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Motivating Your Team

A salesman once sat looking through the window of a hotel restaurant at a blinding snowstorm. As he considered whether to stay or go, he asked his waiter, “Do you think the roads will be clear enough in the morning to travel?”“That depends,” the waiter replied. “Are you on salary or commission?”What motivates people is a really big deal. Great leaders make developing skill at motivating others a primary learning focus. If you're a leader, you know that lighting a constant motivational fire under your people is one of your biggest jobs. The obvious incentive of money matters as a motivator to even people who claim it doesn’t matter. However, few people will stay in a job just for the paycheck. Engaging work and congenial co-workers are very motivating and are no-brainers as well. When those are present, people are primed to invest.There still are other methods to motivate as well. Google it—you will find all kinds of articles on motivating others—16 ways, 8 ways, 10 ways—I have even seen the “20 best ways.” It’s hard to argue the fact that Jack Welch has been one of the best motivators in business history. He adds four more to money, engaging work, and enjoyable co-workers:The first is easy: recognition. When an individual or a team does something notable, make a big deal of it. Announce it publicly, talk about it at every opportunity. Hand out awards.The same objections can be raised to this as are raised to allowing kids’ ball teams to keep score—what if recognizing some people hurts or demotivates the ones who are not recognized. Welch’s answer is simple. “This nonsense indulges the wrong crowd! If you have the right people -- competitive, upbeat, team players -- public recognition only raises the bar for everyone.”The second tool, celebration, should be easy but isn't. Typically no more than 10% of the responses to research say their company celebrates enough. What a lost opportunity! Celebrating victories along the way is an amazingly effective way to keep people engaged on the whole journey. Mark milestones for individuals and the entire team, not just the big wins. And we're not talking about celebrating just the big wins. Celebrating small successes boosts morale all along the way.Welch emphasizes that celebrations don't need to be fancy. They're really just another form of recognition, but with more fun involved. Like bringing in a catered lunch spontaneously, tickets to a ball game, or sending a couple of high performers and their families to Disney World. Whatever it is that you know your team enjoys.He says to be sure you are aware as a boss that celebration is NOT dinner with you. Your people spend all day with you, and while they may like you, it's not motivating to be rewarded by going out to dinner with you, no matter how great the meatballs may be.Knowing exactly where you are going and why is very powerful. The leader has to be absolutely clear about the mission. Many leaders are so busy with the daily grind that their missions fall by the wayside. To move forward, a team has to understand and buy into where it's going. It needs a collective sense of purpose. A bold, inspirational mission allows bosses to say: "There's the hill, let's take it together."Welch’s final motivational tool is probably the most difficult to implement. It's hard to get just right.We're talking about balancing achievement and challenge. People are most motivated when they feel as if they are at the top of the mountain, and simultaneously still climbing it. Bosses who create jobs with just the right push-and-pull have mastered one of motivation’s greatest tools.I’m no Jack Welch, but now that I have been either an employee or a boss for more than 30 years, I have a few more elements that I have discovered are central.I believe individual attention matters. Undoubtedly, team work is a significant element of company success; nothing beats individual attention when it comes to motivation. The larger the company, the easier it is to feel isolated or under-valued. Taking the time to individually appreciate an employee is worth the weight in gold.Offer direct praise when an individual exceeds performance goals or does some outstanding work. Not only does this make the employee feel recognized and appreciated, it also reinforces the positive behavior for everyone on the team.Individual one-on-one coaching when an employee is struggling is highly motivational. The knowledge that you actually care about people as much or more than the work motivates everyone.Give and receive ongoing performance feedback. When things do go wrong, don’t blame. Replace who questions with how questions. For example, rather than saying, “Who screwed this up?” say, “How could we improve this process or avoid this in the future?”Give employees opportunities for personal growth. Because people who get the chance to grow their skills and expertise take more pride in their jobs, you want to encourage employees in your organization to gain new skills. You can do this in many ways, such as providing on-the-job training and other opportunities to teach your employees new skills.Let people go when needed. Underperformers, critics, pot-stirrers can kill an organization; they can become cancers. When other employees see these individuals getting away with poor behavior, they fall into the same patterns. Letting them go–as long as you explain to your team why people were fired–can actually motivate your employees.Work environment has a major effect on your team's mentality. Traditional work environments tend to be less motivating; fresh looks, more light and openness, innovation and creativity seem to help. Having work environments, chairs, and equipment the team members need is a big plus. Having areas and times that encourage socialization and true communication and friendship among the workers and management is highly motivating.Great leaders are not only motivated but are motivational. Work at it—it’s worth it. You can build a culture that is highly motivating and enjoyable for the entire team.

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