Is It Your Job to Motivate Others?

A colleague of mine spent all summer building a team with long-term temp employees. She thought things were going well. Then a big client project came along with tight deadlines. The project was challenging, but also an exciting new opportunity for the company. To her surprise, her team did not step up. They either pushed back, ignored their assignments or quit. She had no choice but to push through the client’s deadline, mostly by herself. She was devastated…and exhausted.

After the project was completed, she took some time to reflect on why her team had reacted that way. She considered herself a good motivator. Her team had always responded to her daily motivation. She had thought they were ready for any challenge.

That’s when she realized she had been carrying the motivation for her whole team.

Rather than helping them find their own sources of motivation, she had taken on the responsibility to be their daily motivator. Everything was dependent on her. She had become the source of energy for the entire team. Their daily contributions were an extension of her own enthusiasm, rather than their desire to do well.

When she needed them to really step up, they had nothing to draw from. They didn’t know how to find motivation from within. They had grown used to her carrying them along.

This is a common occurrence in leadership. As a leader, you have a deep well of passion and vision for what you are doing. That does not mean your team shares your passion. They might not be personally invested in your vision. The excitement and energy that you pour into your work does not translate to your team, especially when a challenge comes along.

In order for your team members to be fully on board, they need to have their own “why.” They need an internal source of motivation that speaks directly to them. You can’t make that happen for them. They have to find it, and they have to want it. If you spend your time trying to be their motivating force, you will burn out, and your team will not be engaged at the level you desire.

As a leader, the best approach you can take is twofold: First, create a motivating environment. Next, give your team the tools to discover what motivates them. This is a great team-building opportunity. When your team can come together and learn about what motivates each other, they will work more cohesively and energetically. Each person will learn how to become self-motivating. The team will help each other stay focused on their individual “why.”

This takes you out of the role of daily motivator. Instead, you will bring your creative ideas to set up the right team environment. Your team can take it from there. You can continue to oversee and encourage. When motivation seems to wane, think strategically about how to help your team refocus together.

The next time a challenging project comes around, you will see the difference. Each person will be working from an internal source of motivation. And your team will work smoothly together because they will know how to encourage each other in the right ways.

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