How well do you know the individuals in your team? A successful manager takes the time to identify the strengths, skills and interests of team members, and then align them with long-term business goals. Business advisor Tricia Cunningham explains why knowing the individual yields positive results for managers, team members and the company.
Tricia, what advice do you have for managers on how to motivate a team?
Teams are made up of individuals. Each person has different drivers, different motivators. A great manager recognises this and works at determining what motivates each person; is it the opportunity to acquire new skills? Is it having the scope to do the existing job their way without interference? Is it the prospect of advancing a career within the organisation? Is it being allowed to take on new projects that are exciting and different?
Many managers make the mistake of believing that what motivates an employee is out of their scope of influence as they believe that job security, increased wages or promotion are all that employees are really interested in. This misguided belief hampers a manager’s ability to motivate employees. It basically operates from the perspective “there is nothing I can really do to motivate my team members”.
So money is a poor motivator?
Money is a motivating factor only up to the point where an individual’s expectations are met. In other words, if I am hired for a role, we agree a salary. My expectations are set; I expect to receive that salary each month. You can’t turn around to an employee 6 months or a year later and say ‘come on, let’s have a really good day today because you are getting paid’ and expect the person to be highly motivated. If you believe that the only way to motivate your team members is to increase salaries you may not get a corresponding increase in productivity.
So what really motivates individuals?
Studies have shown that employees are motivated by factors that don’t cost an organisation financially but cost a manager in terms of time and attention. Employees value being appreciated, being considered and knowing they are working for someone who considers them and their needs. When that happens an employee feels a part of the organisation and is more likely to want to do their best. Their engagement with the organisation is high. When an employee feels that nobody really cares about them (although they put their best effort into work and spend more time at work than anywhere else) their motivation and productivity drops. They become disengaged and withdraw, psychologically, from the organisation.
What structure would you recommend for SMEs trying to motivate and manage teams?
It’s important that managers have the scope and opportunity to meet with employees one-to-one to understand their needs and what motivates them. It is unrealistic to expect that to happen if a manager has an excessive number of employees on their team. Smaller teams are often more effective than larger ones with fewer managers or supervisors. Smaller sized teams facilitate one-to-one meetings and opportunities for a manager to observe how an employee performs.
What can a great manager do when an employee lacks motivation?
The starting point is having a conversation with the employee. Ask the employee about their job: what do they like about their job? What are they finding challenging about it right now? What’s getting in the way of them being able to do their job brilliantly? This conversation may raise difficulties for the manager but it’s better to know what the issues are and try and address them than ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. Knowledge is power. Once the manager has this information they can determine, with the input from the employee, approaches to address the issues raised. This in turn should raise an employee’s motivation and productivity.
Tricia Cunningham is co-founder and senior partner at LEAP.
Interview by Des Kirby
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