How can you tell your team is really motivated? What are the signs that say so? Do they show enthusiasm for their work, their colleagues and the wider organisation? Is there discretionary effort – going above and beyond what’s expected (as opposed to demanded)? Are they energised and engaged?
Research old and new* backs up the importance of how people are managed – more than how much they’re paid – when it comes to keeping them motivated. If you manage a team of people, what can you do to be the manager who motivates?
Your team want to know that, at the very least, you appreciate their hard work. Show you’ve noticed when a job is done well, giving clear positive feedback on the behaviour that made the difference. Make the praise public, to the rest of the team or the wider organisation. Even better, ask a senior manager to show their appreciation (trust me, it can make a refreshing change for senior managers to share good news).
2. Provide opportunities
This could be giving someone a stretch assignment to challenge them to reach beyond their current pattern of working. It could be a new project within the team or secondment to another department or specialism.
3. Give time
Giving your time to team members, to coach and help them to improve their performance, is one of the most motivating things you can do. If there’s an element of the job that someone is struggling with, give them 1:1 time to help them better understand the why, what and how of the task. Another way you can give time to aid motivation is simple: time off. If one of your team has been working late to meet a deadline, let them leave early.
4. Harness strengths
Whenever the topic of motivation comes up – in conversations with managers or in workshops – people can quickly recall times when they’ve felt really engaged in and energised by their work. Time seems to fly by. Those moments when the level of skill matches the level of challenge – when we’re in flow – are most likely when we’re using our strengths. Help your team members identify their top 3 strengths and notice the difference when they bring them to the task.
5. Give autonomy
If you’ve ever been micro-managed through a task, you’ll know how demotivating that can be. At the other extreme, being ‘thrown in the deep end to see if you can swim’ can be a motivational ice bath. If your team members have clear objectives, designated tasks and agreed deliverables, let them get the job done in their own way.
6. Sponsor development
Encourage people to take a proactive approach to their professional development, seeking out formal and informal ways to learn and grow. Champion your team members when organisation-wide development opportunities come up and support them to apply the learning back at the job.
7. Chart progress
Sometimes employees’ motivation can dip because they perceive they’re not making progress. When work is busy, it’s easy to overlook lessons learned, new skills acquired, challenges overcome and knowledge gained. Take the time in coaching conversations to encourage team members to reflect on and recognise their progress.
You may find this post useful: ’10 ways to make your team more productive’
*New research in 2019 by Thibault-Landry, Schweyer and Williams
See also ‘Forget Cash. Here Are Better Ways to Motivate Employees’ on HBR Working Knowledge
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