I work with a large team of 160+ volunteers and this post is the result of my research to improve team motivation as well as my attempts to improve team motivation. Basically, this is what truly works.
John Maxwell once said that you want to become a good leader you should learn by leading volunteers. And was he ever right… The core of my business is to work with highly motivated individuals who are eager to take action. But when I work with volunteers, the game changes. Once you can’t rely on monetary motivation, how can you ensure that even when life happens or priorities change, people still show up and do their best?
Whether you work with volunteers, paid staff or clients, let’s have a closer look at how you can keep them motivated to get things done.
1. Paint a picture
I can’t start any other way than by reminding you about the power of vision. The Bible says that “Without vision people perish.” It’s not enough for a leader to have a vision, they MUST communicate it to their team.
Even better… create a vision WITH your team. Let them have a say about where you’re heading and what the result should be. If you work with a small team, it can be very simple. You call a meeting and discuss the things that are important to each team member. Where they would like the company or project to go? This can be more challenging with a larger team, but with today’s technology you can send out a quick questionnaire or survey to get the process going.
When creating your vision, keep it realistic and achievable. Right after having no vision, the second biggest mistake is to have a vision that’s out of reach and out of hope. Keep it believable, yet something that requires a stretch.
Don’t just communicate the vision once, make sure it becomes part of your operation. Your goal is to have it engrained in your team’s minds and hearts. Turn your team into a team with a mission to help them stick longer.
2. Recognize your team members
Get to know your people well enough to know what they appreciate (if you’ve ever received a gift that you can’t use or eat, you know what I mean). Some people need to hear you say ‘Thank you!’, others need public recognition, while another needs a gift. Those are three ways to show recognition to your team members to keep them motivated. All work.
First, you can set a criteria for rewards. Most sales teams use this strategy. If you make a certain volume of sales, you will receive a specific reward. This works great, especially if you set team goals. There’s nothing better than a good team celebration after a great event. Or chocolates for those who helped out on a week night. Ideas are only limited by your imagination…
- Birthday cards, gifts or celebrations
- New baby cards, baby showers, baby gifts
- Wedding cards, wedding gifts
- Get well cards
- Sympathy cards
- New positions – after specific training or achievement
- Complimentary training – for elite group of achievers only (e.g. best performing team in your company)
- Anniversary cards or gifts – survived first year with your team, 25 years with your company
Secondly, you can give some unexpected rewards. Who doesn’t like surprises, right? This is where you send random cards or appreciate somebody just because…
- you’ve noticed great behaviour or achievement
- you’ve been hearing positive stuff about a specific person for a while now
- you were thinking about a specific team member and wanted to tell them how much you appreciate them
- you’ve heard about the impact they had on somebody else
No matter what your budget is, remember that a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way, as long as your team knows that it’s sincere. Focus on seeing the good in your team, help them grow and evolve. Yet, don’t shy away from dealing with mistakes. Your team needs a leader who cares, but also a fair one. Great team members will move on if they have to pull the workload of another team member that’s not doing the job. Sometimes letting go is necessary, but that’s a topic for another day.
3. Put them in charge
People usually don’t care unless the task, project or victory becomes personal. No matter what motivates your team, it’s important to let them know that they CAN make things happen. One of the biggest shifts when it comes to motivation happens when people take ownership of the project or program. Once they take responsibility of the result, and you give them the authority to make things happen, you will start reaping the benefits.
I found that people like to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They like to contribute to meaningful projects (VISION), they are glad when others notice (APPRECIATION) and they go where they can make things happen (AUTHORITY).
Question: What else keeps you motivated as a team member and helps you create your best results? Let me know in the comments below.
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