Team mo­ti­va­tion part of day-to-day busi­ness

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - CAREERS - COLLEEN COATES

IN or­der to cre­ate and sus­tain team mo­ti­va­tion, it needs to be a mat­ter of con­stant fo­cus. Think of it like coach­ing your team for a marathon. This would re­quire train­ing on a daily ba­sis in or­der to build stamina and reach op­ti­mum fit­ness lev­els. It’s sim­ply not enough to of­fer short, in­fre­quent spurts of in­tense train­ing ac­tiv­ity and hope it will take them the dis­tance.

Many lead­ers make the mis­take of think­ing team mo­ti­va­tion is sep­a­rate from or some­how less im­por­tant than con­duct­ing day-to-day­busi­ness. They may put it on the back burner, be­liev­ing that there will be plenty of time to work on mo­rale and team build­ing af­ter the bot­tom line is achieved.

The truth is, both need to hap­pen si­mul­ta­ne­ously. A mo­ti­vated team gives your or­ga­ni­za­tion a com­pet­i­tive edge, just as it can be the lever­age needed to con­vert ideas into ac­tion. It’s en­tirely pos­si­ble for em­ploy­ees to be en­gaged and able to de­liver great cus­tomer ser­vice when they are be­ing as­sured of a rea­son to do so. That hap­pens when they work in­side an en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages them to re­main or be­come mo­ti­vated.

Whoa — be­come mo­ti­vated? I can hear the naysay­ers now. “How can I pos­si­bly mo­ti­vate em­ploy­ees who aren’t al­ready self-mo­ti­vated? Af­ter all, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Yes, that’s true. The cat­a­lyst for mo­ti­va­tion does come from within, and not all em­ploy­ees will be equally dis­ci­plined or de­sirous enough to be self-mo­ti­vated.

How­ever, as a man­ager, you must rec­og­nize that mo­ti­va­tion is also greatly in­flu­enced by ex­ter­nal fac­tors, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­ment. And that is some­thing you have con­trol over. A healthy work en­vi­ron­ment has a bal­ance of self-mo­ti­va­tion and team mo­ti­va­tion, both of which a good leader can in­spire while pro­mot­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and progress.

An en­vi­ron­ment that is con­ducive for team mo­ti­va­tion should look some­thing like this:

Em­ploy­ees should be able to work free of fear. This in­cludes con­cern that if they don’t per­form to the boss’s high stan­dards they will be fired, as well as worry that if they report any wrong­do­ing they will be re­tal­i­ated against.

Ev­ery­one should get to know those they work with as a per­son, not only a fel­low em­ployee. This helps em­pa­thy, un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion to de­velop nat­u­rally.

En­cour­age em­ploy­ees to carry out random acts of kind­ness in the of­fice and in the com­mu­nity. This may mean that you’ll have to get the ball rolling, but once it takes off, it’s a great way to break down bar­ri­ers and im­prove mo­rale.

Each meet­ing and gath­er­ing should be viewed as an op­por­tu­nity for team build­ing. For ex­am­ple, use meet­ings as a place to fa­cil­i­tate group prob­lem solv­ing. Ask some­one to share a work chal­lenge they are fac­ing and then brain­storm po­ten­tial so­lu­tions as a team.

Show that group con­tri­bu­tions are val­ued. When peo­ple see that what they say is be­ing noted (yes, that means tak­ing notes) and taken un­der con­sid­er­a­tion, it shows that their idea is be­ing taken se­ri­ously. There­fore, they will be likely to con­trib­ute more valu­able ideas in the fu­ture.

Cre­ate an open dis­cus­sion fo­rum. Once peo­ple get into the habit of group brain­storm­ing, it opens the gate­way to bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion in a safe place where they can freely ex­press and ex­change ideas. The only rule is that no idea is a bad idea.

Ex­plain how ev­ery­one on the team is in­ter­con­nected. Give peo­ple the “big pic­ture” by cre­at­ing a chart, process map or di­a­gram that vis­ually de­scribes the work­flow and how each per­son’s ef­forts and con­tri­bu­tions im­pact one other.

Of­fer tan­gi­ble and cre­ative in­cen­tives. Do not un­der­es­ti­mate how pow­er­ful con­sis­tent in­cen­tives, bonus pro­grams, and col­lab­o­ra­tive goals are in keep­ing the team mo­ti­vated to stay on course.

Rec­og­nize ef­fort and re­sults. Take time to hon­our sit­u­a­tions where things have gone well in­stead of fo­cus­ing only on those that still need fix­ing. End­ing your meet­ings with ac­knowl­edge­ments and ver­bal “pats on the back” helps cre­ate group co­he­sion.

The goal is to cre­ate a cre­ative, sup­port­ive and en­cour­ag­ing en­vi­ron­ment that of­fers a high level of emo­tional trust. Like a fam­ily, the mem­bers of the team know each other well, ac­cept oth­ers’ strengths and weak­nesses and look out for one an­other. De­spite not be­ing able to see eye to eye on oc­ca­sion, they work through the chal­lenges and cel­e­brate the suc­cesses.

By main­tain­ing fo­cus on this goal on a daily ba­sis, you can help en­sure that your team has the mo­ti­va­tion to cross the fin­ish line and stay miles ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion.

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Use your meet­ings as an op­por­tu­nity for team build­ing, to fa­cil­i­tate group prob­lem solv­ing.

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