Over last five years as Business Advisor & Strategy Consultants, we have been working in the industry across diverse business sectors with companies of varied size and scale. While we are not a training company, yet, the most common request that comes to us is “Team Motivation”. The reason, the owners & leaders, think of need of motivation is “Our people are not working as we expect, they are not “committed”, they are not taking “ownership” so on and so forth.”
I am sure we all know how much time & money most of the organizations spend on team motivation or team building. This is one of the most popular training in the Industry both for HR and the training companies.
But what is the real outcome? Do team building activities work? Does the effect last long? What is the real benefit of the efforts, time & money spent? Does it create real high performing teams? What is your own experience?
I am sure most of us will acknowledge, those are at best good outing opportunities but certainly not an effective mechanism for enhancing the bonding or team motivation. Most team building exercises just provide an outing-mostly done at an offsite location; a time away from work engaged in some sports of games or similar activities. An entire training industry is built and been busy around this one aspect.
Yet I see what companies get is a what I call a “Tick mark Training”. The sponsor is happy he/ she has done something for the team. HR is happy, they have provided one more training -a count in their total numbers and the bosses are happy because they think it would increase the productivity and efficiency. However except for initial few days nothing happens and things move back to where they were.
At leadership level one of the qualities that is expected is “strategic thinking” or “thinking differently”; yet I don’t see leaders both HR and in Business giving enough attention to why in the first place they need to pump in adrenaline externally? Do people join companies to do time pass? Do people join companies to just spend time? If the answer is no; it means,
“Something must be happening within the organizations that is demotivating people and unless it is repaired and changed team motivation is impossible.”
At our company; In-Unison we always try to go beyond obvious, go beyond symptoms. I have termed it as a “FLIP Model”. We flip our thinking from the conventional to unconventional and try to find the real reasons. Most of the times those are deeper inside and even somewhere else than the place were the problem is seen. In relation to Team motivation; here’s our observation & solution approach.
1. Do people know where the business is heading?
Is our company growing? Will there be opportunities for me to grow– get promoted, learn-acquire new skills & upward learning opportunities and earn-higher take home & perks ? This is the basic but most crucial expectation of everyone.
It is all about everyone having a clarity on where the business is heading. It is in this context that the company not only need to be better at strategy but equally communicating well up to the last level of employee. Company Strategy & execution plans must answer “What Is In For Me?(WIIFM)” for every function and every employee. This is the single most crucial & important aspect of people motivation. Take care of this and half the battle is won. However it’s not so simple. The journey begins at the top.
The common finding across industries is strategies are either absent or they get defined and remain only at the top. What comes to the employee is Goals and Targets to chase. People are given targets without involving, equipping and empowering them. The goals are defined without telling what does it means to the business as well as what does it means to me -every employee as an individual.
2. Do people have clarity of “what I am supposed to do”?
People need a purpose. Everyone need to understand “How my work is linked to the company strategy and goals? Where and in what way I am contributing, my team is contributing, my function is contributing”. This not only creates purpose but a feeling of belonginess, a feeling of ownership.
“People are motivated by having a purpose, meaning in what they do. External efforts & training adrenaline can at best excite but can never motivate them”
The company vision & strategy need to be cascaded but not in mere words. It must be done in context of every function and in context of every role and job and individual. This is difficult but certainly not impossible. Once people are explained the context and background in which the strategy is defined with clear outcome expectation; engage people at all levels in defining what is best for their function & how can they contribute to the corporate strategies and goals.
3. Are people Equipped to do their Best?
Besides the clarity aspect, what leaders need to focus is “do we have right environment for people to do their best” . Is the work environment cosy & have we provided required technical or domain training to everyone. Have we provided right equipment’s, tools, software & processes to aid performance and productivity.
This is something that most organizations do well, yet they need to re-look into whether or not this is an area that needs attention or something more and better can be done.
4. Are people Empowered to do their best?
Empowering people is not just about “are people left to manage their work or constantly been told what to do and how to do it? i.e. Micromanaged”. Most people get irritated not just by constant nagging but also by not being provided an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and experience.
Instead of team building outing or throwing them in front of a motivational speaker; what works is getting people together to solve their problems; getting them together to create a future for themselves. Albeit facilitated; such workshops and interventions do create wonders. Allowing them to take decisions within the purview of their zone creates further ownership.
By doing this you are empowering people to “take Ownership”, you are asking them to create plans making them creators and by default everyone is naturally attached & committed to their own creation. However this only adds value once the earlier steps are taken.
“Team motivates and binds together more when you engage them in solving work challenges in a workshop mode than taking them for outing for “monkey jumping” (all sort of sports, games & wired ideas brought in at an outing).
5. Do the leaders & managers lead by example?
Finally, the leaders and managers themselves have to set an example and not become the reason for demotivation & uncertainty.
It is an irony that in many organizations, while leaders and managers expect their people to collaborate; they fight amongst themselves. People at levels observe & notice many such things. You might have come across statements from managers or leaders like “ If a person from x department asks something delay as much as possible or don’t provide the information without asking me”. The personal rivalry, adversaries, enmity, unhealthy competition of managers and leaders sow the seeds of non-cooperation; non-collaboration. This not only impacts the operations but also creates a feeling of uncertainty and suspicion amongst employees. So it wouldn’t be wrong to say;
“Inculcate collaboration amongst leaders & managers first, before expecting it from employees”
In our experience over last five years we have seen this approach creating wonders. In our interventions we always take a route of cascading down the strategies & plans first to explain why and how are those arrived at and then throwing it as a challenge to people “what would you do if you would like to achieve the same”. And believe me, in all cases people brought in more & better ideas that even the owners and leaders could think. They not only took ownership but distributed the responsibilities within themselves. Every engagement has created not just immediate significant boost in the productivity, improved timeliness and quality but a long lasting impact on people’s mind.
Therefore if you are a leader and would like your team motivated, don’t waste your time and money on trainings, FLIP it, act on it & see the difference yourselves!!