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-day-business. 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.
-- With reporting by Barbara Chabai
Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.