How to Effectively Motivate Your Team

Monday, December 14 2020

There is a good chance we will fail if the individuals we expect to undertake the activities that support our strategic plan are not motivated. One of the most important considerations in achieving success is to ensure that enough members of the team are motivated to accomplish the strategy. The book, Blue Ocean Strategy, identifies one of the four big obstacles to strategy execution as overcoming the motivational hurdle. There is special focus on breaking free from the status quo and addressing resistance to change. So, how do we overcome the challenge of motivation?

The wrong way

Captain Bligh infamously declared, “the beatings will continue until morale improves.” Any sane person in the 21st century recognizes how ineffective it is to try to improve morale through punishment.  Often the prevailing strategies try to motivate people through a carrot and stick approach and those meet with limited success. However, today’s stick is not physical punishment, but rather psychological pressure, outright demands, or reprisals for failure to act as expected. None of these are very motivating and given the current difficulty attracting and retaining employees, you risk having them flee in droves.

Rewards have their own challenges. What is considered adequate for one person might be inadequate for another. Rewards can create an expectation that if the employer wants something done, they better be willing to offer an enticement.

A better way

One important concept for motivating employees is mutual determination, giving them input into creating their workplace goals. Employees need to feel involved and have a degree of control over their destiny if they are to invest energy that aligns with the organization’s goals. In our Results-Centred Leadership program we devote an entire module to motivation.

Other important considerations are a current job description and clearly stated expectations of performance. A study by former Columbia Graduate School professor Ferdinand Fournies found that based on interviews with nearly 25,000 managers the top three reasons direct reports did not accomplish what was expected were:

  1. They didn’t know why they should do it
  2. They didn’t know how to do it
  3. They didn’t know what they were supposed to do

In summary, let employees contribute either to the goals being set or how they will achieve them.  Then ensure you support them by providing role clarity, feedback, and recognition that encourages them.