julia@iclc.com.au leonie@iclc.com.au

How do I motivate my team?

Posted by Julia Milner on Jun 19, 2018 in Blog

As I work within organisations, I am regularly asked “Alex, how do I motivate my team”. I always begin my reply by explaining a really important concept.

Before you attempt to influence people in the workplace or before you persuade them to put in discretionary effort, before you persuade them to stretch and challenge themselves, a key message is this. People support what they play a part in designing. Making people do things almost never works as soon as you are gone they are going to go back to their default behaviour. I don’t know about you but I know that I have been guilty of that I know that there are times when my boss said “you must” and because they said “you must” I did when they were there but I did not necessarily do it when they weren’t there and I have witnessed that in so many other workplaces. Now again I know in the real world there are people and times where you have got to say “hey Billy you must” and there are times when you have got to say “hey everybody you must” . For example in crisis in situations or major challenge. In those times sometimes you have got to say “you must”, and then afterwards you can go back to co-design.

But co-design is a fundamental part of influencing and persuading people so as you draw people in they will support what they believe they were part of. When I talk about this I often think about being asked quite a number of years ago now to work in an organisation that was really really struggling so I found 2 significant people, the influencers if you like in the team, and for me at that time they were negative influencers they were doing a lot of damage by their attitude their behaviour their slackness in their work. What I could have done as an outsider coming in to fix this situation is to say “I want you to do this, I want you to do that and these are the consequences if you don’t, you will be disciplined, dismissed etc”. However many previous leaders had tried this strategy.

Regardless of the fact that these two were currently negative influences, they did have redeeming qualities and it was clear to me that if I got them on board the rest of the team would follow.

What I did do, these people were working in an organisation where they had to work shifts so I worked alongside them every shift that they worked I worked with them on every job they did. I was alongside them and I modelled how to do it incredibly well. I explained why I was doing things they way I was. I asked for their input into what was the most practical and efficient way to get results. We had honest and robust discussions and collaborated to create practical processes.

Within 3 months they were telling everyone else they had changed the organisation that they had made the organisation more productive and actually thats exactly what happened their changing behaviour caused everybody else in the team to change so by me involving them and assisting them to co-design their future, the organisation turned around. You cannot underestimate the power of it but again I go back to the fact that I recognise that sometimes is not the right or only methodology.

Therefore my answer to the question of how to motivate my team always begins with if you want discretionary effort, don’t tell them what the future looks like, involve them in designing the future. Of course this only the starting point but its exactly that, where to start.