Motivating teams through change is a challenge that every manager will face year in year out because businesses keep changing. Everything around the business changes – competition, business environment, customer needs and wants etc – so the business has to change to survive and thrive. So as a Manager, from junior to senior, we are going to constantly be faced with motivating our teams through change.
In this article, we take you through eight factors that – if you get right – will result in your team being a lot more motivated through a period change – which can make a massive difference to you – the manager.
Each person, ourselves and our team members react a little differently to the prospect of change. Some view change as exciting filled with new possibilities and challenges and some view it as scary and filled with the effort of learning new skills or ways of doing things.
So how do we as managers and leaders keep our teams motivated during these periods of change?
Factor 1: How do you feel about the change?
Depending on your management position, you may be the instigator of the change, or more likely, you will be subject to change being imposed on you AND you have to implement these changes successfully with your team.
You will be going through the same emotions and have the same reactions that your team are likely to experience. If you are expected to implement change, then getting as comfortable and bought into the changes as possible is a great starting point.
Learn your way:
Spend time with your manager to understand the changes, why the changes are being made and what the end goal is. Take time to reflect on your emotions and reactions before speaking with your team.
If you are bought into and are championing the changes that you are required to implement, then the team will be much more willing to do the same. If you have doubts or are opening hostile to the change, then your team are much more likely to follow your example.
Manage your own emotions and reactions before starting to motivate your team through the change.
Factor 2: What motivates each team member?
We are all different. Therefore, each team member is motivated by different things. When you know what motivates each team member, you can work how to provide these motivating factors for each person.
Common motivating factors include:
- The opportunity to do more interesting work.
- Getting greater recognition
- To see the end result of their work
- Getting more responsibility
- Or having more opportunities for development
And there are many others.
The best way to find out what motivates each staff member is to ask. Discuss what they are looking for, what they enjoy and what motivates them.
Once you understand each team member’s motivations, planning some changes of responsibilities – within the wider changes being implemented – can be a great way to meet some of each person’s motivational requirements.
Try to help each person and be seen to be helping each person. It is great to have a manager trying to look out for and develop you.
Factor 3: Communicate changes openly and honestly
The fear of the unknown and the potential upheaval that comes with change, is usually worse than the actual change itself. Once you know and understand what is happening, then you can start working through what it will mean for you and what you need to do to adapt. You can plan and take action.
For this reason, make sure that you tell your team members openly and honestly of the changes that will need to be implemented.
Use different ways of communicating this to team members. Some examples:
- Talk through the changes in one-to-one meeting with each team member. Ask for their questions and concerns and provide the best answers you can
- Talk about the changes in team meetings, and what it will mean for the team
- Write a summary of the changes and email it round to the team members
Different communication styles will help the different team members take in the planned changes.
Talk through the ways in which team members can help make the changes a success. Tell the team why the changes are happening, what it will mean for the company, the team, and the individuals.
The more knowledge and understanding the team members have, then the more comfortable they will be, and the more motivated they will be.
Factor 4: Know your team and who will motivate others
Which of your team members will be active supporters of any change they believe in and which will be cautious or resistance towards change?
Work out where each of the team members sit. When you start talking to each person, watch their body language and who is silent and who is asking questions. This gives an indication of their mental state.
Put in extra effort early in the planning process to explain the changes to the potential supporters and answer all their questions.
Or even better, get them involved in planning how to implement the changes. Get them on board as quickly as possible. They will help you persuade the remaining team members and peer pressure is a powerful motivator.
Once you have supporters of the change on side, you can put more attention to mitigating the detractors or working through their fears and objections with them, so they move towards becoming supporters.
Some of the strongest supporters can be those who were initially sceptical.
Factor 5: Remove de-motivating factors
There is nothing worse than having to do boring, repetitive tasks with no apparent purpose. It’s a good idea to regularly ask team members:
- What tasks or activities should we keep?
- What should we change?
- What should we stop?
These are three simple questions, which give a surprising list of potential tasks to change or stop. Take as many annoying tasks out of the team as practical.
The easier you make for your team members to carry out their day to day activities and reach the team goals, the more motivated and effective your team will be.
Factor 6: Create opportunities for development and challenge
Wider changes can create opportunities for you to develop different members of your team. New opportunities to learn and new challenges are great motivators for many of the team. It is so important to make the most of these opportunities.
For instance – which team members can be given additional responsibilities in helping plan and implement the wider changes? Can you set the goal to reach and then coach the team to develop how they are going to get to that goal? This is a great way to develop problem solving skills amongst the team as well as execution skills needed to turn ideas and plans into reality.
Are you able to move responsibilities and tasks around the team so that everyone has something new to get their teeth into, while playing to their strengths as much as possible?
Of course introducing too much additional change may also be a no-no from a capacity or delivery point of view so use your judgement.
Take opportunities to develop the team when you have them. Firstly you get a stronger, more capable team and secondly you have a more motivated team.
Factor 7: Demonstrate support for your team during change
There can be nothing worse than telling the team to achieve x, y and z and then not helping them – when they need help – with how they are going to achieve those results.
Book in a weekly one-to-one meeting with each of your direct reports and ask your direct reports to do likewise with theirs. Use these meetings to help mentor and coach your reports on how to achieve the goals that they have been set.
I have always thought two heads are better than one in solving problems. Even if you are not the expert, there is a lot you can do to help your team members be as successful as possible.
The other part of supporting the team is protecting them from less important tasks, projects, and requests to ensure they are not swamped and have the capacity to deliver against the priority goals set.
Manage the expectations of your managers and other teams and stakeholders that are involved in any changes being implemented. The better stakeholders outside the team are managed, the less challenges, requests and other issues that interfere with your team’s ability to deliver on the changes that they are responsible for.
Protect you team and invest the time in supporting each of your team members do they best that they are able to. Both are great steps towards keeping the team engaged and motivated.
Factor 8: Celebrate the successes
Everyone likes to be told they have done a good job. Positive reinforcement works so much better that criticising what has not gone as well.
In fact, studies have shown that to keep a colleague or team member happy – you need to compliment at least three times as much being critical. Three times. How many managers achieve this? A surprisingly small number I would bet.
Make sure that when you celebrate success you are specific – not general – with your comments. This makes them much more valuable and appreciated. Look out for opportunities to praise team members for work well done or demonstrating great behaviour.
There are lots of ways of celebrating successes.
- Sending an email praising work
- When you are chatting by the water cooler
- In your one-to-one meetings (praising in private)
- In public, in front of other team members
- In public, in a formal team meeting for instance
Use a mix of different ways to celebrate successes. The more you do this, the more the team will feel appreciated and motivated to do more.
Compliment a least three times as much as being critical and be specific with your compliments.
So there you have eight important factors in motivating teams. This is not an exhaustive list, but it will give you are very good start in helping you motivate your team through change or just in the day to day work.
You can achieve amazing things with a good and motivated team. Make the best of the opportunity by keeping their motivation and development up.
This does take work and effort on your part. What you get back pays for this effort many times over.
Take a look at our previous article, to learn how to, Manage your team through a period of change.