One of the toughest team development tasks a team leader faces is motivating their team. Whether it’s hitting a stretch goal, meeting a tough benchmark or solving a difficult problem, a team that isn’t motivated to achieve or overcome obstacles can slow down everything.

Two truths for motivating others

  1. You cannot motivate anyone who does not want to be motivated.
  2. Everyone wants to be motivated.

Pay attention to the second truth, because it’s the important one. Everybody wants to be motivated. That is the secret to getting a team fired up and clicking on all cylinders.

team development - motivating your teamOkay, that’s great, Gregg, you’re probably thinking. But my team doesn’t seem to be motivated by anything but the clock hitting 5:30 on a Friday. Well, maybe that’s true, but it’s worth noting that clock-watching is an extrinsic motivation. And when you understand that, you’ll be able to use it to your advantage.

There are two sources of motivation for most individuals

Extrinsic – Things outside one’s reach that they may want. Think: money, food, job title. The challenge with this form of motivation is that it lasts only as long as the value is present and recognized. Once it’s gone, the motivation stops.

Intrinsic – Things that stimulate a person from within. Positive, internal motivators like knowledge, experience, responsibility, achievement. The motivation from these sources lasts much longer than that spurred by extrinsic motivators.

Here’s a small example: At the end of the year, a team leader gives each team member a $10 gift card to Starbucks, and she places each card inside an envelope with a handwritten note that says something like, “Thank you for your great work.” Those gift cards get tucked away into wallets or desk drawers and spent fairly quickly. But those handwritten notes? They’re often displayed prominently on the team members’ desks, and stay there for months.

The money is a nice extrinsic motivator – here’s two coffees, right? But the handwritten note is a mark of recognition to each team member that what they do matters, and that they’re an important part of the team and the company. That feeling of belonging and accomplishment can’t be manufactured or bought.

A gift card may be small potatoes in some companies. Heck, I know of a travel nurse recruiting company in Omaha that gives its employees a brand-new SUV when they reach a specific benchmark. Their strategy is twofold: they motivate their employees to achieve well beyond requirements, and they know their employees have reliable transportation.

Of course, a gift card may not be enough of an extrinsic motivator. And giving away a car isn’t realistic for many work teams. But there are plenty of motivators in the space between those two. Maybe as a team leader you are allowed to offer incentive time off for high achievers. Perhaps tickets to a baseball game could be arranged. Talk with other team leaders and management about some motivational rewards, if there aren’t any in place already.

As for intrinsic rewards – you can provide that recognition to individuals and the team. Notes, verbal recognition of the team’s achievements, or even just quickly addressing the concerns of team members – make sure the team knows they’re appreciated.

Acknowledge that everyone wants to be motivated. And then find the way to motivate them.


One Team, One DreamExcerpted from One Team, One Dream by Gregg Gregory

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