Motivating Your Team: Practical Tips for Leadership

Chances are, you wish your organization or department was doing something just a little bit better than it currently is. We all want to produce the best possible work, give the best customer service, offer the best product, and create the best brands. If you’re in leadership at your organization, you’ve probably struggled at some point to close the gap between how you want your team to operate, and the reality of how they actually perform.  It’s tough, right?


Without a doubt, winning in business is hugely dependent on the team you have in place. Managing a team is partly an art and partly a science, but here are a few tips that might help in building up the team you want:

1. Understand that all people want to be on a winning team.

As a leader, this works in your favor. While it may not always feel like it, your team members ultimately want the same thing you do. There is something deep inside of all of us that wants to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, something that has value beyond what we can individually create, and something that lasts long after we’ve contributed to it.  Remember this (it’ll make the rest easier).

2. Being Mr. Nice Guy is not being nice at all.

In other words, don’t be afraid to rock the boat if the boat needs rocking. If someone is not carrying their weight, they need to be told that, and challenged to step it up. This can be uncomfortable, especially if you are like me and would prefer just to be friends with everyone. But remember–if someone is not living up to their potential, you are actually doing them a disservice if you remain quiet about it.It’s your responsibility as a leader to understand when you have to make an uncomfortable choice for the good of your team member.

If we base everything off the first point, people who want to be on a winning team will want to be challenged to do their best. Constructive criticism can be hard to accept sometimes in the short term, but anyone striving for the best will respect it immensely in the long-term, and your entire team will be better for it.

Pro Tip: Still feeling uncomfortable about this? Think about it this way: Some of the toughest college professors are also the most loved and respected by students who survived their classes. The best football coaches yell constantly, push their players to their physical and mental limits on a daily basis. Watch these guys closely. You’ll see that they’ve mastered the art of challenging their classes/teams, pushing them just hard enough to generate incredible results.

3. Never Assume. Make Expectations Clear.

How do your team members define success? Chances are, it may look different than your opinion of success. We’ve all run into issues and then proclaimed, “but they should have known that!” Maybe they should have…or maybe it’s not as clear as we thought.Setting expectations is one of the best uses of your time as a leader. Once expectations are set, team members are much more prepared to rise to the challenge. If they continue to struggle, both of you will have a much easier time defining what is broken, and you’ll be able to work to correct it.

4. Give your team the tools they need.

Want a guy on your team to race NASCAR? Don’t give him a Honda Civic and expect him to win. Provide the tools, training, and guidance that your team needs to win. It’s good to ask them what they want/need, but it’s also part of your job to understand what they need before they do. Steve Jobs and Henry Ford talked a lot about building products people didn’t know they needed yet. This is pure genius, and needs to be applied to leadership at all levels.

5. Communicate your vision often.

You may not lose sight of your vision, but unless you communicate it often to your team, they might. Integrate your vision into weekly or monthly meetings. Print it out and stick it to the wall. Spray paint it to your car (or maybe not). Frequent communication on your vision is like adding new logs to a fire: you have to do it or the fire goes out.

6. Communicate your vision passionately.

Boring people don’t excite teams. Half-hearted people don’t excite teams. Passionate people excite teams. This is number 6 on the list, but number 1 in importance. If you do nothing else at all, make sure you stay passionate about what you’re working on and your team will follow.

Every organization is different, but the principles in this are applicable to a wide range of scenarios.

What needs to be improved within your team? What are you going to do about it?

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T Fortune

Currently serves as the Director of Project Management for CM, he splits his time between managing CM's team of Project Managers and support staff. While supporting business-development team and driving results for the clients he manages directly.
  • C. Richard

    Great work!