The One Critical Element to Building a Motivated Team
The question of motivation is an interesting one. It may bring to mind talented speakers such as Zig Ziglar or Tony Robbins; people who have made a career of “motivational” speaking and demonstrating an ability to push motivation into action, often considered a key leadership quality. Shortly, we’ll address the quotations around “motivational” and establish the one key element to building a motivated team. But first, if you’ll bear with me, a quick personal history of relevance:
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was raised amidst the eighties California drug culture. Early in my life there was violence and pain and the breaking apart of our family. Ultimately, my mother would become an addict, living alone, while her four children lived with a single father who often worked two or three jobs to keep mouths fed. We struggled.
By age thirteen I was taking an active role in raising my siblings. After school I would ride my bike five miles to baseball practice, and then five miles home to help clean the house and make dinner. Afterward, it was time for homework. In addition to completing my own assignments, I ensured that my siblings did theirs. Later, just before bed my dad would come home and ask about my day. Then sleep.
Fast-forward twenty years. What were once four Martin kids are now three and I am the only one who has managed to avoid the drugs that would so define my childhood. As I contemplate my own experiences in leadership, sales and marketing to write this post, I can’t help but consider myself fortunate.
Which leads me back to the point of this post and our discussion of motivation.
As team leaders we have all engaged in tactics that, we hope, will create a motivated sales team. We develop initiatives and create contests that will provide rewards beyond standard compensation. We create standardized recognition programs that, we hope, will urge team members to strive to be among those recognized. We establish leadership councils that allow team members to have a voice within the organization, an opportunity to impact change. We organize off-site tactical sessions that require team member participation so that they have “buy in” and embrace our strategy.
In the worst cases, we threaten penalties for those who fail to become sufficiently motivated.
With the exception of the final example, all are excellent methods of improving workplace culture and providing team members with an atmosphere conducive to their success. This is critical to preserving motivation.
I have been connected to far too many teams who did not make these practices a priority and managed de-motivate inherently driven people. As such a key function of leadership is to preserve motivation by breaking from the notion that it can be, somehow, coerced. In a moment we’ll identify why it’s so important for leaders to recognize this limitation.
The thing is, motivation is entirely personal. We are all motivated, in one way or another, by something or toward something. The issue, as has been written, is that some of us are on the wrong bus. Or at least, on the wrong seat.
I am by nature or nurture, driven by motivators that make me unique in the same way that you, and your teams are unique. Whether it’s the personal history I’ve just shared or some cellular makeup that defines me, the sum-total of my components have delivered the man writing this post, today. And when I find myself sitting in front of my laptop at 6:00AM with a cup of coffee to my right and a picture of my family to the left, the things that motivate me, and that I feel inspired to do, are personally clear.
This “uniqueness” is really the problem, isn’t it? How can any manager be expected to impact a change to something so wholly engrained? No sales contest in the world can compete. But really, as leaders, we shouldn’t be trying.
This may be the reason “motivational speakers” have such success and are able to impact so many people. They bridge motivational boundaries by addressing universal truths, rather than attempting to motivate anybody. They inspire by urging us to be the best version of ourselves and to position ourselves in situations where our motivators will deliver the greatest results. As “Inspirational Speakers”, Ziglar and Robbins are not asking a sales team to achieve a quota. I imagine if they tried, they would experience the same results, good or otherwise, that you do.
And so, it comes back to the bus and understanding what, inherently, will drive somebody to the activities and behaviors that will ultimately accomplish team goals.
What do your team members value? Are they motivated by challenges? Are they motivated by opportunities to problem-solve? Are they driven to develop deep, rich relationships? Are they motivated to be creative or by being the one who always has a good idea? Do they yearn for change? Are they easily bored?
With so much attention paid to experience and the development of skills, far too little weight is given to the unique and personal characteristics that are the makeup of any top-performing team. This is really the one key strategy that can build a motivated group of performers. In failing to recognize this, leaders are forced to position themselves as motivational speakers or task managers wherein they either plead for performance or micromanage it.
There has been enough written about micromanagement to dispel any myth of its effectiveness and unfortunately, for the motivational leaders out there, you’re just not Zig. Motivation simply can not be encouraged or enforced. It has to be built from the ground up and then tactically preserved. Otherwise we may find ourselves with a group of people physically and skillfully capable, but not necessarily motivated to join us in storming the castle.