Whether you’re a newly appointed manager or one with extensive experience, managing a demotivated team is challenging, frustrating and time consuming. Here are 3 common management mistakes often made that result in teams being demotivated and unproductive:
1. Demonstrating a lack of interest in the person
Generally speaking, people spend more time interacting with their colleagues at work than they do with family and friends – people may be at home for 14 hours on a work day but they spend a significant amount of that time sleeping! So the workplace is an important place in their lives. People who don’t feel valued and supported at work become demotivated with a corresponding drop in productivity.
2. Refusing to address poor working relationships between team members
Most people dislike conflict. It isn’t the easiest issue to address as it has the potential to escalate or expand to involve others in the organisation. However, conflict can be successfully resolved and indeed avoided if addressed early. Disagreement is healthy as it can often lead to newer, more innovative suggestions being identified. When disagreement becomes entrenched or personalised it is unhealthy and a manager needs to tackle it immediately. Believing it will go away or resolve itself often leads to the issue escalating resulting in individuals withdrawing, taking sides or fuelling the fire.
3. Making assumptions that all is well
Managers are sometimes reluctant to ask the question “Is everything okay?” for fear that the answer may be “no”. Regularly asking the question allows individuals to raise concerns or issues early when they can be easily resolved. It builds stronger relationships between managers and team members enhancing communication and co-operation.
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.
Money is not always the motivating factor that drives people in the workplace. Many people are motivated by other things such as praise, training and development opportunities, and taking on different responsibilities. Managers need to understand that offering financial incentives is not always the right way to motivate team members. On the contrary, sometimes financial reward systems create the wrong kind of company culture. In part 1 of this blog LEAP’s business advisor Tricia Cunningham explains the benefits of creating a merit-based culture where individuals are motivated by more than just money.
Tricia, how can managers keep team members motivated without financial incentives?
Managers face a difficult task in trying to keep teams motivated. It often feels like there is little they can do to motivate people. There’s a belief that staff only want more money – everything comes back to financial reward. Particularly in organisations where there are middle managers who have authority over financial rewards. But even leaders in organisations, given the times we have experienced, are probably not in a position now where they can randomly grant increases.
And of course this raises expectations anyway when wages are increased for individuals. So for multiple reasons financial rewards for employees need to be given serious consideration before any commitment is given. If a manager links motivation to remuneration, there’s a feeling of helplessness, there’s nothing else the manager can do to motivate staff; that’s a myth. To explode that myth you need to remember that once people’s expectations regarding remuneration are addressed then money is no longer the motivating factor that we think it is. People look for other things to keep themselves motivated and very often those things are within the control of the manager. It’s about a manager shifting his/her thinking; the manager’s thinking needs to be focused on the employee:
1. Do you know the individual? Do you know what they like to do?
2. Do you know what their strengths are, what they’re good at, what they’re capable of doing?
3. Have you aligned their strengths to the results they need to achieve, or the requirements of the business?
Aligning employee strengths with business goals
When you align an employee’s strengths with the business goals and requirements, you’re more likely to have a motivated employee working on your team. Increasing somebody’s application of strengths by 5, 10 or 15 per cent will allow them to enjoy their job more than they currently are. The results will benefit the organisation and the individual. That’s a motivating mechanism within the manager’s control.
So think about the individual, their capabilities, their strengths and think about the results; align them and you will have the individual working towards a common goal that benefits themselves and others. Follow up with employees. Offer them praise when warranted. Remember “thank-you” and “well done” are important to individuals and motivate employees. Discuss obstacles they are encountering and work with them to remove those obstacles. Actively work to involving the employee further in the business. These activities will help you motivate your employees further. They are within your control and require no additional financial investment. They simply require an investment of your time, focus and energy.
In the business world, managing directors face a variety of challenges when trying to develop their companies into successful and profitable enterprises. As business leaders they need to arm themselves with a set of skills and traits that will allow them to maximize their own potential and the potential of their staff, and thereby maximize profits. But how do successful business leaders get investors, employees and consumers to trust their vision and ideas? The answer is through effective leadership and at the heart of that lies the concept of personal development. There are no magic formulas for success but as LEAP’s John Raftery explains, there are 5 key factors in personal development for managing directors that can influence your company’s bottom line.
“The key factor that dictates success in any endeavour, whether it’s in a business, a family, social settings or in a community, is emotional intelligence. The concept has been around for years, but essentially the most successful people in all walks of life are people who have high levels of emotional intelligence. What defines emotional intelligence more than anything else is self-awareness. There are lots of techniques to develop it such as psychometric tests and personality testing, but essentially what you need to do is devote a lot of time to reflecting on your behaviours, your attitudes and emotional responses to situations. It’s about questioning yourself and trying to reflect as much as possible in order to build up self-awareness. The reason why self-awareness is fundamental to emotional intelligence is because without it you won’t know what needs to change, or what issues need to be addressed in the way you behave. Self-awareness is the foundation to good personal development and making an impact on the world around us. Without it we are lost and it’s a never ending quest. We can spend our whole lives developing and honing self-awareness.”
