How can you motivate your team?

Photo of a businessman in shirt and tie holding a bullhorn in front of his faceOkay, that was a trick question, because if you read my last post, you know I’m not a fan of motivation as a way to keep people on track and moving forward.

So what can you do?

Don’t worry. I’m not suggesting you have to leave it up to chance and whim. In fact, as the leader of your team or department, there’s a lot you can do that will help keep your employees engaged. Just remember that “motivation” is nice when it’s around, but you can’t rely on it to always be present.

There are three important factors to keeping your team on track and focused. These are far from the only factors; just the ones I consider top priority, especially in times of disruption such as we’re experiencing right now.

1. Honesty, transparency, and trust

You don’t have to look far these days to see how confusing, divisive, and demoralizing the lack of honest, clear, transparent communication can be.

The flip side of that is how much connection and trust you can build when you communicate with forthright honesty and integrity. Just tell people what’s going on – it’s that simple and un-dramatic.

And remember: communication like this isn’t only for when times are challenging. It includes letting people know why they’re doing the tasks you’ve assigned. How does what they’re being asked to do fit into a larger picture? What’s the purpose toward which you’re working?

Which points to the question of …

2. Meaning

People are far more willing to put forward their best effort when they have a sense of valuable intention, a worthwhile objective they’re moving towards.

Of course different people find value and worth in different things – which means it’s up to you as the leader to understand the individuals on your team and discern what matters to each of them.

How can you tie the work you’re doing to the values and meaning the company stands for, and to what each employee finds important?

And that leads me to …

3. Individuality

Each person on your team is an individual.

That’s obvious, of course.

But are you managing and leading them as individual people, or are you operating as if they’re a single entity called “your team”?

A friend constantly points out that we are all an experiment of one. You cannot lead your team as if they’re all the same. True leadership means understanding and interacting with your employees according to who they are, individually. Different people need different things; when you recognize that, and act accordingly, your team will respond.

One final thing

These concepts can be challenging for leaders to adopt and live up to. They require vulnerability and empathy, as well as a certain amount of effort.

It’s worth it. Because when you exert that effort, accept the vulnerability, and demonstrate empathy, you earn trust, dedication, and commitment from your team.

And then you don’t need to go hunting for motivation.


If you liked this post, you might like the Leadership A to Z video series, which you can find here.

The article I mention above on Motivation is here.

And you also might find the Change Leadership workshop of interest, including the video on that page defining the core reasons for resistance to change. 


gljudson Management & Leadership