The benefits of inspiring and motivating a team are easy to see, but sometimes figuring out how to do it can be tricky. This is especially true if the company already has a culture that isn’t very inspired. Breaking habits is hard, but it can be done with some careful consideration and targeted impacts.
• Empower those in the middle. If you want to change the culture of a place, you usually cannot make demands from the top down and expect people to follow them. If you’re trying to create a different culture, commands from the top are likely to be met with resistance or met in a perfunctory (but not meaningful) way before fizzling out. Instead, work on getting buy-in for the new culture from those in the middle, and give them the autonomy and opportunity to spread those values in the way that works best for their own team.
• Communicate clearly and meaningfully. People want feedback, but they want that feedback to be meaningful and useful. Make sure that you have set up a transparent system where people can check in on how they are doing and get tips on how to improve.
• Listen to ideas, and point out their origins. Take ideas seriously and implement improvements based on suggestions whenever possible. When something works, be sure to point out the person or team that came up with the idea. Seeing others recognized for their contributions will make every team member more likely to contribute as well.
• Ditch your preconceptions of motivation. Culturally, we tend to value reward-punishment models of motivation. If you do something good, you get a reward. If you do something bad, you get a punishment. We believe that this will push and prod people into the behavior that we want. There are a few flaws in this thinking: 1) it doesn’t always work that way and 2) it assumes that you already know what you want and shuts down innovation. Instead, think about motivation differently. In Drive, author Daniel Pink found that people aren’t motivated by rewards and punishments for most types of work. Instead, they are motivated by three elements: purpose, mastery, and autonomy. Put simply, people want to feel that their work matters, be given the tools to do it well, and be given the space to figure out their own way of doing it. If these three factors are in place, people work harder, share more, and feel more invested in their outcomes.
Creating a culture of motivation and inspiration is well worth the effort, and it starts with truly believing in your team. Remember that people want to do well, and they will naturally become invested in a group identity that makes them feel supported and heard. If you create opportunities for these kinds of interactions in your business, you’ll see the rewards now and for many years to come.