Effective Team Building: Stop Trying to Motivate Others

Don’t try to motivate others.

That sounds counter-intuitive and goes against what we’ve been taught we should do.


It’s far more effective to tap into the motivation that’s already in people.

Most of us operate under the assumption that responsible leaders motivate people. My experience in the last 20+ years has proven that notion to be mistaken.

When we think of “motivating” people, we think of dangling carrots in front of them, or holding a threatening stick overhead to get them going. Sadly, though, that’s not leadership — it’s behavioral control. And control can produce compliance but it won’t inspire high performance.

Responsible leaders who practice effective team building tap into the EXISTING motivation of others.

In responsible relationships, we want to move others to action without using carrots or sticks.

How? By discerning what already puts others into motion and positioning yourself to help them get that by collaborating with you. Help them get lots of that, whatever it happens to be.

How do we do this? By asking others about their dreams and wants, needs and pleasures.

When you know what others want and need, you can help them specify exactly how they can achieve these desires by working on the project at hand, at this time, with these people.

Sounds really simple, doesn’t it? Keep in mind one of my core principles of teamwork: High performance is always voluntary — it comes from within.

What often gets in the way of discovering another person’s motivation is our own judgment of what constitutes proper motivation. What motivates you might not motivate another person.

Try this: ask the next three team members you talk to today, “What’s in it for you to work on the project you’re working on?”

Then follow their answers until you discover the team building motivation that really puts each person into motion.

Hint: We’re taught to say “Money!” But responsible leaders find out what money does or means for others. It’s usually not the money itself that’s really important to someone — it’s what money enables him or her to do that matters. Ask: “What’s in it for you — beyond a paycheck — to work on this project?”

Practical application

This may sound odd, but don’t ask others until you’ve asked yourself: What puts YOU into motion? Is there plenty of it on the horizon ahead of what you’re working on? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Let me know what you discover — use the comment box below.

Help others discover their own motivation to do great work

If you make sure you find out what clearly energizes others, you will serve them deeply by helping them keep their sights on what they want and can achieve by working and team building with you.

Apply this skill and more for collaborative success at Creating Results Based Teams–Anytime Anywhere with Anyone

Posted in Teamwork on 03/23/2011 01:00 am
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