By Joey Velez Healthy Lifestyles Contributor
John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”
Understanding what motivates you can help you get through the tough times. It can also help you see the bigger picture, and finally, motivation can help you become dedicated and totally focused on a particular goal. However, for those of you holding a leadership role, there are times where it is about more than motivating yourself, you must motivate your team as well. Discovering ways to develop and enhance the motivation of others can be the determining factor in how successful you and your team can become. There are a few different approaches to increasing motivation within your organization: simulation, challenge, competence, self-worth and acceptance and belonging.
Motivation and Me
For the past two years, I have been the head coach of the junior varsity basketball team at my high school alma mater. In this leadership role, part of my responsibilities is to motivate a diverse group of individuals that include freshmen, sophomores and juniors, as well as different personalities and different skill levels. When the team is winning, it does not matter who is playing or what the situation is, because it is easy to motivate the team when things go our way. However, there are situations where it is more challenging to hype up the group, and that includes practice sessions and losing in competitions.
One area of personal growth for this season was adjusting practice plans to increase the team’s motivation. There were times, especially early morning practices, where I could tell some guys did not want to be there, so I would start practices off with a game to switch things up. There were times where we did the same drill multiple days in a row but added a different spin on it each time to keep it from being mundane. Sometimes I would have to make the most routine drills a competition between players so that they would take them seriously. Whether their motivation was low due to a lack of sleep, fatigue or unfinished homework, it was my duty to provide those opportunities for increased motivation so that they could get the most out of practices.
In my first year, our team went 5-19. We lost the majority of our games by over 20 points, which was compounded by their 3-23 record the season before. Motivating the team during games was extremely difficult because they had become so accustomed to losing that they would succumb to adversity. Yelling at them, trying to get them to understand that once their motivation drops their effort lowers, switching lineups, nothing seemed to help drive the team.
This season, I had three players return to play for me, and we finished 8-18. However, the record does not show how their motivation was drastically higher than the previous year. In our 18 losses, we trailed by at least 25 points in every single one of them. In each of those games, we cut the deficit to under eight. We did not win any of them, obviously, but the team never quit. There was a change in how I approached these situations. I would alter our style of play by giving the team more freedom, I began speaking in a calmer tone rather than yelling, I would focus on our process rather than the score and I would give them short-term goals to achieve to get back into the game. I quickly figured out that yelling was not the best approach. I started to notice that keeping calm in losing situations made my players begin to relax more. Once I started giving them short-term goals to focus on as opposed to the overall score, their effort and intensity began to elevate.
That was my challenge as a coach, motivating a group of individuals in situations where our backs were against the wall. A lot of it was through trial and error, but as a leader, you have to continue to find ways to motivate your group to develop positive qualities.
Increasing Motivation as a Leader in Three Methods
One method of increasing motivation in the workplace is through simulation and challenge. Leaders can help increase motivation among their team by incorporating fun activities to help keep their employees fresh and motivated throughout the workday. This could include a game of charades to start your morning meeting, or some other game of your choice, ultimately, the goal is to make your employees laugh and build team chemistry. Leaders should be a motivational model and attempt to transform the work environment into a stimulating, exciting and challenging place where people want to be.
Goal mapping strategies can help turn an individual’s dreams into tangible objectives. Going through the process with your employees on how to set challenging performance goals can ignite their flame because they now have a sense of direction. Follow up here is key, and it shows that you support them along their journey. Your employees should be focusing on the enjoyment of their work; being a reminder of this or taking their focus away from results would help increase motivation. Finally, proper motivational climates are congruent with personal motivational goals and become more satisfying, motivating and productive. Individuals should seek out stimulating and challenging situations where co-workers and leaders share their specific needs to experience optimal challenges.
Another method to increase motivation in the workplace is through increasing competence and self-worth. Employees need and want appropriate technical instructions; therefore, an effective leader is also an effective teacher. Doing this in a facilitative way and giving specifics on what to work on, rather than what to avoid, enhances the motivation of the person because they want to work harder to show you that they can complete the assigned task. Errors are typical in learning, so being able to explain this message to your employees is going to help them deal with mistakes more effectively. Also, leaders must assist their employees in developing attributional patterns to feel personally responsible for their achievements.
It is important to reiterate to your employees that success comes with hard work and is not simple luck. Be optimistic and hopeful that they can overcome failures and setbacks to help maintain their level of motivation. Affirm that they are a special and worthy person despite setbacks and failures. By doing this, leaders can help their employees honor themselves in their pursuit of excellence.
Finally, leaders can enhance motivation in the workplace through acceptance and belonging. Social activities can be used for team building and cohesion, and to allow space for employees to get to know each other beyond the workplace environment. This allows each individual the opportunity to gain a new respect for their peers because they have the chance to connect with their co-workers on a different level.
Leaders can also increase motivation by helping their employees develop self-esteem and acceptance of themselves by showing them that you are there for them and that you care. Leaders need to understand their personal biases and how they can affect their ability to accept employees for who they are, so understanding other perspectives is an essential aspect of being an effective leader. Finally, recognize and reward role fulfillment for those who give their all to the team. To the employee that gets asked to stay late but never complains, acknowledging the importance of their job is going to increase the likelihood that they continue that role. Leaders should repeatedly and consistently demonstrate their beliefs in the value of these roles to create buy-in and consistency amongst the team.
One size does not fit all with how people like to be motivated. This can be tricky to accept, but it is part of being an effective leader. Being able to find what drives each person and being able to find different ways to stimulate the group to be productive both take some trial and error. But what you will ultimately find is that your team will not only become more productive but will become more joyful individuals, which helps them with their lives outside of the workplace. Learn to motivate, be creative and improve your position as a leader.