Secrets of Team Effectiveness
(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)
I am publishing this article just as the Olympics conclude here in London. Did you watch the Games? Or better yet, did you have a chance to go to any of the Olympic venues and be part of that unique event that is the Olympic Games?
During the Olympics, star performers winning gold got a lot of attention but the Games also featured many collective events in which small and big teams competed. And so, in this article, I thought I would take a look at the dynamics of collective rather than individual performance and try to answer the question: “how can you as a manager get the best out of your team members?“
To get you going, may I suggest you take a short self-quiz? You can access it here: Are you good at motivating others?
Let me say upfront that pay, praise and promotion do have some effect on motivation levels in the workplace but that a manager just using these P’s will run into deep-seated engagement issues.
My experience but also a lot of good literature on the topic, have convinced me over time that there are indeed three primary levers a manager can play with to boost motivation and those are:
1. Providing a meaningful job content and role purpose,
2. Making use of existing skills together with the opportunity to develop and learn, and
3. Granting autonomy at work.
Let’s look at them in turn:
1. Providing a meaningful job content and role purpose
Have you ever failed to achieve something for which you had the necessary skills, knowledge, expertise, clarity…? If so, then you will understand my first – and fundamental – point around motivation: Meaning. Individuals work best not when they can do it or must do it, but rather when they want to do it. And for that want to arise, it must be able to bed itself down in meaning.
So find out what makes your team members tick. For this person, it is learning new things that gets them up in the morning so give them tasks which involve researching new concepts. For another, it is delivering detail so set them to check figures and produce high-quality reports. For this third individual, it is being acknowledged so whatever task you give them, never forget to thank them so they know you appreciated their effort.
In addition to this personal dimension of ‘meaning’, there is the benefit of aligning your team’s activities with the overall strategy of the organisation so that each team member can see clearly how even their small contribution adds value to the company’s efforts as a whole.
2. Being able to use existing skills and abilities as well as develop and learn
In my view, the second dimension of motivation after ‘meaning’ is: Mastery. People like to feel that they can crack that nut. They need to believe that they will eventually succeed in order to find the energy to persist in their appointed task over time. If they doubt their ability to deliver, they risk procrastinating. If they are over-confident, they risk being complacent and then careless in their performance. To keep your team members engaged around their projects, ensure that these are within their reach. Not too easy or your staff will get there too fast and become bored. And not too arduous either lest they become deflated and discouraged.
In that sense, the key to keeping your employees motivated is to make full use of their existing abilities and stretch them a bit so they also develop new ones. Most people will take great satisfactory from a job which full engaged them and afforded them the opportunity to test themselves, push out some boundaries and pick up new learning.
To make sure that your team members have the right level of challenge, do three things:
i. Identify their strengths and play to those
ii. Give them the opportunity to discover untapped resources
iii. Allow them to make (reasonable) mistakes as a learning mechanism
3. Granting autonomy at work
After ‘meaning’ and ‘mastery’, the third pillar of motivation is: Autonomy. In short, within reason, let your team members work in the way that suits them best. I used to say to my team members: “I don’t care which road you travel so long as you cross the finish line on time and bring me back a medal”. So whether the individual was the kind who loved to plan and then work through, or they were the type who completed their work only at the last minute, whether they liked to come into the office early or stay late, none of this mattered to me. I was more than happy for people to express their preferences if that facilitated their performance. I therefore recommend that, as a manager, you support flexible working hours and styles.
So find out how your team members like to spend their day at the office and how they tap into their energy most effectively. Discover their habits and see how those can find a place in the workplace. For some, it may require a bit of give and take but a compromise is well worth it.
Another area where it is important to find out your staff’s likes and dislikes is around how they like to engage with management – you or one of your Direct Reports. Some will want clear instructions – a telling mode. Others will want to be left alone and there the language of suggestion will be the most effective means of communication. For some, asking will be important. For others, a little nudge will make a big difference. With all, observe and reflect.
So there you are: your three keys to motivating your team members are: meaning, mastery and autonomy. Do these ideas sound like they might make a difference to your team’s morale? And what are your techniques for keeping your staff engaged? As usual, let me encourage you to share your views by commenting for all to see or, if you prefer, you can just email me (just click here).
If you didn’t do so earlier, you might now feel like taking a short self-quiz to assess how you currently motivate your team. If so, you can access it here: Are you good at motivating others?
If this article resonated with you, don’t hesitate to contact me for a chat where we would explore what is going on for you and what you would like to have happen. To contact me, click here.
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