Motivating your team

By: Chris Barling

Date: 11 September 2009

The two most common complaints in business are that no one asked me and no one told me. While, in my experience, it’s impossible to ever fully eliminate these complaints, making a concerted effort at addressing them can lead to a big boost in team morale.

As a manager, I feel that if I don’t tell people what’s going on, I can’t complain if they fill in the gaps with negatives. And if they don’t feel that their input is taken seriously, they will become de-motivated and probably work less hard, as well as putting up with things that frankly, they should be screaming about.

In fact, listening is the key to continuous improvement. I do try to practice what I preach and I interview all staff, including those in junior roles, on a regular basis. It doesn’t take all that long, it’s amazing what you find out, and the very act of listening leads to a big improvement in morale.

Another angle that we have tried is to hold a series of workshop sessions with all staff whenever we review our strategy. These enable us to get useful input on the broad thrust of the strategy, and identify many of the potential pitfalls. It also means that we communicate and get buy in as we go along. By the time the strategy is completed, everybody is on board and starting to act on it. This is hugely better than a brilliant strategy done by outside consultants but that sits beautifully documented but largely untouched on the shelf. With that sort of strategy, you wonder a year later why the business isn’t really following it, and why it faces resistance at every turn. The lesson is that it’s important to explain where you are going to everybody even when you are a small company.

In most businesses, money is not a great motivator, but can certainly be a great de-motivator. So it’s important to try to be consistent in how you reward people, and also to explain pay policies so that there is a degree of buy in. Sometimes, it may be better to reward with bonuses rather than pay rises, as rises institutionalize pay differentials in ways that may become unfair over time, They can’t easily be unpicked and when discovered will destroy morale.

Motivation is a funny thing, and is pretty hard to achieve. I hope that some of the ideas here will stimulate your further thoughts.


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