Science of Motivation: Motivating The Whole Team

Josh Benedetto

It’s about that time of the year where the sports analogies are really heating up, so let’s take a stop off at NFL station: 

As any football fan will understand, no one player can get your team to the championship. 

You need great players on both sides of the ball, coaches who can craft a great scheme, and the mindset from every single player that winning is not only possible—but the prime directive. 

You could have a quarterback unlike any seen in a generation, but if your offensive line is swiss cheese, they’ll never have a chance to throw the ball. 

Or you may have a coach who makes Albert Einstein look like a dunce, but if your players can’t execute the plays then they’re worthless. 

And even if football isn’t really your cup of tea, the message is pretty clear: none of us are an island, and no business can be successful with just one person putting in the effort. If that were the case, we’d see a lot more one-person companies. 

But you know that. You know all of that. Which is probably exactly why you’re here. 

You’re seeing that your team isn’t motivated in the way that they need to be. They’re struggling to put up the numbers you know they’re capable of, and you’re at a loss for how to get everyone back on track. 

Sure, you’ve got your top performers who continue to execute with excellence. But they can only carry you so far: and you’ve got greater heights in sight. 

Well here at Hoopla, we believe that motivation is a science—something that you can understand, master, and execute. And the science of motivation is something that you can use this week to motivate every member of your team, not just the ones who are already working hard. 

For starters, we’ll talk you through a few simple principals, and then show you why they work so well. 

Be Realistic About The Work

Sometimes people like to say “be realistic” as a way to curb expectations. It’s really code for, “Hey, slow down. That’s just not possible.” 

But that couldn’t be further from what we mean by it. Being realistic about the work has a two-fold meaning. 

The first, is that we want to make sure that we’re setting concrete, achievable goals. Oftentimes, when we first think of setting motivating goals for our team, they come in the form of ideas—things like “get more sales” or generally “get better results.” 

But those goals don’t have a metric to measure. And when we don’t ground our goals in tangible numbers and executable results, it’s hard to know how we can actually go about realizing those goals. 

Now to the science of it being “realistic.” 

A while back we spoke on the difference between the two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. 

What we know from countless studies (and we highly recommend you go back and read our whole writeup) is that not everyone is motivated intrinsically. 

Cutting out the six-dollar words, what that means is we have to remember that not every employee is going to come in every day excited about their job. In fact, they’re going to have a lot of days where they don’t want to do the work at all. 

Because sometimes, the “joy” the work itself isn’t always inherently motivating. And that’s where you can introduce positive extrinsic motivators—like a good rewards or incentives program—that will help them to power through those “Monday” moods. 

Empowered People Empower People

As Tanya Robertson of Chron points out, “Research shows that when employees are given the freedom associated with autonomy, job satisfaction rises… this increased level of job satisfaction in employees stems from a feeling of greater responsibility for the quality of their work. Autonomy has also been shown to increase motivation and happiness, along with decreasing employee turnover.”

In other words, studies show that motivating your team starts with empowering them. And that empowerment then quickly spreads throughout your organization. 

Let Them Leave The Nest

Here’s the other side of that same coin: people don’t like to feel micromanaged. While it’s great that we can empower our employees to do their best, we also have to remember how to be our best as managers. A big part of that means not hovering. 

As NBC News reported on a recent LinkedIn study, one of the top complaints employees had for their managers was that they were micromanaging them. 

And as the report went on to advise, not all of us even realize that we’re micromanaging. The way that we can counteract it is a two-step process: first, we communicate our expectations clearly for the project and its deliverables. Then, we sit back and be patient as we trust our employees to figure it out.  

“Be mindful that everyone is different,” NBC News reminds us. “Some people will pick up a new skill more quickly than others. This doesn’t mean the one that lags is less capable, nor does it mean that you have to helicopter-manage those struggling.”

Be Relentlessly Available

Finally, one surefire way to motivate your entire team is to leave the door open. 

Each of our employees is going to have different needs—different issues affecting their personal and professional lives, different challenges that they encounter in their work, and different questions for their manager. And the easiest way to assess those needs is to give them an open channel to come and address those need with you. 

As a sweeping survey from the Institute of PR shows us, organizations that had effective internal communication were 50% more productive and had 44% higher retention rates. Those are huge numbers that we as managers must prioritize.

Never get settled into the idea that your team is “plug and play,” and once you wind them up, they’ll always be ready to go. Every day is a new battle. And that means that every day, you the manager need to come in equipped to give your team everything they need. 

And the good news is? You can absolutely, 100% do it. And we’ve got your back!

Josh Benedetto