Cheryl Cran

Article Summary:

Here's eight different ways you can motivate your team.

Motivate Your Team

It's the eternal conundrum! How do leaders motivate their teams to perform at higher levels and how do they maintain higher levels of morale? It always amazes me when leaders point the finger at their people and speak of them as if they are "the problem" or an entity unto themselves responsible for all failings within the department. It is the courageous and successful leader who looks first in the mirror and asks him or herself such necessary, but very powerful questions as:

  • What have I done in the past that worked?

  • What's going on with me right now and am I bringing enthusiasm to the workplace?

  • Am I being realistic in my expectations and have I communicated them to my team?


Here's a fact. A team's performance is a direct reflection of its leadership. Ouch!

Think about it...people within a team will only perform to the level that they see rewarded or to the level brought to the table by their leader. In my training seminars to management leaders, I often challenge them to look first at their own strengths, weaknesses and management styles - before they look at problems they are facing with their people.

Many leaders are placed into their positions with little or no training dooming them to certain failure. Most employees make the assumption that leaders already know how to manage personalities and motivate people. There is the assumption that somehow along with the title, the new leader is magically bestowed with the gifts of management and team motivation skills. This couldn't be further from the truth! People skills are just that - specialized skills that are developed through training, application and experience.

I am not saying that we absolve the employees of all responsibility. Let's face it, in a highly functioning team environment there exists a high level of accountability all the way around. What I am saying is that we as leaders should be willing to look at ourselves and be accountable for what we have control over.

Here are 8 things you can do to motivate your team:

Look in the mirror.
Are you waking up with enthusiasm and excitement about your work? Have you set goals for yourself and your team? Or are you just punching a time clock like the rest of them and its all you can do to not fall asleep with boredom or scream out loud with frustration. What do you need to become more excited and enthused? If you are not excited and energetic, it is not fair to expect your team to bring the same to the table.

Take a retreat.
Step away from the work environment for a day or if possible, two. Go to a 2-day management seminar or retreat and re-fuel, re-group and re-energize so that you can bring a fresh attitude and approach back to your team. Many leaders are suffering burnout and are not able apply creative solutions. Signs of burnout are: lethargy, apathy and negativity - just to name a few.

Take a pulse.
Do an assessment of your team dynamics. List all of your team members on a piece of paper and beside each person's name indicate the level of performance you feel they are currently at, what you feel they are capable of and identify where the gap in performance exists. Then think about how you have approached this person in the past with regard to performance improvement and what you can do differently this time to have them hear you in a new and different way.

Tell them what you want.
Have a team meeting and tell your team that you want to brainstorm ideas on how to create higher levels of motivation and morale. Be willing to hear all ideas and as a group have them prioritize the ideas and then delegate the action items. Be willing to do something yourself to show your commitment to the goal of higher motivation and morale.

Do a 360.
It is a brave leader who willingingly has his/her teams assess them as leaders. The 360 degree performance evaluation system does just that. It allows employees to evaluate their leaders and to provide sound feedback on how their leader can improve. Tell your team you want their opinions and input on how you can be a better leader. Be open and willing to hear the good with the bad and sometimes the ugly. Then do something with the feedback- communicate back to your team what you are going to do as a result of the feedback.

Coach regularly.
Statistics show that leaders who have a coaching plan in place for their employees have less absenteeism, higher productivity and overall higher morale. It makes sense doesn't it? Spend quality one-on-one time with your employees on a regular and rotating basis and they begin to perform at higher levels due to ongoing personal attention and validation. Coaching prevents bad behavior and negative attention methods by employees.

Praise in public- criticize in private.
There is nothing that replaces pure praise. Employees surveyed stated that they value recognition above pay raises by their leaders. We often undervalue the power of praise and we may even feel that if they are doing a good job they should know that we think they are great. Some leaders feel that giving praise all the time is hard work and that employees requiring it are high maintenance. The rules of giving effective praise are: praise specific behaviors or results, be sincere, make it timely when the event happens and when possible make it public.

Be a psychologist.
Adapt to the different personalities of your team. You already know your people to a high degree and yet we tend to overlook the unique emotional needs of each individual. Treat them as they want to be treated and be willing to see things from their perspective. Openly communicate and be willing to share yourself with your team. You can't be everyone's friend, however you can be accessible, open and trustworthy. Teams who have an understanding and compassionate leader tend to be more loyal and can weather ongoing change at higher levels.

Often we feel that we just need to throw money or perks towards our teams to keep them happy. This is an erroneous belief and it has been found that truly what people want is to have open communication, straightforward and direct leadership and an easygoing environment to work within. Sounds good doesn't it?

The rewards of leadership are many and we can have greater satisfaction, less stress and a sense of accomplishment when we look at what we can do to improve our team's performance and happiness on the job.

Cheryl Cran, CSP is the author of the book "Say What You Mean - Mean What You Say" and the soon to be released book "50 Ways To Lead and Love It!". She is also an internationally renowned motivational speaker and a skilled expert in communication strategies. Her keynote speeches and customized "communication" seminars focus on helping corporations and associations to improve leadership, teamwork, customer care and change management. Cheryl is a contributing author to Richard Carlson's best-selling series "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" and "Speak Up Speak Out". For more information, visit: www.cherylcran.com.

Read all advice by Cheryl Cran; Find more Team Building experts

More advice on Team Building
» Workplace Teamwork: Where NOT to Use Teams
» How Prospects and Customers View Us
» all Team Building articles