People & Human Resources

What motivates your team at work? A quick pop quiz

Eve Ash /

There are few things more difficult in business than motivating a team of people of diverse personalities. Everyone seems to have different strengths, weaknesses, motivators and trigger points. And that’s before you consider personality clashes!

The start of the year is a good time to start thinking about motivation. It’s a time when most people are already feeling a lot more motivated than usual. It means you can experiment a little and harness that existing motivation. It also means that you don’t have to overcome the weight of tension that comes with trying to motivate a team that has low morale or is in a conflict phase.

Here are some things you can try:

Explain your decisions

This is a really simple way to improve the trust in your team. You work with adults, and most of them won’t take too kindly to the “do it this way because I said so” methodology. Explaining your decisions, or explaining why certain staff suggestions couldn’t be put into place shows that you have actually considered others’ situations. Illogical decisions are immediately frustrating and demotivating! And ACT on decisions – people get tired of leaders who are fast decision-makers and then don’t follow through.

Doing things differently

It can be really hard to tell what comes first: stagnation or demotivation. Whichever it is, they certainly work hand in hand, and as a manager you can work to prevent this by mixing things up. It might include assigning a new task to someone, or putting two people together on a project that wouldn’t normally interact. Think beyond casual Fridays and occasional lunches with the team, keep the workplace itself dynamic, interesting and challenging for the team. Remember, people need some degree of freedom to choose their own method of working.

Giving recognition

Nothing saps energy and motivation more than the feeling that you are working really hard and that nobody cares. It doesn’t have to be a big production; it can be a simple little comment or thank-you email. Recognising and appreciating effort that people put in costs absolutely nothing, and can make people feel so much better. Make it one of your goals this year – to give more recognition for work done well. Give praise, rewards, and acknowledgement. It may even be that you offer learning opportunities as a reward.

Offer personalised challenges

It is really motivating to know that your boss has taken the time to consider your unique situation and skills and has offered you a challenge tailored to you. Salespeople are used to targets and incentive-based work, but for non-commission staff these short-term goals and challenges can be quite new, exciting and motivating. Empower people to use their range of skills. The reward doesn’t have to be monetized, in fact it’s often better if it isn’t.

Motivating people is about tapping into those emotions that really drive us to perform better and to work better with our colleagues. A manager must take an active role in creating an environment that is motivating and empowering for people in their team.

Try this quiz: What motivates you most at work?

  • Challenges and achievements
  • Money
  • Friday afternoon
  • Acknowledgement
  • Trying new things and opportunities to learn

Click here to vote on SmartCompany’s LinkedIn page.

Eve Ash has produced a hilarious video called Making Decisions about a boss who uses unethical methods make a decision about who gets fired.

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Eve Ash

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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