“There are two types of motivation; intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. By intrinsic motivation I mean you are motivated internally, by something you want to achieve or gain for yourself in order to find personal fulfilment. Extrinsic motivation is where you are motivated by external factors such as status, money or power. Both internal and external motivation can be quite strong and lead you to achieving huge success, but ultimately intrinsic motivation is the stronger of the two because that always remains with you. And linking that back to self-awareness; the more awareness you have, the more you can tap into your source of motivation to drive you on.”
3. Self- Efficacy
“The third element is one of the more important ones. Self-efficacy is the ability to control your responses and your emotions without being stoic or frigid in your responses. In other words you give the appropriate response in appropriate situations. You can decide what your response is in a particular situation and you can control your behaviours. That includes behaviours relating to alcohol, exercise or diet and more importantly having control over your emotional responses. It means accepting you are in control of your emotional responses.”
“The fourth element is the one that is most lacking in the world today. Essentially empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, to see things from their point of view. All conflict comes from a lack of empathy, from major conflicts to minor ones. People who are psychopathic have no empathy at all so they can’t feel another person’s pain. They can’t relate to other people. People with high levels of empathy can tune into other people and read situations better. They are better at reading the emotional responses of the people they’re trying to manage, or motivate or develop or relate to in some way. They are much better listeners than talkers, and by listening more you learn a lot more. There’s an old truism that God gave us two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you speak. Allow others to speak without interrupting. Often when we are in conversation we are thinking about what we are going to say next rather than listening to what others are actually saying, and being inquisitive about what others are saying to us.”
5. Social Dexterity
“The last thing is what I call social dexterity which, at its most basic level, means interacting with other people. Basic things like shaking people’s hands, how you look them in the eye, and what your body language says about you. How confident are you in certain situations? How assertive are you? How do you relate to others in your network? How do you communicate with people? Can you actually lead teams or teams of teams? Can you lead an organisation? Can you relate to and manage large numbers of people? Social dexterity is something we try to develop in our children; we try to make them socially comfortable. We try to get them to relate to their peers, to get them to develop leadership skills through sport and so on. Ultimately this is the foundation that should lead people to greater levels of social dexterity further down the line. It’s one of the key components of leadership. I believe if an individual can develop the five key areas of self-awareness, understanding motivations, develop high levels of self-efficacy and empathy, and are comfortable and assertive in terms of social dexterity, then you’re looking at an individual that can have a great deal of influence on the people they come into contact with.”
Tricia Cunningham has designed many management training courses over the past 12 years, including programmes for new managers. Working across a variety of business sectors, she has gained many insights into the challenges that emerging managers face when trying to build high performance work teams. Here Tricia discusses motivation and how to motivate teams, a common problem for new managers.
Q. Tricia, what is the most common problem that new managers face?
The most common problem is motivating team members. Often managers complain that ‘I can’t motivate a person.’ They feel that everything is out of their hands in terms of the factors that motivate people. For example they think I can’t increase their pay, I can’t promote them up the career ladder, there are no promotions going. So managers feel like they have no leverage to motivate an individual.
In LEAP’s programmes we look at the real factors that motivate individuals. We try to get managers to look at each individual team member and determine what the manager can do to motivate that person. The factors that motivate an individual are usually within the control of the manager, but the manager doesn’t always see that. Factors such as having interesting work to do and playing to strengths are very powerful and need to be used to better effect by managers.
Managers need to find ways for employees to play to their strengths within the defined role. Another factor that’s within the manager’s control is employees feeling they are involved in things and understanding what’s going on in the organisation. When the employee understands that this is the direction we’re going in, this is what’s happening, this is why my role is important, they are more concerned about the business and its success. When managers start looking at it this way they start to see that actually there is something they can do about motivation. It isn’t always down to money or steps on a hierarchical ladder that needs to be climbed.
Q. How effective is this approach with new managers?
It’s very effective because you’re getting managers to see things differently, and that’s what a manager’s job is; to constantly look at a situation or problem from a different perspective and come up with a workable solution. They are at least beginning to think more constructively and positively.
Q. There are some tasks that people don’t want to do. Is it difficult to get an entire team motivated by playing to each of their strengths, and at the same time making sure that all tasks get done?
Of course. People are realistic. If 80 of my job is made up of tasks I really love doing and 20 are tasks I don’t like doing, then I’m probably very happy in my job. We try as much as possible to get employees to play to their strengths so they will enjoy what they’re doing, so the other tasks that they have to do, they don’t mind doing them as much. It’s when the balance is incorrect, where nobody gets to play to their strengths, where 80 of the job are things they don’t like, and only 20 are tasks they like, well then they start to hate their job.
It’s not about changing everyone’s role in the team. You don’t have the scope for that. It’s about the manager stepping back and figuring out what the person likes and what their strengths are, is there scope within the role, and within the organisation, to get them playing more to their strengths?
When the employee says ‘yeah this suits me better, I like this.’ Then they are motivated.