How to Motivate Your Team

How to Motivate Your Team

Motivated teams are successful teams. As the team manager, it is vital that you know how to motivate your team to deliver their best work. The correct balance between a confident, motivated team and a team that is driven to goals is required to achieve optimal results. This article will help managers to motivate their team and get the best out of them.

Theories of Motivation

The following are some key theories which will help you produce a motivated team.

Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation

According to Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation, team motivation is affected both by the level of satisfaction and dissatisfaction of the team members; and that these two elements are independent of each other. Herzberg’s theory includes the assertion that dissatisfaction is not the opposite of satisfaction, but merely an absence of satisfaction. The theory stresses the importance of team managers to encourage satisfaction, on the one hand, and avoid dissatisfaction on the other.

Object-Oriented Theory

A lot of team members perform better when they have something to work towards or something to avoid.

The Carrot

The Carrot theory of motivation is based on the assumption that if team members have the promise of a reward at the end of a project, they are likely to keep striving for it. The team members will need to keep testing themselves, but as long as they meet their challenges they will be rewarded at the end of their efforts. For this theory to work there needs to be a definite end and a specific reward.

The Whip

The Whip theory is motivation by threat of punishment. This method needs to be handled particularly carefully as it can lead to a culture of fear within a team if not handled correctly. The person providing the motivation is responsible for deciding to what extent and in what way they will use the “whip”. If it is something too insignificant the whip ceases to be a motivation but if it is something too stringent it can actually infringe upon performance.

The Plant

As a plant needs the best possible combination of different nourishing elements to thrive, so will your team members be motivated by the right combination of factors. Judgment needs to be used to ensure that each team member gets the right amount of each of the motivational factors. It calls for the right amount of balance between using the whip or the carrot. Some team members work best when challenged while others work better with the goal of recognition. Some team members may not respond well to either options, but will simply want to get through as much work as possible while doing the work to a high level of quality.

Reinforcement Theory

The reinforcement theory has been established as a successful and effective method of motivation. It encompasses the rewarding of good practice and punishing the bad. The central idea of the theory is that it is possible to modify behavior by associating undesirable behaviors with undesirable outcomes, and desirable behaviors with desirable outcomes. Rewarding your team for rising above what is expected from them, is one of the more effective ways of applying this theory. You can reward your team with a team lunch or take them out of the office for a team building event. They will be encouraged to continue the outstanding work by the knowledge that their efforts have been noted and rewarded, and may be rewarded again.

Expectancy Theory

The Expectancy Theory suggests that the best motivation is to focus on the result of the work as the ultimate goal. If the team members are sufficiently motivated to achieve results, they will perform better as a result, and the outcome will to some extent take care of itself.

The Role of Personality in Motivation

A person’s personality type is the aspects of their character that emerge when around others or when doing important work. These do not always directly relate to work but can aid or hinder a person’s ability to do it. A good mix of personality types in a team can be hugely beneficial to the team. A strong team consists of problem solvers, consensus seekers, nurturers and humorists.

Motivators by Personality Type

The different personality types in your team will also have different ways that they motivate others and are motivated. A consensus seeker is likely to motivate others by speaking to them one-on-one and allowing them to see where they excel and where they can improve. They are able to put bad news in a good way, as well as share good news discreetly. The more dominant personality types tend to deliver criticism one-on-one in order not to demotivate others, but they deliver good news loudly and share it throughout the team. They see good news as a way of motivating other people to achieve the same and get the same acclaim. Each personality type contributes to the team’s motivation in their unique way.

Motivating Your Team by Setting Goals

Most people are goal-oriented and they seek to achieve goals and define their success by the reaching of these goals. Giving your team goals to aim for can be an effective way to motivate them. A team usually has some targets to meet with regard to their performance. The extent and frequency, that the team achieves these as well as the quality which they apply to the task, are all material for goal setting. Goals can be set for the team as a whole as well as for the individual team members.

Related: Goal Setting Outcome Based Team Building Activities

One of the most obvious ways of motivating through goal setting is through performance related pay. One of the major motivators for working is people’s need to be financially rewarded for doing a satisfactory job. People easily feel demotivated when they feel they are not being paid well enough for the work they are doing. The manager should ensure that his team is motivated by paying them well enough and ensuring that they are adequately rewarded for meeting goals. Goals can also motivate your team by bringing in an element of healthy competition.


SMART is an acronym that sums up the criteria that goals must meet in order to be worthwhile:

Specific: Goals need to be definite and defined. They need to be on a level where team members that work hard can achieve them.

Measurable: Goals need to be something that can be assessed and compared against previous months or years.

Achievable: Setting goals, which team members cannot achieve, is counter-productive and could end up demotivating the team instead of motivating them.

Realistic: Goals should not be too difficult to achieve, but they should not be too easy to achieve either. Achieving goals should also have tangible benefits.

Timed: The goal should have a specified time period attached to it. During the time period, it should be possible to check if the team is on track to meet the goal or miss it.

Evaluating and Adapting Goals

The importance of goals is not only in setting them, but also learning from the experience of achieving or missing them. Realistic and accurate goals can be of considerable benefit when evaluating the performance of your team and to see where changes can be made. Misapplied goals can have a detrimental effect on team motivation on either side; too easy and the team gets complacent, too difficult and they become frustrated.

Getting the Team to See the Glass Half-Full

A primary part of motivating your team is ensuring they do not become discouraged by situations that are not pleasant. Challenges that your team face usually present some risk of failure. The fear of failure presents a serious problem for many people. The fear of failure does not have to be a demotivating factor though, but can provide impetus to make sure we succeed. Turning a possible demotivating factor into a motivating factor relies on outlook. You want your team members to be “glass half-full” people and not “glass half empty” people. The more team members maintain a “half-full “mindset the better for team motivation.

Related: Resilience Outcome Based Team Building Activities

One of the most common ways to help your team members to be more optimistic is to teach them that challenges come with consequences and rewards. Unmet challenges have consequences but if you meet the challenges you can eagerly anticipate the rewards. Challenges are part of the job and need to be accepted as such and faced head-on. Keeping the rewards in mind will help your team to see the glass as half full.



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