The Untapped Powers of a Motivated Team (and how to unleash them)

A champion team will always beat a team of champions. — John McGrath

Whenever I read such quotes about motivation, I am instantly reminded of what a motivated team, with a mission at hand and a vision in the head, can achieve.

And how much, a team with lackluster motivation can bite its own tail.

At some point, you might also have experienced this — your team members already have the champion’s recipe, they’re just not hyped about it.

As leaders, when we see someone underperforming or unable to do their best, we start associating their performance with their actual competence and their visible potential with their absolute potential.

In most cases, that is a mistake that we “management people” do. Whereas, the real cause may be something as simple as a lack of motivation.

Stressing on it again — lack of motivation isn’t something too serious, but fixing it can bring about extraordinary results.

Let’s understand what motivation can do to your team, how to identify demotivated employees, and ultimately, some definite ways to motivate employees for the best results.

Motivation is a very abstract thing, but with real-world impacts. I am not a big fan of putting something as virtuous as workplace motivation into facts and figures to prove a point. But a motivated team actually shows measurable signs of progress that are simply hard to ignore.

While you can easily guess what motivation brings to the table, I’d still like to point a few things out because the “data says so”.

Higher Team And Individual Productivity

When employees develop a natural liking for their work and find a sense of engagement in their tasks, they gain an inherent motivation to be productive.

Engagement is both the cause and effect of motivation. Numerous surveys have highlighted how engagement positively impacts work performance and productivity.

Hay Group’s (a global HR consultancy) research on employee motivation deduced that engaged employees are 43% more productive. The study found out that engaged consultants at the organization’s regional offices generated $238,000 on average, whereas disengaged consultants only made $166,000.

Another survey by the Aberdeen Group depicted that companies that have engaged employees could add a 26% higher annual increase in their revenue.

Belief In The Company’s Vision

While your team members may bring their unique perspectives to work, it always helps when they’re clear about the company’s vision.

When an employee “shares the company’s vision” — as in they find the company’s work aligned with their personal beliefs, they tend to be more devoted to their work.

A study reported that more than 50% of US workers derive a sense of identity from the job they do. If they’re motivated by what their job makes them feel, they’ll want to take care of it, as if it was their moralistic duty and not contractual employment.


This is the most direct impact of motivation on the team, and the company at large.

The Engagement Institute’s report, DNA of Engagement, highlights that disengaged employees incur an annual cost of $450 billion to organizations worldwide. That figure is close to Thailand’s entire GDP in 2017.

For your company, this would mean a sizable number of resources are going into work that is not producing the desired outcome. Or in other words, the cost-efficiency is low.

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It also shows in employee turnover. Engaged employees tend to depict an 87% higher retention rate, which saves the company resources by avoiding re-hiring expenditure.

Positive Company Culture

Motivated employees exhibit greater confidence at work and are often focused on finding solutions to challenges, rather than cribbing about them.

An office space where people actively talk about strategies, methods to achieve more and value consistent efforts, ultimately breeds a sense of positivity.

Such an environment counterbalances work stress, reduces negative thoughts and makes your team members struggle less while achieving their best.

At the beginning of the article, I pointed out that a great many times, lack of motivation is the reason behind things going sideways at the workplace. But how do you know for sure, it’s a lack of motivation and not something else?

Although one’s natural judgment may be enough to decipher signs of declining motivation, there are objective ways to answer this question. Here are a few ways by which you can identify low levels of motivation at work.

  • Regular Performance Reviews — Performance review is a great starting point to figure out low motivation issues.

The two key factors in any performance review that significantly highlight motivation are productivity and quality of work.

Also Read: How To Become A Productivity Pro: 6 Tips That Actually Work

As motivated employees are also deeply engaged, they tend to generate high-quality work and are usually more productive.

By discussing these factors with the employees through constructive feedback sessions, it is possible to identify the core reasons for lack of motivation.

  • Anonymous Employee Surveys — The most obvious way is to ask the employees directly how motivated do they feel on a day-to-day basis. It may seem easy but can be difficult to achieve.

The survey design needs to take several types of questions into account with both open-ended questions, and comparative ranking.

Anonymity can play a major role in enabling employees to come forward and answer the survey questions.

  • Other Clues — Apart from performance reviews, there are several other clues hidden in day-to-day work-related activities that suggest that lower motivation at work.

A quick example of this would be the customer feedback received on services. It could be one of the sources to identify how diligently the employee is participating in providing the service or treating the customer.

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Ground Rules For Motivating Your Team

Motivation is cultivated in the overall environment by meeting workplace challenges and working on sources of demotivation. It can’t be imposed on the team members.

Motivation is borne out of a person’s personal experiences and beliefs, which may remain far from any corporate control.

