#259 from R&D Innovator Volume 6, Number 2          February 1997

Maintaining Team Motivation
by Sang H. Kim

Mr. Kim, president of TurtlePress, is author of 1001 Ways to Motivate Yourself and Others (Turtle Press, Wethersfield, Connecticut, 1995).  He can be reached at (860)529-7770 or by email at sales@turtlepress.com.

Any group striving towards a common goal works best when motivated as a team.  Team spirit, camaraderie, goal setting and pulling together in the last dash for the finish line, are all powerful group motivators.  In fact, the feelings we get as part of a team are more powerful motivators than actually reaching the goal itself.  The satisfaction of a job well done or a best effort is more lasting than any prize or trophy.  Encourage your team to enjoy the process, and watch as they run headlong to their goal.

Below, are a few tips to guide you on the road to creating and maintaining a team with a winning attitude and a desire to succeed, even during rough times.

Laying the Groundwork for a Motivated Team

Have a team mission that is the basis of the team’s actions.  State the mission in writing and restate it, especially when changes occur.

When working with a team whose members are new to your management style, or who come from diverse backgrounds, consider distributing team rules or guidelines.  Develop the rules as a group, and enforce them without bias once they’re agreed upon.

At the outset, invite successful people in the field to instruct or talk to your team.  Have them give an “I did it, and so can you” message.

Talk with other successful team leaders.  Look at other people with personalities similar to yours, and study their management style.  Find a style that you will be comfortable with.

Building Team Morale

Team motivation is significantly increased when:
·  members sense that progress is being made
·  members trust their leader
·  team participation is perceived as interesting and meaningful
·  members are rewarded for their efforts
·  members have mutual respect

Create an atmosphere in which individual team members are willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of the team, starting with yourself as a role model.

Get motivation by getting everyone involved.  Most people cannot always be star players, but all can make meaningful contributions if you put them to work in their strongest area.  A team member becomes enthusiastic when his or her idea advances progress towards the goal.

Create pride and spirit by pointing out what the team, as a whole, is especially good at.  Your team doesn’t have to be the world’s best in the field, but you can still focus on areas where you do have strength.  Find ways to measure this excellence.  For example, you may be able to perform a certain analysis faster, and with greater sensitivity, than any other (or most) groups.

If your team enjoys the process, motivation becomes intrinsic.

Maintaining Cohesiveness

With a team of strong personalities, harmony sometimes seems impossible.  But you can control this by setting goals and rewards for everyone to reach their best performance.  You need to indicate clearly that competition within the group should never be a detriment to achieving the team’s overall goals.

Expect team members to resolve differences, even if they cannot be entirely compatible.

Foster group cohesiveness by ensuring that:

·  everyone works equally hard
·  everyone is willing to give their best for the good of the team
·  everyone hears about good news (reports, records set, awards earned, flattery heard)
·  there is active two-way communication
·  a conflict-resolution system is in place

Preventing Team Failure

Don’t ask your team to fight marginally important battles—they squander valuable morale and resources.

Push team members to their full potential, but never forget to respect their dignity.

During difficult times, encourage team members to stick together for moral support.

Defuse rebels and dissenters before they take down team morale.

Point out errors without placing blame.

Identify common signs that team spirit is faltering:

·  many team members are lazy
·  team members avoid responsibilities that don’t directly affect them
·  infighting
·  lack of self-respect
·  lack of satisfaction
·  frequent conflicts

Setting your team off on the right foot is a huge step towards success, but it’s not a guarantee.  The motivational mindset of your team is a daily tide that ebbs and flows with the currents of each day’s successes and failures.  Keeping your finger on the pulse of your team’s motivation is vital to becoming an effective team leader.

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