Ask-the-coach: how can I motivate my team?

women leaders | WomenAdvance.comDear Ann,

I’m pretty new as a team leader, and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to get my team to take it to the next level. I have a couple of high performers but mostly the team is getting by with business as usual. How can I push everyone to do better?


Dear “Mary,”

Congrats on your new position as team leader! It’s a big leap from individual contributor to team leader.

I like how you’re considering ways to develop your team. I wouldn’t say you’re going to “push” them so much as “motivate” them to do their very best — and beyond.

How can you motivate your team? First of all, take each team member as an individual. Motivation is not one-size-fits-all.

Consider what motivates each person, and then appeal to that motivator. (Below is a list of the basic seven motivators.) So, for example, if you have a high-autonomy team member, appeal to her need to tackle problems on her own. Or, if you’re working with a high-affiliation person, appeal to her inclination toward collaboration.

If you’re careful to set up your team members’ work assignments/conditions according to their individual motivations, they’ll go home each evening feeling a sense of great satisfaction — and you’ll have a stellar team.

1.  Achievement
Satisfaction comes from: accomplishing projects successfully
Listen for words like: outcomes, performance, deliverables
Provide: challenging assignments

2.  Power
Satisfaction comes from: leading, influencing, affecting outcomes
Listen for words like: impact, direction
Provide: opportunities to make decisions, create policy, direct projects

3.  Affiliation
Satisfaction comes from: interacting with others
Listen for words like: team, partner, collaborate
Provide: opportunities to facilitate and organize

4.  Autonomy
Satisfaction comes from: operating independently
Listen for words like: initiative, resourceful
Provide: space to make choices, solve problems, develop strategy

5.  Esteem
Satisfaction comes from: recognition, praise
Listen for words like: expert, authority, appreciation
Provide: public recognition, positive feedback

6.  Security
Satisfaction comes from: steady, no-risk predictability
Listen for words like: safe, protect
Provide: stable work environment

7.  Equity
Satisfaction comes from: fairness
Listen for words like: just, right, equitable
Provide: Equitable conditions, expectations

(List of motivations adapted from The Manager’s Desk Reference by Cynthia Berryman-Fink and Charles B. Fink, by way of Susan Franzen.)

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