Diamonds in the Rough: 5 Proven Motivational Strategies

by Jarie Bolander on June 28, 2010

A Guest Post by Alexis Bonari

Have you ever tried to move an immovable object? Sometimes motivating your group to reach pre-set goals or quotas can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back on you. So, what does it take to achieve your goals as a team? You have your game plan. You have a talented team of people. What else do you need? The answer is motivation. The most difficult challenge faced by any manger is getting others to share your vision. How do you inspire the uninspirable? Here are five proven rules that will make you an inspiration to almost any team:

Rule One: Positive reinforcement ALWAYS trumps negative reinforcement

Scream it from the rooftops. Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror. Do whatever it takes so that you never forget it. Many managers mistakenly try to force their team to embrace their vision. That didn’t work for communist Russia, and it won’t work for you. When your team makes any steps in a positive direction, make sure you mention it. When an individual within your team makes a specific contribution, no matter how small, make it a point to complement them. Organize events to reduce stress after an extended period of high-stress work. Bring food to the office. Simple gestures go a long way toward convincing your group that you appreciate their efforts.

Rule Two: Balance individual recognition with team recognition

Every team has one or two outstanding individuals. While it’s important that their contribution be recognized, it’s crucial to balance that with team recognition. If the same individuals are given accolades on a regular basis, the rest of the team will begin to feel that you’re playing favorites. Recognizing group achievements as well as those of the individuals, and you’ll find that more will be motivated to seek individual recognition.

Rule Three: Balance the workload

Your most productive people will want to overwork themselves, eventually driving them into lower productivity per man-hour. At the same time, your lower-productivity team members will take the opportunity to do less work. As a manager, it’s your job to allocate tasks. Offload appropriate tasks to those who need a little extra motivation, freeing up the overachievers to take on more complex tasks. Your overachievers will appreciate it, and your lower-achievers will realize how important their contributions are.

Rule Four: Manage the group dynamics

Nothing undermines productivity more than personality conflicts between group members. If you know certain team members don’t work well together, break the tasks up so that they aren’t directly communicating with each other. If one particular team member is unable to work with others in the group, consider assigning them an individual project. In an extreme case (i.e. the person has specialized knowledge but can’t work within a group dynamic) consider having them work remotely, having them work a different shift or letting them go.

Rule Five: Manage the schedule

Your vision for the project will often have to change in response to outside forces. An unexpected deadline change will often discourage your team. Do your best to keep deadlines constant for the good of your project. In the event that you can’t control a deadline change, consider your team’s previous efforts when rearranging the workload. Assign crucial tasks first, and non-crucial tasks second. Let your team know that you went to bat for them and tried to keep the schedule on-track.

Go to bat for your team, and they’ll go to bat for you. Management is about working with people. Your job is to work with the variations of personality and circumstance that exist within your assigned group and make them productive. To effectively do that, you need to provide the motional leadership your team needs. Remember that motivation comes from the top down.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching areas of online education programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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