Leadership Development Skill: Motivating Others

Let me first wish all those celebrating Canada Day today a wonderful thoughtful and safe holiday. A Canadian by birth, the first of July holds a special place in my heart. 


You know I have avoided writing directly on motivation for some time now. Yes I reference it, yes I nibble around the edges of the concept but a direct post where I say this is how to motivate your team in 6 easy steps no I have not done that. Why?

As I mentioned in the post hey-gallup-management-journal-good-job. I just do not believe that motivation can be sustained from an external source in a life giving, team building way. You can certainly introduce external forces that help encourage team members to be motivated sure, but motivate them directly no I do not believe you can do that long term.

How do you motivate people then?

Right this is getting confusing did not you just say you cannot motivate your team?

Yes I did my point here is that beyond creating an environment where people feel motivated there are actionable steps that can be taken to enhance a teams motivation level.

Choose the right people

How do you hire?

  • We believe in the fog the mirror check Ron, if they breathe they are hired
  • We believe in minimizing the pain Ron, if they have the skills we hire them quickly
  • We don’t hire Ron, we just spread the workload around when someone leaves that saves money
  • We hire the best fit Ron, we wait till we have both the skill fit as well as the culture fit

I have not honestly met anyone that would answer anything but the last two. Response three is a recipe for potential long term death so we don’t have to worry about that one either. Yet in truth I have witnessed individuals who do options one two and three all the time. There is little more stupid in my opinion as a leader than hiring someone for the wrong reasons. Hire the right person for the job, hire to culture fit, competence fit, skill fit, motivation fit. Do not simply fill a hole with the wrong person. It is stupid for the individual and the team.

Build the right team

So you are not hiring but are choosing a project team. Believe it or not the exact same criteria apply here. Choose your team for both culture and skill fit. Often I recommend selecting only the most motivated individuals for special project assignments. Treat the role as a perk for high performance. Shower appropriate praise on the team and individuals to build the demand for such assignments. Teams are not about equality and niceness they are about complimentary skills, performance, and the ability to work effectively together. Why the heck would you choose someone who would undermine this?!

Coach people to perform

They say patience is a virtue. Well it is also a necessary characteristic of a leader. We must have the patience to coach our team members to perform. I once listened to a Ken Blanchard webinar where Ken shared that he conducted a study. He asked managers what their primary expectations of their direct reports were. He then asked the same question of the direct reports of their manager. Surprise, surprise the lists did not match! Reality check: how does your team member know how they are doing against your expectations if they have not heard or do not understand your expectations in the first place?!

Provide your team clear expectations always and repeat them whenever there is a chance for miscommunication (that would be a lot!)

Then as your team members behave in ways that support the team’s goals give them positive affirming feedback. When their behaviors are inconsistent give them corrective feedback by focusing on the behavior and its implications not on the person.

By in large this process will work wonders for the vast majority of those who are on your team. It will not work for those who have their own selfish agenda and these people need a different approach ;-)

Lead well


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