Motivating employees can be extremely challenging, yet it can make the difference between high functioning teams and underperforming ones.  Between generational differences and uncontrollable external influences, the demand on leaders to keep employees motivated and focused on productivity is greater than ever. Add to these individual personalities, unique motivators, and team dynamics and the challenge grows even greater.

In my management experience, I have discovered two practices that motivate a team with minimal effort. The first is expecting a team to do only those things that I am willing to do myself. For example, when an event disrupts normal business activity, i.e. a software upgrade or an equipment malfunction, I step in to help the team get through the event. This is a small win for motivation as it demonstrates that no task is beneath me as a manager and, most importantly, I have the team’s back in an emergency.The second practice is getting to know the team members I work with, both personally and professionally. On a personal level, a gesture like inquiring about an employee’s weekend can reap enormous rewards.  On a professional level, I find out what an employee aspires to do in the future and help them to achieve their career goals.  Help can be as simple as a conversation or as significant as coaching to attain a professional credential. Motivation is enhanced when team members feel supported by their manager.Additional practices that score easy wins in motivating teams include recognition, project involvement, and team input.

RECOGNITION

When I receive a compliment about a team member, I let my superiors know, and I also share the compliment with the entire team. This has several benefits. First, the recognized team member is motivated to perform at a higher level, and second, the rest of the team ups their game to receive recognition as well.

PROJECT INVOLVEMENT

As a support center manager, my team handles the initial triage of issues involving various projects.  This serves multiple purposes, the most obvious of which is ensuring the information needed to support a project is available when it goes live. It also exposes the team to other organizational departments and creates a connection that fosters networking and career growth opportunities.  I have placed employees on project teams to gauge their strength.  Is this person the employee I think he or she is?  This trust gives the employee added confidence and ultimately can convert weaknesses into strengths.

TEAM INPUT

I encourage team members to be contributors by providing ideas to improve processes, functions, and tasks.  Recognizing these contributions sparks a healthy competition between coworkers by motivating them to generate additional ideas.  It also builds trust between manager and employee, which enhances motivation and accountability.

Motivating a team is not easy, but good leaders find ways to motivate employees even in the hardest of times.  Employees, too, must possess some internal motivation that establishes a foundation for leaders to build on.  Small wins can be made toward maintaining motivation through goal setting, managerial support, recognition, project involvement, and encouraging team input.