away.
  7. Be honest. That means having difficult, but constructive, conversations with struggling team members. Don't hide or shade the truth. Honesty builds trust and respect.
  8. Set clear expectations. Be very clear about promotion prospects, bonuses and the required outcome of each piece of work. Assume you will be misunderstood: people hear what they want to hear. So make it simple and repeat it often and be consistent.
  9. Overcommunicate. You have two ears and one mouth: use them in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you speak. Then you will find out what is really going, what drives your team members and you can act accordingly.
  10. Don't try to be friends. It is more important to be respected than liked: trust endures where popularity is fickle and leads to weak compromises. If your team trusts and respects you, they will want to work for you.
As with all things that sound simple, in practice it is very hard to do all of this consistently well. It is high effort, but normally very high reward. A motivated team will climb mountains which unmotivated teams do not even look at.

(Pic: Fovea Centralis cc2.0)

  • Jo Owen

    Jo Owen practises what he preaches as a leader. He has worked with over 100 of the best, and a couple of the worst, organisations in the world, has built a business in Japan; started a bank (now HBOS business banking); was a partner at Accenture and brand manager at P&G. He is a serial entrepreneur whose start-ups include top 10 graduate recruiter Teach First and Start Up, which has helped over 250 ex-offenders start their own businesses. He has and has spent seven years researching leadership, strategy and organisation in tribal societies. His books include "Tribal Business School", "How to Lead and How to Manage." He is in demand as a speaker and coach on leadership and change. His websites include Tribal Business School and Leadership Partnership