Maintaining Motivation Levels In Your Team

Many managers think that to motivate people they must offer tangible rewards (such as an incentive scheme) and that the bigger the incentive they offer the more motivated their people will be. However, there is plenty of research out there that challenges this belief.

In just one example, a group of students were set a series of tasks and were rewarded based on their performance. When the tasks involved only mechanical skills (such as completing a simple jigsaw puzzle), then the rewards worked as expected. The students were more motivated to perform the task the larger the reward for successful performance was.

However, when the students had to do tasks which used even the most basic of cognitive (thinking) skills, such as designing an advertisement, then the opposite was true. The students became less motivated when the reward for successful performance increased.

So simply using extrinsic rewards to motivate your team may not be enough to keep them motivated where cognitive skills are required to do the work.

If this is the case, then how can you motivate your team?

Some effective approaches to work place motivation can be identified by looking at the psychological theories of motivation. One of these, Self-determination theory (or SDT) provides an excellent framework for understanding how to increase work place motivation. SDT is based on the premise that we all have innate psychological needs which we are driven to satisfy. When our work tasks allow the opportunity for these needs to be met we become what is known as intrinsically motivated, and so are driven to complete the work.

Using this theory, there are four things you can do as a manager to help your team become intrinsically motivated.

1. Enhance their autonomy
Do you give your team freedom to choose the way in which they work? It is known that the more choice people have then the higher their sense of autonomy and intrinsic motivation is.

Empower your team to make decisions and give them some freedom to choose what they do, when they do it, how they do it and who they do it with. If they make an honest mistake don’t punish them, otherwise you will reduce their motivation to take on more responsibility. Learn to delegate and not get too involved. Leave the day-to-day decisions to those doing the work and it’s likely that you will see a more motivated team.

2. Ensure they feel valued
Do people in your team know that their work is valued? Intrinsic motivation and feeling valued are closely linked. Identify the goals and then show your team how their work contributes directly to these goals.

3. Stretch them
Do you stretch your team? When the demands of the job matches or preferably stretches slightly the team member’s ability to do it, then they will be more intrinsically motivated.

Find out what your team cares about and give them the opportunity to work on something from start to finish (whole tasks) as this will increase their intrinsic motivation.

Of course the more stretching the task the more you will need to provide them with support – so give your team opportunities to develop their skills through training and make sure you give motivational and developmental feedback to drive them forward towards success.

4. Give them meaning
Do your team have a purpose? If people feel that what they do has a purpose and is something they care about then they experience a greater sense of motivation in their role. Often there is a gap between what people know about a situation and what they want to know. By filling this information gap you can keep your team motivated.

As a manager, you are responsible for creating the right motivational environment for your team. Use these four tips and you will maintain the intrinsic motivation in your team throughout the year.

Our positive performance management in-company training course has many tips and management techniques to help your managers get the best from their team.