image from Flickr via jk_photos

I have been thinking about his topic for awhile, motivating your team. When I was asked in an interview about how I motivate more team, I tried to answer it this way. “Motivating the team is a bit tricky. I don’t think that the manager has the responsibility to motivate their employees. They need to create an environment that is motivating to their team. Motivation is more internal. I like to insure that my team has the work environment that helps them be motivated to do their best.” Okay, before you go and attack that answer – there is more to the answer – just coming a bit later on. When I think of it is the manager’s responsibility to motivate his employee’s – I think of my time as a coach of youth sports and my time as a company commander in a training company.  We all have seen coaches that are in your face – either cheering you on or screaming instructions to help get you to do what you want. I got some up close and personal experience watching drill sergeants motivate their trainees (see picture). Is that motivating? Would you like to have that be your manager’s style at the office? I believe that the successful coaches are the ones that have instilled an outstanding work environment that helps the player to motivate themselves. Much like my answer.

Getting back to my answer.. I really think there are some fundamental items that I like to insure that my team environment has…

  • Open and Direct Communications : How many times have you heard, “I didn’t know that?” Or maybe, “if they would just communicate with us, we could get that done?” Old school management.. Tell your employees just what they need to know, nothing more, nothing less. Well, that does not work! Never really did.. Be very open and direct in your communications. Tell them everything. What harm is there in doing so? This also will help your employees see that they can tell you stuff as well. There have been many times I have learned something from them that I did not think of – just because we had a open and direct communications.
  • Set a Good Example: As the manager, you really are out front and your team is watching and listening to you. It may sound silly, but how you present yourself in the beginning of the day will set the tone for your team the rest of the day. I know that not everyday is going to be perfect.. There will be something that happens (either at home or on the way to work) that will challenge you to be positive. You have to check all that before meeting your team.
  • Saying “Thank-You”: Doesn’t cost a lot to say thanks for a job well done. Times are tough this days, not everyone has a budget to help out with giving away cash, gifts or raises. Saying “thanks” goes a long way. I learned early on, that I truly perked up when I was given a thank you. Hand written notes, email or just hearing the words worked for me. I started insuring that I did the same for my folks (they like it too). When times get better – or when the time is right – step up that thank you to something more (gift cards, cash, lunch).
  • Give your time: What do you really have as a manager – your time. So, give that time to your employees. Work with them to build a solid working relationship. Help to understand what their passions and goals are. Help them develop and grow professionally. Your time will be well spent!
  • Get dirty: I used to really enjoy getting in there and helping out from time to time. When I was in manufacturing, we had a senior manager that made it a priority that all supervisors and managers would work on the manufacturing line at the end of the month. Clear your calendars, get trained and do the work that your teams do! I looked forward to it. Watching the senior managers work along side the team – was a eye opening experience for all. Roll up your sleeves and do what the team does.

When I left the interview, and was driving home, I thought of a couple of more items that I do that just did not come to me.

  • Look for some fun volunteer activities: I had this one time, that really rallied around one cause. We happened to have a team member that had a child with a disability. We wanted to help – so we decided to step away from the day to day work – to help out with the school that this team members child went to. Everyone was excited to help out. We had a great day! You could see your team in a different environment and watch their interactions. It was an eye opening experience for everyone. Plus we helped out a school in need. I am always looking for those opportunities.
  • Tie everything to the big picture (without losing sight of the little picture): Making sure to tie the work that the team is doing to the companies big picture. The little picture is really the team as a whole. We all like to know that we are working on something bigger than ourselves. Make sure to paint those pictures!

There is no silver bullet for motivating your employees. Don’t look for it. Spend time working on your team environment and maybe that will help you to increase the internal motivation of your employees.