The Beginners Guide to Motivating Your Team: The Top 6 Do’s & Don’ts

Jan 31, 2017

The Beginners Guide to Motivating Your Team: The Top 6 Do’s & Don’ts

As a leader, you have no doubt discovered that one of your biggest challenges is not just how to motivate your team, but how to maintain a consistent and ongoing tenor of morale that translates into results.

This is complicated by the fact that the triggers which motivate each individual vary greatly. Self starters thrive on the freedom to make decisions and craft self-directed work plans based on their own best ideas, while others require clear instructions and the opportunity to contribute freely is seen as frightening.

The key is to understand the personalities, needs and desires of your team members. However, despite the differences there are still some rules of thumb which can be followed to motivate team members of all types. Consider these three top do’s and dont’s of how to motivate your team, along with some examples of how to make it real.

The 3 Do’s

1. Do encourage work-life balance.

Let’s face it: We spend a huge amount of our time at work, and it is easy in high-performing environments to encounter burnout and fatigue. Not only is this bad for morale, it seriously undermines productivity. When possible, encourage employees to take time off and provide for flexible scheduling options that allow them time for family obligations and a little rest and relaxation.

Making it real: Beverly was surprised when her boss invited her in for talk and smiled broadly as she handed her a ticket for a trip to California. Beverly said, “It made me feel that I was valued, and I was relieved to see that my boss had sensed that I needed a little vacation.” She came back to work refreshed and even more dedicated to the company.

2. Do provide opportunities for career advancement.

Studies show that a major factor which de-motivates workers and causes them to look elsewhere for jobs is a perceived lack of career advancement opportunities. It is incumbent upon leaders to share a vision of where each employee can go inside the company, and help define a path for advancement that clearly spells out the steps necessary to accomplish it.

Making it real: In Patty’s annual review, her boss Tammy took her business card, scratched out Patty’s title and wrote the title that she knew Patty aspired to in its place. That’s when Patty knew that Tammy wanted her to go there, too. “Together, we mapped out a 12-month plan to get her a promotion,” said Tammy. “She was so excited and determined to hit her goals.”

3. Do pay team members equitably.

Employees shouldn’t feel that their wages are a cost item on your budget. Paying team members fairly is a good start. A better start is paying them more than the market rate as it makes them feel highly valued and less likely to seek another job. At the very least, understand the median wages for your industry and location so you can provide a commensurate compensation package.

Making it real: Marty consistently performed high above the standard for his position, and got rave reviews and feedback from his boss. But Marty still didn’t feel right because while he knew his company’s revenue had increased significantly over the last two years, his salary had barely changed. “It meant a lot to me when by boss Rick gave me a raise,” commented Marty. “I’d been thinking about looking for a new job but I really didn’t want to leave.”

The 3 Don’ts

1. Don’t be too judgmental.

Employees should feel they can express their ideas and contribute to the direction of projects and work without fear of being harshly judged by their boss. Always communicate in a way that does not diminish their ideas or inhibit their interest in participating in the Big Think, and encourage everyone to share their original concepts, conceptions and constructive opinions without fear of belittlement or retribution.

Making it real: DeShawn was new at his job and didn’t have a lot of experience. His supervisor Maddy noticed he had great ideas but didn’t often share them with the larger group. She talked to him privately and discovered that he was afraid to have the ‘wrong answers’ due to past negative experiences. “She told me there are no bad ideas on her team and she encouraged me to speak up more because she liked my ideas,” said DeShawn.

2. Don’t overlook personal goals.

Provide team members with an opportunity to share with you their personal and professional goals, and then consider ways that you can help them achieve them. Ask them what their dreams are and be the kind of boss who helps them achieve those dreams, whether it be educational enrichment, the ability to spend more time with family, or the opportunity to try a different career track within the company.

Making it real: Lori had the dream of one day living in Japan, but she felt that her job would make it impossible for her to do so. When her boss Ted found out, he left a note on Lori’s desk written on the back of a postcard of Osaka where the company has an overseas office: “I heard you have a dream of living in Japan. Our office there is always looking for good people. I’d hate to lose you, but let’s talk about making that dream a reality!”

3. Don’t lose your temper.

Lost tempers almost invariably result in lost respect and allegiance. People like to work in a positive and nurturing environment, and nothing puts things on ice more than a boss or coworker who has an unpredictable and caustic temper. Keeping emotions in is check is not always easy, but it is never acceptable to give into unkind impulses.

Making it real: Skylar understood that his employees were under a lot of stress, and some of them had begun to snap at one another as tempers flared and deadlines became intense. He cleared the schedule one afternoon for an offsite at a local boxing ring and everyone got to blow off some steam together. “It was fun for us to take our frustrations out on a punching bag instead of each other,” laughed Skylar. “We felt like more of a team after that.”

Editors Note: The original version of this post was published in September, 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

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