Motivating Your Team (Workplace or Sports)!

Over many of my posts, I try the lessons of my experiences in managing and coaching sports teams to highlight a particular subject better. This post is more on motivating your work or sports team. What is motivation? Simply put means to “move” to a goal or end point. Motivation is part of the standard management jargon. Leaders are required to motivate their people. How is that really done?

For me, I see two very clear and different approaches.

  • Carrot and Stick Approach – Dangle that carrot out in front of the donkey (employee) and try to get him to where you want to go. Looking at what carrots we have as managers – you have raises, promotions, stock options and cash awards. Or you can use the stick (corrective action plans, written warnings). Each method may cause some movement. Effective? I doubt that any leader can really motivate for the long haul. In sports, the leaders that stand out in my mind are Bobby Knight and Bill Parcells. Each has been a winner wherever they have been. Problem is, that approach without any changes gets old very quickly (also requires participants to like that style).  When was the last time we saw that level of belittling of employees? In the old days, I do remember some leaders motivating this way.
  • Working together to achieve success. I wrote a month or so ago that I really did not see that the manager is solely responsible to motivating the team. I stand by that. The team should work together to set up achievable goals, practice or train for success, track progress and celebrate success. I have been coaching for over 20 years. My initial coaching style was tied directly to what I had experienced as a youth. That hard charging, in your face, carrot and stick style. Over the years, that style has changed significantly. I think this is where the successes with my work teams help me be a better sports team coach. I have had to learn that not all players respond to that style (and over the years there are less and less players that do respond). When I look at coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and Phil Jackson – you see them more for an even different style. Not a carrot or a stick but one of encouragement.  In order for that to work, you must get to know your players, find out their strengths, help them overcome their fears or roadblocks and provide praise for their achievements. They set expectations of their programs, players and work hard to prepare. For me it seems to work both in sports and the workplace.

For managers, I think we need both items in our leadership toolbox. There will be situations that the old carrot and stick method to help breakthrough to a higher performance that could work. Use in moderation…  Setting the foundation for moving to our overall goals is really through the encouragement of our employees. Set solid expectations, help encourage through the good and rough times and achieve. Pull in your team and have them work with you on setting up that solid foundation that you are attempting to put in place. Discuss, listen and change as needed. As managers and coaches, we just need to recognize what needs to be done and do it.

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