Friday, April 20, 2007

How do you keep your team motivated?

One person cannot motivate another. We can only find motivation in ourselves - that is the energy to set ourselves into motion or action. Yes, we can respond to another person but how we do so is a matter of choice. Others do not lead us, we choose to follow. Anything else is manipulation or even abuse.

Possibly this widespread misunderstanding arises because of an ongoing confusion between management and leadership. Management looks for cause and effect, objective relationships in everything, e.g. price lower - sell more. The people analog would be something like: do your job - keep your job.

Motivation is subjective. I can't know yours nor can you know mine. Each decision, in addition to depending upon our unique circumstances, only a few of which will be observable to others, draws on our history, knowledge, expectations, habits, goals and particularly our values all of which are changing! We need to be able to freely draw upon those resources and comprehend those factors all the time and anyone who consciously tries to intervene in that fragile process does us a disservice.

It is our responsibility to create the circumstances for ourselves that keep us free us to express our motives, especially in selecting the teams we join, making commitments we can keep, and collaborating in ways that allow us to contribute our best.

Conversely, if a team leader provides the information we need to decide to join, fairly negotiates our objectives, and controls the team's dynamics so we can deliver on our commitments, that leader allows our motivation. By this I mean that the leader has removed those obstacles to our effectiveness that the leader controls.

If in addition, the team leader behaves in a way that inspires, that is a wonderful bonus. However, this leader is still not motivating us. They have acted in a way that reminds us of some additional aspect of ourselves that we can (our choice) bring to bare as a team member. This is probably what you are really asking about. It is highly individual and that is why there are such a variety of responses. What it amounts to at its most basic is being your genuine self, knowing who you are and who you're not, and revealing to others your humanity so they can reveal theirs to you.

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