Is your motivational style the problem?

December 09, 2020

"People work for many more reasons than money. Having a purpose, value and vision all count for more than cash."
Bear Grylls

Motivating team members is one of the basic functions of management, but even with the best intentions, managers and leaders often do more harm than good.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Ron Carrucci talks about three common behaviours which leaders might believe will motivate their teams but they can leave teams feeling untrusted, unheard and unappreciated.

The first is DRIVE-BY PRAISE.
Examples include popping your head into the office and announcing a general phrase of praise or sending a generic email to the whole team with a collective message of praise. While it clearly is well-intentioned, it can feel impersonal and insincere if this is the only form of acknowlegdmenet the teams receive.

The alternative: ASK FOR THE STORY
Asking the team member about how they got the result, or the story behind their accomplishment not only assures the employee that he/she is valued as much as their work product but it often gives the leader valuable insight into their teams.

The second behaviour is MAKING STUFF UP.
Leaders might overexaggerate or even lie to their teams - for example, giving them the impression that they are going to battle on their team's behalf with senior management. Teams know when their leaders are lying and despite the intention, this behaviour erodes trust in the long run.

It's important that leaders appreciate that their teams might not fully understand how the work they do feeds into the company's overall function. Framing gratitude to highlight how their work product benefits the organisation as a whole, will motivate them to increase productivity and effect more change for the business.

And finally, there's GUILT GRATITUDE.
This is when the leader asks more of an employee than they should and to compensate for the guilt they feel, they make grandious, public gestures of gratitude which can be interpreted as insincere. Examples would be asking the team to applaud the employee's effort or sending an over-the-top team email congratulating or thanking the respective employee.

Team members often hide the fact that much of their work product has a personal cost for fear of appearing weak or incompetant. Whether it's sacrificing time with their families, or the mental strain of taking on something new, acknowledging the challenges team members have had to confront along the way, makes your gratitude more credible and it creates a safe environment for your employees to be honest when future struggles arise.

*Source: Harvard Business Review and Bear Grylls

"Much of it comes down to caring for people, listening and supporting them, encouraging them and having their backs. And then leading with a positive vision."
Bear Grylls