Angela Jowitt, Faculty, Ashridge Business School

As a manager, life is much easier when you have a team that is motivated. You achieve your goals, there is a positive feel to the team and the work is more satisfying. The difficulty often rests in how to motivate people? What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. Managers need to understand what motivates people and how to keep them engaged, and most importantly how to flex their management style.

Anyone that has experienced a demotivated team will recognise the strain it puts on you as a manager. Achieving the goal is harder, gaining commitment is exhausting, everything takes more time. The common barrier for teams that lack motivation is the willingness to have difficult conversations. A seemingly simple solution, but for many it is very difficult to do.

If you have a motivated team, congratulations! Notice what it is that is motivating them and keep on doing it. Remember that a team can quickly lose motivation so make sure you remain attentive to them and be quick to notice if their enthusiasm is slipping. You may already be doing some of the things below, but here are some tips to help engage the team further.

Keeping people motivated

  • Remember that behaviour breeds behaviour; if you are not motivated then why should they be? Ensure you are conveying a positive attitude at all times (and make sure it is authentic)
  • Don’t micro manage! Trust the team to do their job. Let them know where you are if they need you.
  • It is not all about the task. Take an interest in your team. Those water cooler conversations and ‘how was your weekend’ chats really do matter to some people.
  • Set challenging goals to stretch the team and help them feel they are developing their skills. This may require you to act as coach and guide as well as offering encouragement.
  • If your team has done a good job then take the time to tell them! We all appreciate a pat on the back from time to time.

Having a difficult conversation

  • Don’t put it off; the longer you leave it, the harder it will be
  • Prepare for it, know what you are going to say and the outcomes you want
  • Stay objective; don’t allow emotion to cloud the issue. Name emotions but don’t display them
  • Listen to their point of view and be willing to compromise on yours if necessary
  • Give the person your full attention. Switch off the phone to avoid interruptions
  • Think about the space in which you hold the meeting. Ideally a neutral space that is private.
  • Ensure you have clear outcomes and full commitment to those outcomes at the end of the conversation.

Angela is a full-time faculty member, executive coach and client director at Ashridge. She works with a wide range of clients including Ernst & Young, Informa, Galbraiths, and the Egyptian Banking Institute. Angela specialises in team development and impact and presence, where she draws on experience from the field of performing arts. She specialises in holistic approaches to team coaching and has designed her own holistic model. Her research focuses on the real dilemmas that leaders and managers face in the workplace

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