The beauty of the status quo is that everything is clear and predictable. The danger in the status quo is that the world refuses to stand still and without a willingness to embrace change, things can quickly become stale and, for example, business teams can lose their motivation. In my work with teams over the past decade, I’ve discovered several highly effective ways to break through the inertia of the status quo to recharge and motivate listlessly performing teams.
1. Scare them a little (just a little)
One of the best ways to set the table for motivating a team is to take them out of their comfort zones. When I tell a group of executives that they’re going to write (and sing!) a song, I can safely say I’ve taken them beyond what they typically encounter at work. After this brief moment of shock, however, I’m quick to set up a psychologically safe environment where everyone feels equally encouraged to contribute. The idea behind scaring people a little at the beginning is that it grabs their attention and all other distractions tend to fall away in service of the task at hand. Then once the task is accomplished and the fear has dissipated, a blend of relief and exhilaration steps in to take its place.
2. Give them a challenge they’ll need each other to complete
The power of teams is in their combined ability to achieve. When a team is demotivated, it often has to do with forgetting the inherent power of collaboration. Asking an individual who’s never written a song to do it on their own would be a recipe for confusion and likely a certain degree of resentment. However, bringing a team together to contribute their individual experiences and skills to the challenge results not only in great lyric-writing and a good amount of laughter but also in an elevated sense of accomplishment. Sometimes it’s as simple as reminding a team how well they’re capable of performing when they rely upon each other.
3. Bring in someone from the outside
One of the things I enjoy most about working with business teams is that when I’m brought in, I rarely know anything about the internal dynamics of that day’s team. This enables me, as the facilitator, to treat everyone equally without fear of straining a work relationship by not showing the proper deference. In order to get a team back up and functioning well, each participant needs to remember that they need the others to be at their best. By being immune to any and all office politics, an outsider, such as myself, can help level the playing field and improve team morale.
Teams are the lifeblood of productive and profitable organizations. However, they are not a “set it and forget it” endeavor. Teams need to be nurtured and challenged in equal measure in order for them – and the individual members – to thrive. When a team’s motivation flags, it’s a clear sign that attention must be paid. Motivation, more than the skills of any individual team member, is critical to a team’s – and ultimately a company’s – success. The above recommendations are designed to help bring demotivated teams back up to their high-functioning best.
Find out more about Cliff’s innovation & creativity workshops for business teams and organizations.