Want to better motivate your team?

New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Dan Pink looks at the best ways to motivate your team in his TED talk.

Extrinsic motivation methods try to motivate people through external means; essentially setting goals which earn them reward if completed. This could be a bonus or commission payment, or something like a free iPad. It may surprise you that, at least according to Pink, extrinsic motivation methods do not work in the vast majority of scenarios. But why not? Most of us would imagine that a financial reward would motivate someone to work harder, pushing them to go the “extra mile” in return for a well-earned city break or a new dress.

Instead, putting a reward on the table acts as an unproductive distraction! It takes their focus away from the job in hand – the individual is so focussed on winning the reward that they quickly lose sight of the bigger picture. No longer are the focussed on the method or outcome of the task as a whole, but only on the completion of their specific part of that process. Does this make for an efficient, productive team? Certainly not. Instead it can cause friction and team members feel encouraged to do only what is in their own personal interests. This isn’t how to motivate your team.

Instead, Pink promotes the use of intrinsic motivators to push your team.

Intrinsic motivation is when individuals are motivated to exercise self-fulfilment. It is important for them to get the job done, but they don’t just do it because they feel obligated to. Instead they feel part of a cohesive team, working towards a larger, joint goal. This motivational style can be practiced simply by giving your team more control over their own working lives, and being flexible with their working hours. Allowing them to leave early for their wife’s birthday will assure them that you really do care, and you can imagine how they will respond if you need them to do a little more work over a weekend in the busy run up to Christmas. It works both ways and they will respect that. You trust them to get the job done and to the high standard which you expect, but can still try to allow them to approach the project in their own way and to their own schedule (within reason). Surely, as long as they hit your agreed deadlines and achieve any important milestones, the hours they work each day isn’t so important.

This is empowering. You are making them responsible for their own actions and giving them the freedom to complete their work how they want to. We all have different styles of working, different commitments to juggle and different goals in life. This more flexible approach enables your team to work to the best of their ability, not to work to a rigid beat with no room for negotiation purely because that’s “how everyone runs their business”. This will have an incredibly positive effect on your team. No longer do they feel like they are simply “bought” in return for the time they spend working on projects you assign to them. Instead they will feel like they really matter to your business. They will be interested in their work and they will (once again) start to care about the task in hand, the company and your opinion of them.

What is the harm in trying?

Having watched this TED talk, it inspired me to compile a list of intrinsic tactics which YOU can apply to help motivate your team (whether they are virtual or not!). Here are my top 10!

1. Take a moment to engage

It is vital for you to engage with your team and make an effort to get to know them. You must never forget that the individuals you have surrounded yourself with are the key to building a successful business. When you take just a moment to reflect on it, it is common sense that your team won’t feel motivated or loyal to you if you don’t show any interest in their lives. Why would they? Just a simple conversation makes your team members feel at home in their environment and gives you an opportunity to adapt your own leadership style to best suit your team.

2. Involve your team in decision-making

By including your team in the decision-making process, you are raising their status in your organisation and giving them valuable further opportunities for self-development. In turn this will motivate them to succeed.  Your team will become more enthusiastic about working towards goals which they have helped set, as opposed to decisions which they don’t understand or agree with. Additionally, involving staff in decisions which will affect an entire team is incredibly beneficial for your business as they will be able to provide you with a different perspective of the situation and therefore help you make more reliable, informed decisions.

3. Keep them in the know

It is crucial for you to ensure that your team are well informed about the current growth plans of your business, as well as the (perhaps contrasting) commercial reality of operating a business. This could be done through weekly bulletins or meetings. Making them feel more involved within the business will motivate your team to work harder.

4. Give credit, where credit is due

Praising your team for their achievements and recognising their contribution to your business’ success will hugely improve their morale and therefore motivate them to reach goals and exceed your expectations. It could be something as small as “this idea was suggested by Charlie”. A little recognition can go a long way. It shows you value their opinion and they will feel proud to have made a noticeable contribution.

5. Socialise with your staff – it isn’t all about work!

Make it clear to your team that not everything is about work and meeting tight deadlines. Motivate your team with a little added fun. Organise regular social events with your staff including a Christmas party or after-work drinks. It is good for them to relax around you and therefore improve working relationships. They might even offer you feel more comfortable approaching you with valuable feedback in a more informal environment.

6. Offer them training opportunities

Offer your team opportunities for personal and professional growth within the work place, as well as allowing them sufficient free time outside of normal work hours for personal development. This could be an external training day, or an industry conference. Your willingness to invest both your time and money in your team shows that you believe in them and their ability to carry out the job, and that you are making long-term plans which involve them being a part of your team.

7. Give regular appraisals to motivate your team

Give fair and balanced feedback on a regular basis. Any professional will appreciate this if done in the right way. Let them know what they are doing well and what aspects they could improve. Doing this on a regular basis is an effective way to push your staff to the best of their capabilities and allows them to create their own personal work goals which will more likely be aligned with that of their current role in your company.

8. Promote a clear sense of direction

Ensure your team always know what they are working towards and, if possible, show them they have a choice in which projects they work on. It could be beneficial if your team competed against each other to “win” more high profile or interesting projects – the better they perform the more likely they are to get selected for a new project. This element of fun and friendly competition should create a sense of playful rivalry between your employees and motivate them to exceed both yours and their expectations, without causing undue friction.

9. Stay positive

The success of your team will also depend on the approach that they take. Do they see problems as barriers, or as challenges which need to and can be overcome? These two contrasting approaches are completely psychological and will be heavily influenced by the attitude of those around you. If your team feels stressed, help them focus on the bigger picture and remind them that a typical working week isn’t usually so bad. Change their way of thinking to be more positive. This can all be done through encouragement and support from you.

10. Celebrate success

Openly celebrating the success and achievements of each team members is a healthy way to lift the mood, as well as showing some gratitude and thanks for their hard work. Try to highlight individual accomplishments in team-wide feedback and promote the evidently “bigger” successes organisation-wide. A section within a staff bulletin or e-newsletter, or simply a few scribbles on a whiteboard in the office, is an easy (but very effective) way to do this. Underperforming team members will hopefully feel more motivated to make the extra effort and realise that it will soon be obvious to the entire company that they are not pushing themselves as hard as others around them.

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