November 3, 2010
You won’t find Motivation 101 in most business schools, yet the ability to motivate your team is one of the most important skills a leader must possess. Here are six strategies —no speeches required — to unite and engage your team.
Many leaders are continually frustrated by their team’s performance and low morale and engagement. The answer doesn’t involve fancy technology, a new piece of equipment, or extensive R&D. In fact, the answer lies in a basic human emotion: motivation.
Unfortunately, motivational speeches don’t work. But leaders who motivate do. Now, more than ever, a leader’s job is to motivate and rally the team through challenging times. You can’t outsource motivation. It is the leaders and managers who must motivate.
Most business leaders want to take the emotion out of business, but that is a huge mistake. When fear and negativity are the primary emotions people in your organization are feeling, you have to counter that with an even more powerful emotion, like faith, belief, and optimism. And your success in that depends on your ability to motivate.
Motivation has long been considered a soft skill that was hard to quantify, so most companies left it up to annual meetings and inspiring rallies to keep their employees fired up. But what leaders are realizing is that it’s quickly becoming a vital part of their everyday job descriptions.
Culled from my books The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy and Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture (Wiley, May 2010), here are my six strategies to motivate your people and get the results you want:
Don’t be too busy to communicate. Uncertainty creates a void. Unless you, the manager, fill that void with clear and positive communication, people will assume the worst and act accordingly. Fear and negativity will creep in and dominate their thoughts, behaviors, and actions. Don’t let your busy schedule get in the way of taking the time to talk with your team. In fact, you should make communicating a top priority on your list each day.
Communicate with transparency, authenticity and clarity. Whether you have a scheduled morning meeting each day, make the rounds in the afternoon or take your team to lunch, make it a priority to make time to talk to each and every member of your team on a regular basis. You may be busy, but the truth of the matter is that you really can’t afford not to.
Lead with optimism. Between the doom and gloom media coverage, the workplace rumor mill, and the overall uncertainty of the economy, it seems that pessimism has become the name of the game. As a leader, your most important weapon against pessimism is to transfer your optimism and vision to others. This inspires others to think and act in ways that drive results.
Leadership is a transfer of belief — and great leaders inspire their teams to believe they can succeed. As a leader and manager, you are not just leading and managing people, but you are also leading and managing their beliefs. You must utilize every opportunity available to transfer your optimism. From meetings to daily emails to individual conversations to teleconferences, it’s imperative that you share your optimism with your team. Optimism is a competitive advantage, and you need to convey it in all you say and do. As one of the greatest American innovators, Henry Ford said, “Think you can or think you can’t — either way you are correct.”
Share the vision. It’s not enough to just be optimistic. You must give your team and organization something to be optimistic about. Talk about where you have been, where you are, and where you are going. Share your plan, talk about the actions you must take, and constantly reiterate the reasons why you will be successful.
Create a vision statement that inspires and rallies your team and organization. Not a page-long vision statement filled with buzzwords, but a rallying cry that means something to the people who invest a majority of their day working for you. This vision statement can’t just exist on a piece of paper. It must come to life in the hearts and minds of team members. So it’s up to you to share it, reinforce it, and inspire your people to live and breathe it every day. A positive vision for the future leads to powerful actions today.
Relationships build real motivation. It’s much easier to motivate someone if you know them and they know you. After all, if you don’t take the time to get to know the people who are working for you, then how can you ever truly know the best way to lead, coach and motivate them effectively? And for that matter, how can you expect them to trust and follow you if they don’t know you as well?
Relationships are the foundation upon which winning teams and organizations are built. I’ve worked with numerous NFL coaches and have seen firsthand how the most successful coaches and best motivators are those who develop meaningful relationships with their players. The same strategy that works on the field works on projects as well.
Create purpose-driven goals. When it comes down to it, the real force behind motivation has nothing to do with money or number-driven goals. Real motivation is driven by purpose and a desire to make a difference. In fact, people are most energized when they are using their strengths for a purpose beyond themselves. When team members feel as though the work they do is playing an integral role in the overall success of the company, they are motivated to work harder. Similarly, when they feel as though they are working for something more than just the bottom line, they feel good about the work they are doing.
So as a leader, you will want to motivate your team by focusing less on number goals and more on purpose-driven goals. It’s not the numbers that drive your people but your people and purpose that drive the numbers. Sit down with each individual on your team and talk through what their personal goals are and how you see those goals fit in to the bigger picture. Give them a sense of purpose that will fuel their fire towards taking action.
Nourish your team. These may seem like strange words to apply to the workplace. But they are spot-on. The main question every employee in every organization wants to know is, “Do you care about me; can I trust you?” If your answer is yes, they will be more likely to stay on the bus and work with you. Team members who feel cared for, honored and nourished are more engaged in what they’re doing and will work at their highest potential.
Think about it. Gallup’s research shows that employees who think their managers care about them are more loyal and productive than those who do not think so. If you nourish your team and take the time to invest in them, they will pay you back in productivity, creativity and loyalty. If your team members know that you care about them, they will want to do good work for you. It’s the greatest motivator of all.
Remember this simple formula. Belief plus action equals results. If you don’t believe that something can happen, then you won’t take the actions necessary to create it. If you believe that your team can do big things, they will believe it, too. And that belief will fuel the fires of action and provide you with the results you’re looking for.
Jon Gordon is a consultant, keynote speaker, and the international bestselling author of Soup, The Energy Bus, The No Complaining Rule, and Training Camp, all from Wiley. He has worked with such clients as the Atlanta Falcons, the PGA Tour, Northwestern Mutual, JPMorgan Chase, and Publix Supermarkets. A graduate of Cornell University, he holds a master’s degree in teaching and works with numerous businesses, professional sports teams, schools, universities, and nonprofit organizations. For more information about Jon or his books: www.JonGordon.com.