Those team leaders who are still searching for the secret to effective team motivation ought to be reminded that it’s no secret after all. But even if there was a secret then this secret is within them and they must focus on unearthing it. The truth is that it is the desire of every team leader to have a motivated team. When a team is motivated the team members are self driven and are passionate about their roles. There is a high level of responsibility and accountability for results. Employee motivation affects productivity and part of a leader’s role is to channel motivation toward the accomplishment of organizational goals.
What is motivation?
Motivation is the team leader’s ability to get people to cheerfully, willingly and professionally do things that the business requires them to do. It is about the leader’s ability to move the team members from mere job compliance to job commitment by helping them to clearly connect to the organization’s vision, mission and values. The team members then must be made to clearly see how the organizational goals relate with their individual success.
Why the Leader is the Secret to Effective Team Motivation
If there is any secret to effective team motivation then it must be the leader. A leader cannot motivate the team if he is not motivated; you can’t give what you don’t have. Realistically all lack of motivation in teams result from a leadership that is not motivated; the buck must stop here. Leaders who are not able to communicate the aspirations of their companies to the teams and rally the team members in the direction of the vision will end up providing a blurred vision of the future. People will be uncertain about such a future and may lack inspiration to work toward achieving that which is not clear.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that an organization is simply the extended shadow of its leadership; how true this is! Leadership cannot be automated; it cannot be on autopilot like an airplane. Leadership is about influencing the right behaviors that deliver excellence in teams. These behaviors must start with the leader himself for them to be reflected in the team members.
In my village many homesteads have piped water. The pipes in the homesteads are connected to the main supply pipe which then connects to the reservoir built on high grounds for gravitational flow. The reservoir is served by a borehole, river or lake.
Supposing the tap in one of the homesteads runs dry for a few days. The owner may wait hoping that normal flow will resume after sometime only to realize after a week that it isn’t the case. Eventually the owner contacts the plumber who checks the piping from the homestead to the main supply pipe. If it’s confirmed that there is no leakage or blockage in the piping up to the reservoir, what’s the problem then?
It’s simple logic: The reservoir is dry.
A leader is the reservoir of motivation and when he cannot make it flow naturally (gravitationally) through the pipeline of team communication, then the team members run dry. This is the big leadership challenge; to maintain the appropriate levels of self motivation so as to inflict the same in the team. It’s not easy but if a leader focuses and affirms self motivation every day then it will become a ritual in the team as well.
Yet having said all this I know that it is not very easy to motivate another person. This is because motivation also refers to the forces either within or external to a person that arouse enthusiasm and persistence to pursue a certain course of action. The decision to feel strongly toward an idea, situation, person or task and take a certain course of action ultimately lies with the individual. You have seen people working in the same environment and even living together yet one is always a source of productive efforts whilst the other is the exact opposite. What can be the cause of such asymmetry? Why do people respond differently to similar situations or events in their lives?
It is largely the degree to which an individual is self motivated. A match stick flame will not ignite fire in an ocean of water but will raise an infernal in a pod of petrol. Some people have leant to keep a positive mindset set irrespective of the circumstances. They are in control of their lives irrespective of what the world gives them. They have chosen to live out of self inspiration. On the other hand others have habituated the attitude of helplessness. This victim attitude makes them blame external circumstances for all the wrongs in their lives. They are truly difficult to motivate.
The Process of Effective Team Motivation
Effective team motivation is a process that starts with individual motivation and requires a good understanding of people’s needs. The process of motivation involves:
1. Identify the behavior and attitude
Human beings are creatures of behaviors; they form their behaviors which consequently form their futures. We have desirable and undesirable behaviors in people. Undesirable behaviors oftentimes lead to conflicts in self and within the team adversely affecting individual and team productivity. Human behaviors are motivated by specific personal needs in the people demonstrating them. If an employee is always temperamental and arrogant to both customers and colleagues, this is the behavior we observe in her. But this behavior is only a symptom and not the real cause of who she is. It is important to appreciate that nobody was created with undesirable behavior and that such behaviors then are never our true nature.
An employee’s behavior can be defined in her ability to relate with others and deliver results. People who relate well with others are warm and responsive to team members’ needs. An employee who is good in interpersonal skills and also delivers results is an asset to the organization both in the short and long term.
On the other hand an employee who cannot relate well with others and doesn’t deliver results is a great liability to the organization. If one just delivers the desired results but doesn’t relate well with others then this is dictatorship. These results can only be sustained in the short term.
2. Identify the need associated with the behavior
Every human behavior is motivated by a specific need. It is the extent to which this need is met or unmet which either escalates or diminishes the behavior. Most of the behaviors which cause conflicts in a team are undesirable. These behaviors also reflect an unmet need in the person exhibiting them.
Dictators exhibit a dominant, forceful, hostile and close-minded behavior to others. This behavior results from a need for recognition and appreciation. They are looking for praise and mentions at appropriate levels and opportunities. On the other hand people who are withdrawn, guarded, aloof and cold to others are suffering from insecurity. They need reassurance and warm support in their role.
Employees who are overly warm, friendly and like chit chatting all the time yet they are unproductive are merely seeking friendships and appreciation. They want to be popular.
Yet other employees are able to nurture very productive relationships with others and at the same time deliver outstanding results. This category of people is in need of self actualization and always loves challenging environments for personal growth.
3. Addressing the individual needs to gain commitment
As a leader, once you have identified peoples’ needs from their behaviors, you should then focus on meeting those needs by treating those people the way they expect to be treated. Additionally you should influence positive change from the undesired to the desired behavior by clearly showing the individual how she will benefit from this transformation. It is about showing them that it in their own interest to change to the desired behavior for personal growth. The leader must answer the question, “what is in it for me?” This is the rarely verbalized question yet it is at the top of every employee’s mind.
4. Recognize and reward excellence
To successfully motivate people to accomplish job goals in the workplace, their personal needs, both tangible or physical, and intangible or abstract must be met. Mother Teresa said that the greatest hunger in the world is that of appreciation. We all need to be complimented for our efforts whether big or small. This boosts our morale to do even better in our team roles. A leader must never hoard motivational feedback.
By appreciating people’s efforts a leader is meeting their needs and by so doing productivity can be sustained. When people are not recognized then they don’t also recognize the employer’s needs resulting to doing the bare minimum to sustain themselves in the job. Team motivation is a two way traffic; as the leader lets motivation flow through his team members the team members on the other hand open their motivational taps to their leader as well.
One way of greatly enhancing team motivation is through outbound team building events to help break communication barriers within teams. Our trainings and outbound team building events, which have helped many organizations attain effective team motivation, can be requested through firstname.lastname@example.org.Share this inspiring article