4 Effective Ways to Motivate Your Team, and Yourself

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Motivation — that secret sauce that keeps you moving towards your goals and increases team performance. Having a motivated team can facilitate a successful project, but how can you help keep team members, including yourself, engaged throughout?

The motivation of workers in most companies has largely been based on extrinsic factors: to motivate them, rewards and bonuses are dangled before their noses like carrots before donkeys. While carrots and sticks can be effective incentives for greater efficiently in more routine tasks, they can also be harmful, particularly in creative work.

For example, a mechanic that’s incentivized based on how many repairs he completes may recommend additional unnecessary repairs, which could frustrate and ultimately drive away customers.

Digital product teams that are rewarded based on how many features they ship a quarter — and not the value of those features — are likely to build useless features simply for the short term bonus, regardless of the overall impact to to the product.

Recent research, like that by Daniel Pink, suggests that internal motivations are better drivers for long term success and happiness in one’s work. Pink argues that creative workers are most productive when intrinsically motivated, which ultimately benefits the whole company. Beyond the short term performance incentives of carrots and sticks, people are motivated by interesting work, challenge, and increasing responsibility — intrinsic factors.

4 tips for motivating creative teams:

As a project manager, one key thing I’ve learned is that what motivates me is not always the same thing that motivates other people I work with. People are individuals, and are driven by different things. While some people may benefit from a cheerleader that consistently checks in to help keep them on task, others thrive when they’re able to self-manage and work in uninterrupted flow.

By getting to know the working style of your team members, and yourself, you can help identify what works to keep individual people engaged. One way to do this could be to all take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test and share your results.

Less formally, small talk can help you learn what’s going on in your co-workers lives that might be affecting their focus or decisions, and can even make you more productive — so long as it’s kept to before or after meetings.

Sharing the larger context of a project helps team members see that their work matters and is relevant, and increases motivation. By making clear how important each individual’s contribution is for the performance of the whole company, each person feels their actions to be more meaningful, and hence become more committed.

Showing how each team member’s contribution fits into the bigger picture can also create accountability among team members — people don’t want to let their friends or co-workers down, or become a roadblock for others by slacking on their own work.

Even if a task doesn’t feel rewarding on it’s own, knowing it plays a part in something more important is often a key motivator to getting it done.

Unexpected attention, such as spontaneous praise and constructive feedback, can help team members focus on the joy of their work, and further increase intrinsic motivation.

Commit to recognizing and acknowledging contributions, both big or small, so that your team feels appreciated and valued. Simple gratitude and recognition can go a long way in motivating team members.

Sprint retrospectives or daily/weekly debriefs with the team are a great opportunity to discuss what’s not working and look for productive solutions. Keep spirits high by also discussing what went well, thanking the team and recognizing anyone who went above and beyond.

These discussions also provide the opportunity to identify any potential blockers, which may impede someone’s ability to make progress and cause them to lose motivation. Seek to proactively find and remove blockers and address challenges, so your team can continue making progress.

Asking questions, listening to the answers, and looking for ways to implement suggested solutions when possible will help team members feel more involved and committed to the project and team. People that are given a voice in decision making and have a sense of self-determination will feel more intrinsically motivated.

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

What motivates you? What techniques have you learned from experience to motivate team members? Share in the comments below!

Digital professional, creative life. Product manager for design systems at REI.

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