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The Leader’s Role in Motivating Teams: Which Skills Matter Most?
A leader’s very presence can be a strong motivational factor for their teams – for better or for worse.
Every team member needs to know their efforts are appreciated and contribute to the achievement of important goals.
Competent, committed leaders tend to beget competent, committed teams. There are some basic motivators, like paying people fairly, but beyond that, leadership plays a huge role. Perhaps the most important thing leaders can do to motivate their teams is to be a leader worth following. In fact, leadership effectiveness is evident in teams that are motivated and that get results.
Additionally, there are certain leadership practices that can keep motivation high, as long as you practice them regularly and with sincerity.
The Importance of a Strong, Positive Company Culture
Doing your part as a leader to build and maintain a strong, positive company culture is something whose importance cannot be overstated. Great culture is built on shared goals and values. Companies that hire based on those goals and values and that reiterate them throughout training new people, employee evaluations, and how business, in general, is conducted are the companies that benefit the most from it. Pay attention to organizational culture and do your part to ensure it is rich and intrinsically rewarding.
Show Gratitude Regularly and Celebrate the Big Wins
Firing off empty thank-yous all the time dilutes their meaning, but genuinely thanking people for taking care of things or going above and beyond has tremendous value. When people realize that others see what they do and value it, it’s empowering, so don’t hold back your gratitude for a job well done.
Likewise, be ready to celebrate the big wins: the big new client, the contract extension, or the industry award. Set aside time to celebrate, get a cake, make speeches. Celebrating the big accomplishments helps motivate further ones.
It’s OK to set aside time at work to celebrate accomplishment of important goals!
Give and Receive Constructive Feedback
Constructive feedback helps. Someone struggling with calculations may not realize they have access to a software app that would take care of it for them. Finding out what team members need to do their jobs optimally is important, even though you can’t grant every wish they have. Knowing that you consider their needs helps, as does asking for feedback from them about leadership effectiveness. When employees feel empowered to say, “Sometimes I wonder if you read my emails” it can open the door to honest conversation and positive change.
Articulate Goals and “The Why”
At the beginning of a project, and periodically throughout, people need to be reminded of why they’re doing what they do. It’s easy during the grind of everyday work to lose sight of the goals we’re working toward. And if you assign people work without telling them what role they’re playing in achieving goals, they’re less likely to give their best efforts because they feel like replaceable cogs in a machine. People are remarkably adept at taking care of the “how” if they know the “why” of what they’re doing.
Provide Autonomy and Ownership of Responsibilities
Few things stifle motivation like micromanagement does. After all, if the boss is going to nitpick and correct every little thing, there’s really no reason to try hard. Conversely, allowing everyone on a team appropriate autonomy and “ownership” of responsibilities is motivating. Leadership effectiveness isn’t about controlling behavior, but about eliciting great performance, and you just don’t do that by banning professional autonomy. You might get serviceable results, but you’ll also get an unmotivated team that lacks imagination.
Leadership effectiveness and motivated teams go together naturally. In fact, many leadership coaching clients go into the coaching relationship wanting to learn how to lead effectively so they can help their teams stay motivated. Ultimately, leaders who are trustworthy, transparent, approachable, and grateful tend to have teams that are motivated and eager to give their best. If you’d like to explore these topics further, I encourage you to check out my books.