Motivate Your Team

Monday, December 14 2020

(Updated October 2022) – 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 to motivate your team. So, how do we overcome the challenge of poor motivation?

The wrong way

Captain Bligh, from the HMS Bounty, 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 with each person having a different opinion of what is adequate. 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, thus giving them input into creating their workplace goals. Employees need to feel involved and have a degree of control over their destiny, so they will be willing 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. Employees failed to accomplish what was expected of them because1:

  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 expected to do.

In summary, let employees have input into the goals being created that affect them.  Then ensure you support them by providing role clarity, feedback, and recognition that encourages them.

1Ferdinand Fournies, former Columbia Graduate School professor