How to Foster a Powerful Motivational Climate

Motivating others is a challenge that every leader faces. However, leaders often approach the issue from an inaccurate perspective. They ask, “How can I motivate my team?” What they should be asking is, “How can I create a motivating climate around my team?” The difference is subtle, but the second question is profoundly more accurate. It allows solutions which are actually in a leader’s control. Fundamentally, we can’t motivate others.

Where Motivation Comes From

Researchers are clear about what motivates people. Edward Deci and Richard Ryan are the researchers behind the most widely accepted theory on motivation, Self-Determination Theory (SDT). From SDT we know that there are three primary forces (termed “basic psychological needs”) which drive human motivation: 1) autonomy, 2) competence), and relatedness.

When all three of these needs are supported and fostered, high quality forms of motivation and engagement are found. It is in these types of environments where individual performance, persistence, and creativity are enhanced.

Great Leaders Set A Motivational Climate

Great leaders intentionally leverage and foster all three drivers of human motivation – autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Leaders provide opportunities for team members to make choices and decisions (big and small) to move the organization forward. They help empower individuals to succeed by ensuring they have the requisite skills needed to do the job. Lastly, great leaders help each team member feel like a valued member of the team.

4 Proven Strategies To Foster A Powerful Motivational Climate

The most effective leaders utilize 4 proven strategies to foster the motivation of their teams.

1. Communicate a Compelling Vision

A compelling vision establishes a reference point for all team members to weigh their decisions against. Once team members know where the organization is going, they can get behind that game plan.

This is often the buy-in leaders are seeking from their teams. Engagement begins with vision. If leaders aren’t clear on the end state, creating a motivational climate for your team is near impossible.

2. Empower Individuals to Make the Organization Better

This strategy builds upon the need for autonomy. When each individual is given a responsibility to make the organization better, he or she takes ownership.

According to an account I heard of one car manufacturer, assembly line workers took ownership of improving the manufacturing process and eliminating safety hazards. Ultimately, this resulted in a better business process, better product, and a better bottom line.

As an additional benefit, this reinforces initiative, creativity, and problem solving. These are behaviors you want team members demonstrating anyway.

Most importantly, leaders must listen to their team member’s perspectives, input, and ideas. Obviously, not all input will be implemented, but your team must know they will be heard. Otherwise, your words about ownership are whispers in the wind.

3. Ensure Team Members are Set Up for Success 

This strategy builds upon the need for competence. The best leaders understand that their main responsibility is to make their team successful. A part of this is ensuring individuals have what they need in order to succeed.

Do individuals have all the skills, expertise, and abilities they need to be their best? What additional training would help them up their game? Do they need professional development, mentoring, or coaching?

Do team members have all the resources they need to be successful? This would include supplies, materials, software, and even personnel. If you team is understaffed then they aren’t set up for success.

Sometimes this may mean removing obstacles, like competing responsibilities or dysfunctional red tape.

Do team members know what is expected? Do they know what their key tasks are? If not, they aren’t set up for success.

Provide encouragement and support as you reinforce the skills, abilities, and effort team members are using to succeed.

4. Explain How Each Individual Plays a Vital Role in Achieving Overall Success

This strategy builds upon the need for relatedness. Everyone wants to know that they matter, that they make a difference, that they are valued members of a team.

Leaders who can articulate how everyone contributes to overall success will tap into a deep motivational factor at the core of each individual on a team.

How does the friendliness of your front office staff contribute to the bottom line of the organization? Connect the dots. Show them how their attitude, efficiency, and pleasantness helps to secure and retain client relationships. Show each team member why they matter.

As a bonus, this helps everyone to trust and respect their colleagues, regardless of role or position. Everyone matters.

Cultivate a Rich Motivational Climate

If an industry built on an assembly line can get buy-in and foster motivation of its workers, so can you. Assess yourself and your team. Which of these strategies can you improve on?

Dig in, communicate well, and create a motivational climate throughout your organization. When team members are well equipped, given ownership, and believe they truly matter, they will work their tails off for you. Use these four proven strategies to foster tremendous buy-in, motivation, and engagement in your team.

Question: What are other strategies for fostering a powerful motivational climate? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Learn more about creating a motivational climate:

Please note: I encourage reader discussion, however, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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