Motivation is of two primary types;

  • Intrinsic — The kind of motivation that comes from within a person. The natural desire to engage at work, and the self-fulfillment that the person receives by putting in their best efforts.
  • Extrinsic — It refers to the external factors that motivate team members to bring out the best in themselves. It could be anything from a bi-annual bonus to regular compensation incentives that the team is exposed to. Sometimes, even the fear of missing a deadline.

Understand What Really Motivates Your Team

As a manager or team leader, your perception of your team members plays a big role in how you motivate them.

You may construe their attitudes in a different light without realizing it.

For instance, they may not be boding well with the stringent goal setting that you feel is necessary to keep them motivated to deliver on time.

Or maybe they are not okay with open feedback sessions which you may feel are important for improving team communication.

A difference in perception can exist when it comes to management styles.

Therefore, the first step will be to ensure that your idea of motivation is the same as your team’s. It’s important to communicate your ideas with team members and keep everyone on the same page.

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Build a “Meaningful Work” Environment

A question to ask yourself — Apart from the salaries, and a pre-baked social life, what are the team members gaining out of their work?

If you’ve not heard your team members say that they find their work meaningful, or there is a deeper purpose than just getting the tasks done, then there lies the problem.

When people find meaning — a sense of accomplishment in their work, they’re motivated to push the boundaries of their ability.

The same is elaborated in a Harvard publication, which found out that there is an intrinsic relationship between quality of life and meaning at work.

“We have found that people’s work lives are enriched greatly when they feel they are making progress on work that is meaningful” — Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer, HBR

Further solidifying the claims, the international best-seller Man’s Search for Meaning also talks about how, in the presence of meaning, people can overcome brutal struggles, and live a more valuable life.

While not all employees would want to make work their life’s mission, you can still show how their work is meaningful to the people it serves. You can build avenues by which team members identify how they’re making an impact on the customers, company, and society at large.

Starbucks Coffee’s mission statement is a befitting example;

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”

The statement elucidates the impact each employee makes, and the meaning each coffee cup withholds. This contributes to the mental image that your team members develop about their work, helping them find a riveting source of motivation.

Refer to and Select a Motivation Theory

Even I was surprised when I read that motivation in itself is a full-blown dominion of research in psychology. There are several notions as to what is the best way to keep your team members motivated, here are the top three;

Sirota’s Three-Factor Theory

  • It bases motivation on three factors:
  • Equality
  • Achievement
  • Camaraderie
  • By integrating workplace equality, recognizing achievements, and propagating the sense of Camaraderie, you can develop strong workplace motivation.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs lays down the fundamental expectations that every human has from their life.
  • By carefully examining if your employees are successfully fulfilling these needs at the workplace, you can work towards keeping them motivated.
  • When these needs are met, employees feel a higher degree of job satisfaction which reflects in greater workplace motivation.

McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory

  • The theory focuses on three factors with one of them being dominant in a team environment;
  • Achievement
  • Affiliation
  • Power
  • By understanding what your team needs the most, you can center your management style to suit the motivation goals.

Building a Motivating Pay Structure

Let’s not forget that compensation is a great motivator, and the absence of a rewarding pay structure can implicitly reduce job satisfaction.

Whenever work gets too challenging or discomforting, you tend to question — is this suffering worth the money? Is my investment of effort being aptly rewarded?

These moments of self-introspection point towards the fact that employees gain a great deal of extrinsic motivation from their compensation.

Research shows that helping employees understand how their performance is being rewarded can have a significant impact on motivation.

A Workplace Index survey shows that 84% of employees who can clearly chalk out their performance incentivization schemes feel a greater sense of motivation.

The bottom line is to;

  • Build pay structures that recognize performance
  • Help employees identify how they’re being rewarded
  • Offer pay structures that comprehensively meet industry standards

In some sense of the world, Motivation, Engagement, Satisfaction, and Meaning, all relate to Happiness.

There may be many secrets to happiness but it’s no secret that happiness drives people on their life’s mission.

In team environments, when the members are motivated, they feel closer to the sense of happiness. Which empowers them to unleash their inner potential, and contribute their best to the team’s goals.

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Author Bio:

Sandeep Kashyap is the Founder and CEO of ProofHub — leading project management and collaboration software. He’s one person always on the lookout for innovative ideas about filling the communication gap between groups, teams, and organizations. You’ll find him saying, “Let’s go!” instead of “Go!” many times a day. That’s what makes him write about leadership in a way people are inspired to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.

Also Read:

1. Doing This One Thing Will Help You Become A Better Leader

2.Employee Exit — How To Turn Tricky Situation Into An Opportunity

3. Cringeworthy Things Great Leaders Do NOT Do!

The Untapped Powers of a Motivated Team (and how to unleash them) /p>