Successfully motivating business teams has been so frequently compared to coaching a winning sports team that I thought twice about using the popular sports metaphor in this post. However, the metaphor still fits.
Business success is driven by a united team whose members respect one another and recognize that each has very different roles -- and strengths. For example, some have strong client (internal and external) management skills while others are better working in the background with technology. Team members need to have an appreciation of each other's roles to best leverage their combined strength. In this way, they will earn clients' trust as they deliver on their promises and gain confidence as assignments become more demanding.
Individual strengths come through at different times and not every member operates at full capacity all the time. Some have great days and not-so-great days.
Recognizing this is the secret behind team motivation. Even if things aren't going well for one member, the collective support and applied skills of the other team members will carry the group forward. This is why unifying and motivating a group (versus one individual at a time) is essential to creating strong client bonds and ultimately, business success.
Here are five road-tested approaches based on more than 30 years of experience working with teams of advertising agency and in-house marketing professionals, each with distinct disciplines and varied skillsets.
1. Each team member has an integral role. Regardless of his or her role, each member makes an important contribution to the team's (and organization's) success. This is especially important in sales-driven organizations. Top producers would have a hard time producing without the help of support teams including IT and other less-visible groups. You need to emphasize that everyone has a role to play.
2. Ensure clarity of vision. Each member needs to understand the team's business goals and how those goals affect the success of the organization as well as the marketing strategies that will help achieve those goals. If everyone is not clear about his or her shared goals, there can be no forward momentum. When company goals are realized, share the good news with everyone. I once worked at an advertising agency where only senior management was told of major award wins on a North American front. Other staff could only read of the wins in trade publications and felt demotivated. (Agency management feared that requests for raises would soon follow if all employees knew just how profitable the agency was.)
3. Give team members some recognition and visibility outside the group, including in front of management. Giving credit where credit is due is a vital leadership quality but often rare in some "win at all costs" corporate cultures. Employees want to feel relevant and to be recognized in ways beyond salary increases. By the same token, be sure to compensate your team fairly. To scrimp on bonuses and raises will demotivate -- quickly.
4. Conduct regular status meetings that don't exceed one hour. Run your meetings on time and on topic and give team members a chance to offer updates on their current work and accomplishments. If the group is large, say 20 + employees, you may rotate the spotlight from employee to employee over several meetings, versus highlighting everyone in one meeting.
5. Make a point of meeting with team members over lunch or coffee. Catch up on their successes, challenges and fresh ideas. Experience has shown that when you spend time with -- and listen actively to -- team members they are more inclined to trust you and to offer their best ideas to boost team performance. Reschedule these meetings only when absolutely necessary and expect the same consistent attendance from your team members.
Motivating people in a work environment may seem intuitive but may not be as easy as it appears. Managers have lives and careers they must nurture to move forward and be happy. Careful not to become too involved in the well-being of your employees as it can be harmful to you and to them. They may come to depend on you for their work satisfaction and never learn on their own through the odd misstep. You can help them work to their full potential by keeping your promises, being a good role model and be consistent in your approach to managing them in both good and challenging times.
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