Six Ways to Motivate Your Team at Work


Whether you manage a call center, an accounting department, a manufacturing plant or a construction site, keeping your team motivated is one of the most important parts of your job. How can you best support the collective strengths, talents and energies of your team? Here are some pointers to motivate your team even in the most demanding of work environments.

1. Appreciate each team member

“Regardless of his or her role, each member makes an important contribution to the team's (and organization's) success,” says Evan Thompson, blogging for the Huffington Post. As a manager, it’s incumbent upon you to recognize and honor the unique qualities that each member of the team brings to the table.

2. Trust your team

You’ve invested a great deal of time and energy hiring and training the right people for your team. Now it’s time to step back and let them do their jobs. Treat team members as the adults they are. Never be condescending and don’t undermine their efforts by interfering in areas where they are capable of managing themselves.

“Trust is the fundamental building block of any relationship — professional and personal,” says The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. “A manager who hovers over an employee, waiting to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, is broadcasting one thing very loudly: ‘I don’t trust you.’ You’re conveying that you don’t believe your employees have the autonomy and skill to do their job. And understandably, they’ll resent you for that.” Nip this negative thinking in the bud and everyone will be grateful.

3. Don't abandon ship

Though your team needs autonomy, they also need support. Check in with them individually and as a group to make sure they have what they need, and are on track to complete projects as assigned. No one appreciates unnecessary meetings, but regular team meetings and one-on-ones are essential to keeping everyone on the same page. Don’t cancel these appointments unless you absolutely have to. Frequent cancellations will give team members the impression that you don’t care. And if you don’t care, why should they?

“It’s nice when your boss trusts you. But some managers let you have such a long leash that they don’t know what you’re really doing or can’t provide the feedback you need,” notes Sara Stibitz in the Harvard Business Review. Making yourself available for extra guidance and mentoring is a key ingredient in any recipe for team success.

4. Say thank-you (loudly)

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “64 percent of working Americans leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated.” It’s a good bet that at least some of those Americans had employers who really did appreciate their work. Yet, somehow, that message didn’t come through. So make a point of taking time out from your busy day, to say an explicit thank-you for a job well done.

5. Save kudos for the right moments

Save praise for the times when it is really earned. Otherwise the praise won’t be meaningful. “Remember when you played soccer in second grade, and everyone on your team received a participation trophy at the end of the season? Sure, it was a nice gesture, but since everyone received one, it didn’t hold any real significance,” writes Katie Douthwaite Wolf for The Daily Muse. Sincere gratitude is the glue which bonds bond your team together.

6. Bottom Line: Be a mensch! (upstanding person)

Some leaders are afraid to be authentic with team members because they fear it will undermine their authority. Assuming you maintain professional boundaries, most employees will appreciate managers who take responsibility for mistakes, acknowledge their own weaknesses and don’t insist they are omnipotent.

“Set the tone for genuine communication with your team and use it for both work and play,” recommends Tim Eisenhauer, author of “22 Surefire Ways to Boost Employee Engagement.” Be honest about your own struggles and let people surprise you with their empathy and good will.