Employee Engagement

5 Simple Strategies for Motivating Teams


Motivating people is one of the best (and one of the hardest) things you are ever going to do.

Leading a team? Struggling with their levels of motivation? Motivation is a key pillar of success in any organisation, team or project. Use these strategies to help encourage your entire team to generate fresh ideas and make better team connections. A motivated team works harder, is more productive, produces better work and collaborates more effectively. So let’s get motivating!

Get to know their motivators

You can’t motivate people if you don’t understand:

  • What motivates team members on an individual level
  • How team dynamics influence individuals

Realise that people are motivated by different things and challenged by different behaviours. Team members might be looking for validation, recognition, social cohesion or authority. They might find figures of authority compelling or threatening. You’ll have to spend some time mapping the group and its members to know how to motivate them.

To get to know your team, spend plenty of time observing members and listening to how they interact. That doesn’t mean spying on them, but rather listening for the subtext in what they are saying to you and each other. Reactionary views may be a sign of insecurity or an attention-seeking personality, conciliatory views are often a sign of a peacemaker looking for consensus.

As well as gauging how people operate, it’s important to be mindful of how team dynamics impact individuals. Here are some useful strategies for healing poor team dynamics – including how to deal with an inappropriate team ‘joker’ or an overbearing egoist. Recognise that no team is perfect and that some team roles will be harder to shift.

  • Praise team members who need validation to motivate them, but don’t do this publicly unless they want recognition too.
  • Empower social members of the team to collaborate and work in partnership.
  • Give team members with leadership skills some authority and they will thrive.
  • Look for any signs of role-playing in group conversations – have people learned to play up for attention or laughs? Discourage this behaviour by shifting the conversation away when this happens.
  • If someone in your team seems completely uninspired and disengaged, address this with them privately – they may have other reasons for having switched off.

Fix your team culture

Bad culture breeds bad people.

People often focus on changing people, without realising how important environment is to behaviour. Have a close look at your organisation’s work environment and culture to see whether it’s messing with motivation.

  • Are people allowed to speak openly?
  • Are disagreements encouraged, or brushed under the carpet?
  • Is the physical environment conducive to work? What about collaboration?
  • Are there different spaces for different team functions?

It’s important to have a stimulating and varied work environment to encourage motivation. This includes team basics like breakout spaces, personal space and natural light. Encourage frequent breaks and flexi-working to banish stale corporate habits. If a bad office is ruining the environment – go away and work somewhere else for a while to renew team bonds.

It’s also important to cultivate positivity in your team language- this is something you can directly influence. Think about how you communicate and whether you act as an enabler or a downer. If you aren’t contributing positively enough, start shifting the balance:

  • Share some inspirational quotes to motivate your team and keep them inspired. Make it part of your daily goal-setting to help people stay on the ball.
  • Give out praise more often to recognise team talent.
  • Balance criticism out with new goals and targets to shift the focus to solutions, not problems.

Here are three ways to help you get started with creating a more fun and positive work environment.

Step back to motivate

Bad leaders have all their fingers in all the pies.

Recognise the importance of personal freedom and autonomy in motivating people on a deeper level. Personal freedom is one of the most important motivators; after all, it’s what Western culture is based on- the pursuit of individual goals and happiness.

To bring this motivating force to your team, you will need to learn how to step back and stay there. Removing yourself from the equation can make other people thrive.

Stepping back doesn’t mean removing boundaries

Taking a strategic step back in the name of motivation is not the same as removing all boundaries.

Boundaries are important and can give people a boost. After all, performing in a vacuum is hard – boundaries and challenges can help motivate. Just make sure you use the right kind of boundaries. Don’t limit people’s ability to act, but limit their sphere a little to help them problem solve. Challenges can be great motivators – it’s why some people work so well near deadlines.

Be a good project manager

Set realistic goals and targets, lead by example and measure output – simple, yet effective. You don’t always need jazz hands to motivate. Sometimes you just have to exceed team expectations by keeping your eyes on the prize and keeping the train moving even when fuel is running low.

  • Make sure your team knows what is expected from them – include the why & when.
  • Work to a high standard and lead by example with your motivation and attitude.
  • Explore any missed goals or targets and address productivity problems.

Humans are social animals – if they see you are grafting, they’ll want to graft too. Know your own importance and value to the team and never let your standards slip.

It’s a material world after all

Don’t forget that money talks and people walk.

If you are not showing your team appreciation and validating them enough, they will walk. If you are paying them well below their worth, they will walk. Make sure you are compensating team members appropriately, reflecting changing job roles and requirements. Money on its own is a poor motivator but lack of recognition from an employer poisons everything. Implement formal reviews and bonuses to help you manage this process.

Do you have any ideas of your own? Please share them with us below.

Gareth Simpson is a digital marketing marketer based in the UK. He has experience in training and leading teams at marketing agencies and also in the military. During this time, he learned that inspiring and motivating the people you work with, is the key to collaborative success.