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Five Practices That Help Motivate Individuals and Teams

December 14, 2010

Have you ever thought that some of the same best practices that support individual employee motivation and performance could also apply to teams?

Clear Goals Needed

No 1: A lot of teams flounder because of a lack of direction

Here are 5 management practices we normally associate with driving individual performance and motivation that I think should be applied to teams:

1.  Set Clear Goals: A lot of teams flounder because of a lack of direction or deliverables. They know they are supposed to work together; they are just not clear on their deliverables, schedules, performance expectations, etc. The lack of a clear direction and purpose can easily “demotivate” a team, making it hard for them to be engaged and productive. Just as individual employees need goals to help motivate them, teams also need SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals. So make sure your teams are given one or more clear, common SMART goals. This can go a long way to making them more accountable and driven.

2.  Give Them a “Big Picture” Context: Everyone needs a context for their work so they understand its value and larger impact. It is one of basic needs identified by research into employee engagement. Without a larger context, our work becomes purposeless. We are left wondering: “who really cares about what I do?” The same applies to a team. Just as it is important to connect each employee’s goals to the organisation’s high-level goals, it is important to connect your team’s goals to organisational goals. This motivates them by helping them understand the impact of their efforts on organisational success.

3.  Assess and Cultivate Teamwork Skills: Research tells us that teams are organic units that go through development stages and struggles. To become high-performing, teams and team members need to develop core skills in communication, negotiation, dealing with conflict, etc. So in the same way that you assess your employees’ demonstration of key competencies and assign them development plans to help them further develop these competencies, you should assess a team’s demonstration of key teamworking competencies, and provide them with learning activities to help them address any skill gaps. Encouraging team and employee development can be an important driver of engagement and motivation.

4.  Gather Performance Feedback from Team Members: If you are going to assess a team’s performance, you are best to start by asking them to rate their performance first. Asking employees to complete a self-appraisal as part of their annual performance appraisal is shown to increase their engagement in the process as well as their motivation overall. The same principle can also apply to teams. By asking team members to provide feedback on their own performance, as well as their colleagues’, can help improve their engagement in the team, and their motivation.

5.  Provide Ongoing Coaching and Feedback: To be high-performing and stay motivated, every team can use ongoing coaching and feedback. It is just human nature; we want to know how we are doing and how we can do better. Just as employees need regular, ongoing feedback about what they are doing well and areas for improvement, teams as a whole need feedback on how they are functioning and performing. They need someone who is external to the team to give them perspective and guidance, and help motivate them.

Motivating and managing teams can be a lot like motivating and managing employees. The same solid management practices that support employee high-performance can be used to help keep teams motivated and drive their performance.


This blog was written by guest writer Sean Conrad who is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of performance management software.

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