Could motivation be the missing ingredient?

Sometimes it’s tough to motivate the people you manage, isn’t it? You know why it’s important that a project is completed in a timely way, but not everyone gets it. Others can be sluggish and unfocused. You sometimes feel it would be easier to just do it yourself.

I know how difficult it is.

This was the problem that a non-profit client and I were grappling with in a one-to-one coaching session recently. He was wondering how to motivate one of his reports to get on with a project which, although not urgent, was really, really important. Life would be much easier later in the year if she would just make a start! And it would be such a triumph for the team when things ran beautifully without any last-minute panic.

But the project was getting left.

We talked about setting a goal. We talked about how she could carve out what I call ‘2-time’ every week to tackle the challenge of the day-to-day over the strategic (based on Steven Covey’s ‘Important, but not Urgent’ work from his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). We talked about checking in regularly to see how she was getting on.

These are all really important strategies. I share them a lot in my coaching sessions and they’re great. In fact, I’m certain that many things would not get done without them. But there’s something else that’s important to consider too. Motivation.

How to motivate your team

To prevent these practical strategies from feeling like badgering, it’s important to add a great big dollop of motivation to the mix. Here are the three top motivation strategies I see working successfully time and time again:

1. Keep everyone focused on the overall goal

In my experience of working with non-profit leaders, this is so important. A great leader takes every opportunity to remind their team why they do what they do, making sure the goal message is clear and presented coherently. I’ve worked with senior leaders who think that everyone knows this and it doesn’t need repeating, but I disagree. When you’re stressed out and feeling under pressure, it’s easy to forget the Big Why, so regular reminders are both encouraging and motivating.  As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.

2. Make sure everyone knows how their work fits into the organisation’s purpose

This is important if you want to motivate others to perform well.  It’s easy to become disengaged when you can’t see why what you do every day is important. People who don’t know why they’re doing their small part of the project aren’t madly motivated to do anything at all except get through the day. After all, why work hard when it seems to make no difference?

3. Praise great work and notice success

You know what I would love to see in purpose-led teams and organisations? More praise. More celebration of success. More great feedback. And I’d love for praise not to be seen as a fluffy luxury and a bit unnecessary. This stuff is absolutely essential and is hugely motivating. Ever worked anywhere where staff feel unappreciated and put upon? It’s miserable, isn’t it? Everyone wants to leave! Praise has to be genuine, but it’s not hard to find something each day to be positive about. Catch people doing something right and they will fly!

Over to you?

Does your team feel connected to your organisation’s Big Why? Do they understand why their role is so important and how their contribution impacts the overall mission and goal of your organisation? Take some time to check-in with how motivated your people are right now, and give these strategies a go. Or, if you have some ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them so please share in the comments below.

What next?

Would you like to come along to the first gathering of my new non-profit networking and support group  – Leaders Who Brunch? We’re meeting in central London on 31st October and it would be great to see you there. We’ll be talking motivation and more. I’ll be sharing the details soon but do drop me a line to let me know you’re interested



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