Motivating Your Team/Members

A common goal of leaders is to motivate their team/members in achieving organization goals and objectives. Some leaders may already be clear on how to do this, while others are clueless. One helpful way to approach this challenge about motivating others is to reflect on what motivates you and what you can learn from the reflection. So, what motivates you?

As you journeyed through the stages of life, you realize that motivations, or the “things” (a.k.a., “motivators”) that drive you to say, do, and pursue something, can evolve and change. When you were a child, perhaps eating your favorite ice cream motivated you to complete a task a parent asked, for example, picking up and and keeping your toys in their place. When you were a teen, perhaps going out with friends and enjoying a movie together motivated you to first complete your assignments so that you had no pending school work to finish before going out. Before, and maybe more so after graduating from college, you were motivated to look for an interesting job and spent more time job hunting, applying, doing interviews, until finally you narrowed down some choices you really liked. As you progressed in your career, you may have been motivated by faster promotions with significant salary increases. For every life milestone, and each day, we experience motivators that drive us closer to something we want and sometimes away from things we wish to avoid. The bottom line is that motivation is not a mysterious and unfathomable black box.

Take note that what motivates you are not necessarily what motivates your team/members. A common mistaken assumption is that others are motivated by the same values, aspirations, goals and things that motivated you. One manager kept giving pep talks about career development and promotion opportunities to one team member because she herself had been motivated by these. She was at a loss as to why her team member was not responsive, lacked motivation at work, and kept letting his assigned tasks fall behind. Apparently, her team member valued other aspirations more, like supporting his demanding girlfriend. He was strongly compelled to be present for her and cater to her whims while letting his own work responsibilities slip.

To be able to motivate another, one must know what drives that individual. A leader must get to know their team members as more than employees who show up for work to get a job done. An employee is not just a worker but a whole person who has different needs and wants. Get to know the person though one-on-ones where you invest time and effort to explore and understand the following:

  • What are the three most important values of the individual? Values drive us whether we are aware of it or not.
  • What her/his aspirations and what specific outcomes do they want to achieve in life/career? What compelled the person to want these?
  • Given aspirations that may be more long term, what are the specific milestones/goals that s/he has set, if any? Some may have dreams and aspirations, but miss having a realistic plan to get there.
  • What needs and wants influence their choices and actions? How are these intertwined with their work and career? How strong is the link between needs and wants and their work and career?
  • What intrinsic motivators drive the person? E.g., love of learning, identifies with the job and the company, enjoys the work much more than other activities like going out with friends, etc.
  • What extrinsic motivators does s/he value? E.g., public recognition, merit increase, performance bonus, sponsorship to an MBA, etc.
  • What are the talents/strengths of the person? What are the developmental areas for the current job role and next step in the career ladder?
  • Is there a strong fit between the person, the job and the career path in the organization?
  • What makes the person unique and different from you and others? What really matters to them?

If there is a strong fit and alignment between the person and what the organization provides, knowing and understanding each team member as the unique individual can help a leader be more successful in motivating them within the context of their job role, work, and career opportunities. If there is not a strong fit and alignment, such understanding can prepare the leader to help the person explore where there may be a stronger fit and support the person to move on.

Forcing a fit when there is none or a poor one will not work out in the long term. The sooner the leader and person concerned becomes aware of this, accepts it, and opens a different path, the better for the person, the leader and the organization.

Featured image: Photo by luizclas from Pexels

Becoming a More Strategic Thinker

One aspiration that junior leaders have is to be more of a strategic thinker and often, they may not know where to start. A helpful way to get started is to first understand what strategic thinking is. One definition is that “strategic thinking is about analyzing opportunities and problems from a broad perspective and understanding the potential impact your actions may have on the future of your organization, your team, or your bottom line. (HBR Guide to Thinking Strategically, 2018)

To become a more strategic thinker, one must develop the habit of lifting one’s head above the day-to-day activities to be curious and learn more about what is happening in one’s industry and business. Knowing about relevant political, economic, social, technological, developments and trends, is a must as well. The arena may include one’s country, ones’ region, and the world at large. In other words, it helps to be an avid reader and asking questions about how might these trends and developments impact and change customer needs and wants, and your organization, its processes, and thus the talent and skills needed. If your learning style is not much of a reader, but more visual and auditory, then watching and listening to the news, events, podcasts, can be your go-to activities.

Actively immerse and engage yourself in what you learn. Knowledge can be powerful, especially when you put it to use. One way of engaging yourself is to list down questions to help you appreciate, understand, and organize what you are learning for use in thinking about opportunities and problems from a broad perspective. Here are some example questions to help you create more focused ones on your own:

  • What are the top three developments/trends impacting the companies in the industry/business?
  • How is each of these top developments/trends actually impacting the companies, industry/business?
  • How is each development/trend affecting our company/business now?
  • What opportunities are that we can take advantage/exploit for our stakeholders’ benefit?
  • What problems are there that are hidden opportunities to create new value? E.g., New products and/or services for key stakeholders/customers? Improvements in current products and/or services?
  • Who are our top three competitors and how is each one riding the waves of change?
  • What can we do differently from them to gain what specific advantages over them?
  • What do credible futurists predict about our industry/business? What alternative scenarios are there? What do our senior leaders believe and buy into? Do I agree? Disagree? Why?
  • What are we doing today to position us relative to these possible scenarios?
  • And so on.

In creating engaging questions to guide you in your learning and applying strategic thinking, tap your key stakeholders/customers. Identify those that may be most representative and/or influential and interview them and/or conduct Focus Group Discussions to discover and explore what’s on their mind, what’s most important for them, what needs, wants and aspirations. These may serve as a compass to narrow down opportunities and problems to work on. That is, those most promising in terms of what matters to creating value for them and thereby your company’s thriving in the next five to 10 years.

Create your own applied strategic thinking circle. To help motivate you and others to engage in analyzing opportunities and problems (to turn into opportunities) for your company, business unit, or department, get your team and peers involved. Share your goals with them and invite them to collaborate. Creating a circle of applied strategic thinkers need not be a company-sponsored activity. All it takes is a few like-minded leaders who want to collaborate to do this and do it. On the other hand, if the company will sponsor and support such an initiative, they can help provide direction and resources.

Finally, learn as much as you can about strategic management, strategic frameworks, and strategic tools, to give you new perspectives. Look for actionable ideas/tools to experiment with in your circle to help you develop promising and viable ideas to create new sustainable value.

So, if you are indeed determined to be more of a strategic thinker, what more specific goals will you identify and what next steps are you going to take?