We use the word “motivation” to define why people do what they do. Those factors (“reasons”) are what drive individual or group behavior. So, when a team leader tasks their group with accomplishing certain objectives, they must also motivate the performance. The skill of motivating teams involves guiding, encouraging, and managing groups to perform specific goal-oriented actions. 

Understanding the psychology of motivation

What drives a person to participate in a marathon even though the exercise regimen is extremely challenging? And why do some employees strive harder than their colleagues at work to get that elusive promotion despite the long hours and difficult training programs involved?

The answer: psychology of motivation! That’s the hidden force that drives individuals and teams to take steps that move them closer to their goals. 

People leaders who understand that psychology do a much better job at motivating teams than those who don’t! Business leaders must also tap into the social, emotional, cognitive, and biological forces of individual team members to move the collective group to accomplish a goal. It’s important, therefore, to understand the various types of motivations that drive goal-oriented behavior.  

Types of motivation in the workplace 

There are typically two types of workplace motivation—intrinsic (or internal) and extrinsic (or external). 

  • Intrinsic motivation:
    It’s an internally-generated dimension that compels teams to act. Teams might act a certain way when they feel self-satisfaction, self-fulfillment, pride, joy, fun, enjoyment, or a sense of duty and responsibility from their actions. 
  • Extrinsic motivation: This type of motivation comes in a positive and a negative flavor. The positive dimension is about workplace dynamics such as the desire to earn more pay, get that corner office, or snag that promotion. The negative aspect involves fear of non-compliance, punitive penalties, demotions, or peer pressure.

The physical rewards, such as self-satisfaction, joy, getting a promotion, earning a higher salary, or landing a larger office, are the results of motivated behavior.

Motivating teams, however, is also about the psychology of moving teams toward accomplishing those results. The art of team motivation, therefore, involves the use of the psychology of both internal and external motivation to get individuals to accomplish stated goals.  

The importance of motivation in today’s workplace

With the many demands on employees’ time, loyalties, and priorities today, team leaders must work extra hard to ensure that staff doesn’t forget about organizational priorities. Today’s hybrid workplace also adds a new dimension of complexity in managing employee attitudes toward the company’s goals and objectives. 

An unmotivated workforce is a breeding ground for low productivity. The “quiet quitting” movement has its roots in low motivation. With motivation at its lowest, employees will do the bare minimum expected from their roles—and nothing more! Given today’s economic environment, that attitude is often not conducive to organizational success.

In today’s highly competitive workplace, where finding, hiring, training, and retaining employees is a challenge, motivating teams is critical. Because motivation is contagious, even a little motivational effort can go a long way to creating better workplaces.

The benefits of a motivated team

Motivating teams to accomplish goal-oriented tasks is more important in today’s global, diversified, hybrid workplace. It (motivation) plays an important role in the individual, group (team), and overall organizational performance by:

  • Inspiring innovation: Motivation brings inspired innovation to the fore.
  • Improving team morale: With everyone vested in the team’s success, team morale is higher. 
  • Increases employee engagement: Better motivation can breed better engagement and commitment to organizational goals and values.
  • Higher productivity: Engagement and commitment are the cornerstones of a more productive workplace.
  • Greater employee retention: Employees tend to stick around longer in a motivated workplace.

Team motivation also plays an important role in fostering organizational creativity, productivity, and profitability. It also lays the foundation for a cooperative and competitive workforce. While programs like employee mentoring can help motivate teams to perform, organizations must consider several other highly effective motivational strategies.

Strategies for motivating teams

Motivating teams isn’t just about producing happy and satisfied staff; it’s also about building highly productive and effective workforces as well as extremely competitive organizations. Here are ten strategies to help business leaders motivate their teams:

Have a clear vision. Make sure the organization’s goals, mission, and vision are clear to all employees, as are team or business unit goals and objectives. Nothing foils motivation like a workforce whose purpose isn’t clear.

Communication is critical. Communicate goals, objectives, plans, milestones, and deadlines clearly to the team so they align their behavior with your expectations.

Champion from the top. Motivation requires top leadership commitment. Have senior leadership make motivation a top priority. 

Leverage cross-functional teams. Multi-faceted teams help pollinate team motivation because of the complementing skills and capabilities they leverage. 

Provide opportunities for growth. Tap into team members’ innate desire to advance and grow through the organization to motivate teams. 

Use performance reviews. Leverage data-driven, objective, results-oriented performance assessments to motivate individuals and teams toward goal-oriented action. 

Reward creativity and ownership. Motivate staff by encouraging them to take ownership of their actions, and reward them for their creativity.

Celebrate milestones. While individual reward and recognition programs go a long way to help motivate teams, it’s important to also celebrate the accomplishment of milestones as a team too.

Develop a strong, positive company culture. Teams working in a culture of respect, tolerance, equity, mutual trust, and comradery are more motivated than those working in environments that lack these characteristics. 

Go easy on punitive discipline. While there is a place for punitive discipline, overuse of harsh measures can be deleterious and lead to a drag on team motivation. 

Leadership development training: include how to motivate teams

While some leaders have charismatic personalities and naturally inspire followers, motivating teams is often a learned skill. That’s why organizations need to have a program of continuous learning in place as part of a planned talent and leadership development strategy. Well-structured leadership development programs that also include team motivation techniques and strategies are important to instilling a culture of life-long learning and development. 

It’s also important to train aspiring leaders on how to motivate teams because as veteran leaders move up the chain of command, they’ll leave a vacuum of untrained leaders behind. A leadership development program that focuses on ongoing motivational training can help quickly fill that void with leaders equipped with skills to motivate and inspire their teams.

Igniting the Spark Within: Unleashing the Power of Motivated Teams 

When it comes to accomplishing business goals, motivated teams outperform those that are less motivated. Motivated employees are enthusiastic about their work and perform optimally for individual, group, and organizational success. They (motivated staff) often help motivate others in the organization to embrace company values and gravitate towards positive attitudes. 

Because people are the most important asset for any organization, team leaders need to spend the time to get to know, respect, and motivate their employees. This interaction, coupled with motivation-focused formal leadership development programs, is key to motivating teams and keeping the organization competitive and profitable.