Here are 11 tips to motivate your team. Make these tips a part of your routine and they will become part of who you are as a leader. Your employees will feel better about themselves and motivated to continue to do their job well. And, as a result, you’ll feel good about yourself and your job as well.
Offer yourself as a person. Let your first words to each of your employees be personal, not straight-to-business. Make it brief and casual. Ask how they are. Ask what they did the previous night. Tell them about a restaurant you tried. In a word – connect. Remember, your employees are people first and workers second. Treat them that way.
Communicate. Employees need to feel they are kept in on things. In job satisfaction surveys, communication repeatedly comes in as one of the most important job factors. Your employees look to you for honest feedback and information about their performance, about your team’s goals and priorities, about the company, and about the future. Sensitive company information may be an exception, of course.
Ensure that they know that what they do matters. We are social beings. At work that means we desire to be part of a team or workgroup. Even individual contributors, like researchers, connect with a larger community of researchers. It’s human nature to want to belong to something larger than ourselves. But in a group, individual work can go unnoticed. As a manager, you need to make sure that everyone’s contributions are noticed. This doesn’t mean you need to acknowledge every detail or offer false praise. Just make sure that your employees feel like a valued part of your team.
Treat your employees differently. Many managers, in an effort to be fair or perhaps because they believe it’s easier, treat their employees the same. They all get the same kind of praise and the same kind of feedback for their job performance. But your employees are not the same. And what makes them feel valued will likely be different too. For example, announcing during a meeting about a team member’s job well done may embarrass instead of motivate them. On the other hand, an employee who enjoys being in the spotlight will be far more motivated by announcing her achievements in the company newsletter than via a personal email.
When you see it, say it. This seems basic, but it’s easy to get caught up in the details of your day and let these small gems of opportunities to motivate pass you by. Consider these quick and easy comments that will let your employees know you’ve noticed:
“You handled that problem well. You saved us a lot of money.”
“I like how you handled that last customer.”
“I just read your report. You did a great job with the supporting detail.”
Commenting on something that happened days ago is a worthy effort to acknowledge good work, but it loses some of its impact. It can be seen as an afterthought and not as sincere. When possible, praise on the fly.
Make it okay to fail. Each of your employees walked in their first day on the job determined to succeed. They didn’t walk in planning to make mistakes. But mistakes do happen. How you handle them will deeply impact your team. If a mistake is handled as an opportunity for learning, the experience will be motivating. If your employees are scared to make a mistake, you have a problem. Mistakes are part of experiential learning and have been a proven part of risk-taking and innovation. Repeated mistakes may signal a performance problem, but coaching your employees through mistakes and reassuring them of your confidence in their abilities is highly motivating and will strengthen your team.
Focus on the positive and diminish the negative. We all have strengths as well as areas that need improvement. If those areas of improvement are performance issues, address them accordingly. But if they are weaknesses that don’t really impact the outcome, don’t dwell on them. Focus on your employee’s strengths and play to them.
Offer your time. Be there for your team to help them succeed. This doesn’t mean that you’re a counsellor for their personal problems. It means guiding them and coaching them. It means checking in with them occasionally to find out how things are going and how the team is doing. It means connecting with them as people first.
Celebrate team victories. There’s nothing like a celebration after hard work. Celebrations can strengthen a team because you’re acknowledging their successful teamwork. Plan a party for the end of 4th quarter to celebrate their effort. Announce a casual day to celebrate high sales record. Your celebration can be planned ahead of time to motivate and rally the team or it can be a surprise celebration.
Offer your appreciation. A sincere thank you at the end of the day goes a long way. It shows you are noticing effort and that you care. When possible be specific about why you appreciate their efforts.
“I appreciate your effort this afternoon. It gives me more time to prepare.”
“Thanks for all your hard work today. We’re closer to our goal.”
“I appreciate the way you took a lead on the floor today. Your efforts are making a difference.”
Develop your team. When you focus on the future, you send a clear message of confidence to your team members. It says that you plan on them being around. It helps them feel in on things and gives them a sense of belonging. But it needs to be more than talk. At least twice a year, or once a quarter, talk to your employees about what they like about their job and what they dislike. Where they see themselves in the future. What they want and how they plan to get there, and what they think they need to learn. These future-focused conversations are invaluable motivators.