2nd November 2016

How to create the right motivation for your team

A key capability that leaders of even the smallest teams must have is the ability to motivate their colleagues to perform well. Successful leaders are able to motivate team members to exceed expectations, to work persistently on a topic without complaining about it and to ‘just work harder’ at times.

For newly appointed leaders it can be difficult to motivate certain team members, however, there are certain techniques and skills that all leaders can adopt to achieve the best performance from their team. Recent articles in Fast Company have highlighted that research supports the kind of practice we encourage leaders on our development programmes to adopt:

  • Remember you are motivating others, not yourself!
  • Know your team members well
  • Be clear about the type of work you are motivating them to undertake


There are two types of motivation to be aware of as a leader that can be more effective in different situations. Extrinsic motivation is offered by a leader to their team often in the form of a reward for harder or faster work, or to maintain levels of productivity for repetitive activities. For example- getting a bonus payment for hitting a deadline or being able to finish for the day once a certain number of activities have been completed. This only works well when the reward on offer is something that is attractive to the worker – leaders beware of assuming that what would be a reward for you is the same for your team members!

Intrinsic motivation is more on the inside – it is the motivation we generate for ourselves because of the nature of the work and how we feel about it. If we feel we are going to be particularly good at an activity we might stay focused on it for longer. We may become drawn to be the best at something in our team. This Mastery can be tapped into by a leader by allowing one person in the team to become the specialist in a particular topic – the ‘go to’ person.

Providing people with a sense of Autonomy about their work can also ignite intrinsic motivation- this is a challenge that many leaders face when delegating. Directing how something should be undertaken reduces the level of autonomy the person doing the work will feel – they may be less motivated than if they can chose their own approach. Other ways to provide autonomy include asking the team colleague to develop their plan of work, their own indicators of success. (We all like to prove ourselves right, so if we said something will work in a particular way we are more motivated to ensure it does!).

The third dimension to intrinsic motivation is the sense of Purpose someone has about their contribution. Research has shown that people work much more diligently when they know how their output will be used by others, to know that someone depends on them. So, ensuring that a piece of work is not seen in isolation, but rather as a contribution to a greater purpose can generate more motivation to do it well.

As a leader, try to create the conditions that will generate more intrinsic motivation: encourage people to become masters of their specialist topics, show how their work impacts others and give them space to determine how to organise and perform their duties. Especially if the work requires creativity rather than repetitive activity or just harder work. Tapping into intrinsic motivation is more likely to encourage wider and deeper thinking – because it is more important than a short-term reward.

Inside Consulting helps develop leaders to drive performance in their teams. Visit www.insideconsulting.co.uk/programmes to find a programme you can attend.

By Alan Box Leadership Team Building Share: