After starting the new year, many of us find ourselves setting new year resolutions and gearing up for work. For some, the start is a bit hard, whilst others feel rested and ready to take on the challenges their jobs may throw at them with grit and energy.

The new year generally also brings along a new set of objectives that you and your team want to achieve. In many of my discussions with peers and clients, the topic of how a leader can keep a team motivated and focused regularly crops up. So, I wanted to share the things I do to lead and motivate my teams. You can try these out to keep your team on track right from the get-go.

The first and maybe simplest element is that you should make sure that your team and YOU believe that the objectives set are actually attainable. Believing that you can achieve a target is essential to muster up confidence in your team. Make sure that the objectives are just out of your team’s comfort zone so that the challenge is still there, though you should also ensure that you are realistic.

You can then break down the objectives into smaller, more measurable, targets, and plan a timeline that will take you to your final destination. You should do this together with your team so that everyone feels involved and has a say in the road map to success. This, in itself, motivates the team to jump on board. It is your job as a leader to provide direction to your team and make sure that everyone stays on track.

Empowerment. This, for me, is the most important pillar of motivation. Ask the person taking care of the project what they think and how they feel and let them mould the path to reaching the objective themselves. Avoid focusing on the nitty gritty of the project and think about the final objective. Putting it metaphorically, you should focus on the story line and the message you want to deliver rather than the commas and full stops. Keep in mind that if you have trained your team well, they will look into the detail. Accept that there will be errors, failures and problems, but which project doesn’t have these? Through the years, I have learnt to differentiate between when to comment and when just to swallow my tongue and accept that people work differently. Just as long as you get to the final destination… it is ok.  If you really empower your team members they will feel accomplished and so will you, as you would have led them to accomplish objectives.

Set a team reward for accomplishing objectives. What I mean here is not necessarily a tangible reward, but I am referring to the promise of celebrating team accomplishments as a team. A dinner together, opening a champagne bottle together, going on a hike together, after-work cocktails (when it is safer to mingle) … you get it, whatever the team like to do, but doing it TOGETHER. It keeps the team going and acts as a reminder that there is a joint reward at the end of the journey. This will help keep spirits high. It is essential that if you promise anything you MUST keep your promise, so make sure that that you can deliver on your promise as it will impact your credibility.

The final element  I should mention is to Be Human. Sometimes, leaders get carried away with achieving results and are too task focused. This is a topic that comes up frequently when I am advising business leaders, and each one of us is guilty of doing this sometimes. We tend to feel that focusing on the ‘hard’ elements will yield results. Though this is true, many a time leaders find that this approach may make motivating teams a hard job. So, leaders should consider focusing on the ‘soft’ elements, and the results will follow naturally.

It is not only important for you to reach your objectives but, to be a good leader, you should think of how you reach them. I find that being kind and understanding is essential to lead and motivate a team. Being a leader of a team of human beings will show you that everyone has a story, so being understanding and supportive is a must. Keep in mind that different people are motivated by different things, and invest time into finding out what these motivators are. Accept that people have high and lows and make sure that you have an open-door policy, meaning that people should feel at ease to just come and have a chat and explain the way they feel to you. This kind of honesty from your team must then be reciprocated, so make sure that you are open and transparent about the way you feel and your expectations. This will allow you to set the parameters of a respectful, professional relationship and will serve as building blocks to motivate your team to achieve objectives in a productive manner.

So, to round up, motivating your team may not always be that easy, as all teams go through ups and downs. However, having a strong, honest relationship with your team members will make sure that you can keep your team members on track and united. Through my experience it is also ok to be overly enthusiastic about small wins, so feel free to have a little dance around the office to keep your team’s spirits high and have a laugh too.


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