How to motivate your team for success

December 2023

Motivation can mean different things for different people and there is no one-size fits-all solution. So what is the best way to motivate your people so that an entire business can feel energised and motivated to succeed? If your business already has a strong culture where people feel supported, respected, and valued you will find it easier to motivate people than in an environment lacking in these features. Further, the motivational tools and any initiatives you might implement are less important than the intentions that lay behind them. This article will explore some steps you can take to change the way your business thinks about motivation while cultivating a culture of engagement and empowerment.

Walk the talk

Understand what is important to your business and how it contributes to building a strong culture and then get behind it. You must ensure the entire management team is aware of any initiatives you introduce to increase motivation and that they support them and promote them to staff. That doesn’t mean they have to personally participate in every fun run, volunteering opportunity, or social occasion, but they should at least behave positively towards these events – undermining the implementing of decisions and initiatives helps no one.

Let them choose

If you’re not sure what motivational initiatives to implement, ask everyone. Send out a survey to ask your people what they want and give them some choices to vote on. Not everyone will be comfortable putting forward ideas so allow feedback, anonymous or otherwise, as this can improve response rates. If you want them to feel empowered, let them get involved – give them the responsibility for implementing the result.

Wherever possible, make yes your default response to those genuine suggestions you receive. If you implement an idea, you promote a feeling among your people that they can have a visible impact on the business; this can be rewarding in itself. If you can’t agree to a suggestion, explain why. If you don’t, people will feel reluctant to come forward in the future – when people feel you are listening, they feel valued.

Give feedback

Everyone likes to know they’re doing a good job. But how will they know they’re doing well if they don’t have clear targets? If your people don’t know what you expect of them, they will likely not feel engaged or motivated. Establish some clear and measurable key performance indicators to set targets against, communicate what they are and revisit them regularly. Don’t leave it until the end of the year to tell someone they haven’t met their targets when you knew after the first month that they were behind. Meet as often as needed to discuss progress and make sure some of these meetings happen in a one-to-one setting as this can help people to feel more comfortable raising any issues that may be affecting their performance.

Not all feedback has to be in a formal setting; there is value in informal day-to-day constructive feedback. Regardless of perceived importance, if someone is doing a good job, tell them, whether leading an important project or filing some paperwork.

Communication is always key

Striking the right balance between too much and too little communication is not easy – too much and staff spend too much time reading messages that aren’t relevant; too little and they feel left in the dark.

If you need everyone to be aware of something, make sure you use more than one channel of communication. For example, if you are implementing a new process, you might send a message to everyone in the business, add it to the agenda for upcoming team meetings, and hold training sessions so everyone understands the changes.

For items that aren’t business critical, less frequent communication may be more appropriate. Perhaps use a digital noticeboard or internal newsletter to inform staff about upcoming events, optional training sessions, and other business news.

Look ahead

At performance reviews and career discussions, you should focus not only on the capabilities of someone’s current role but also the next steps. How can they develop to the next phase of their career in a more senior position? They should be able to see a clear pathway and timeline in which they can progress their career.

However, it is also important to remember that everyone’s career goals are different, and some may not want to follow the traditional route of incremental advancement. For these employees, the opportunity to be a subject-matter-expert in their particular field can be very fulfilling. Anyone not confident managing a team could perhaps first manage a project to give them the opportunity to experiment with their supervisory skills on a smaller group or on a short-term basis.

Motivation can be less about the ‘what’ and more about the ‘why’. By building culture from the top down, having more than one approach to motivational initiatives, and giving your staff options to be involved at different levels, you increase your chances of reaching more of your staff and building a strong and successful team.

About the author

Vanessa Sweeney
Adelaide, Australia

Vanessa is practice manager at Lee Green, the Adelaide member firm of Russell Bedford International, where her responsibilities range from the HR and marketing functions to management accounting. Vanessa’s accounting background, combined with her extensive management and project experience, position her well to provide insight into organisational needs.

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