Engaging your team

Engaging your team

Have you sussed what makes them tick?

I had some lovely feedback last week from one of my clients relating to a development programme I’m running for his management team. He was referring to some actions taken from the programme and on this occasion it related to finding out what’s important.

Too many managers waste time trying to work out for themselves what motivates people in their team.

But the answer’s quite simple.

Why

Before I talk about how, let’s understand why; why it’s important for you to understand what’s important to your team members.  When you know what’s important to someone about their work, it enables you to ‘manage’ them in a way that helps them feel valued.

Finding out about what people value outside work as well as in work can be a real insight too.

When you know what’s important to someone outside work you’re in a much better position to allocate tasks that will resonate and engage that person. By looking at the attributes and skills that are needed in those situations that could be applied in the workplace. What people get involved in outside work can give you an inkling as to where their strengths lie.

For example, if they demonstrate a creative streak, do they get involved with highly competitive sports or activities, do they have a role of helping the community, supporting and caring.

Rather than making everybody mediocre at everything they do, why not tap into those strengths, talents and passions so they excel in specific areas, and work as a team to bridge the gaps in individuals’ abilities or interests?

Of course, it’s not always be practical or possible, but if you aim to do this wherever you can you’ll soon see your team members engaging more with their work and get the best from them.

Ask the question

One of the exercises I often do as an ice breaker is to get people either talking about or even drawing images of an accolade or something they’re proud of, be that in or out of work and something recent or from years back.  Just by getting them talking about these makes people feel good, as well as helping me get an insight into what’s important to them. This is a great activity to run in a group setting as team mates also see what’s important and often they’ll discover common interests with their colleagues, which help bring them together.

I also do a variation of this with managers asking them to draw their idea of motivation and engagement. Nine times out of ten I get a £, and invariably I get drawings of trophies, and winning, but what’s also interesting is the variety of other ideas and themes that go up too. Pictures of families and friends, trees and mountains, of sporting activities, to name but a few.

Money, money, money

Everyone assumes money is a key motivator. There’s no denying it’s important; I’m sure none of us would work as hard as we do – if at all – if we weren’t getting paid for it. But does it really motivate or engage people? No. But taking it away will definitely leave people demotivated and disengaged.

So messing up their overtime, delaying their pay review, challenging legitimate expenses, or passing them over for promotion without being given a chance will all inevitably have a negative impact. In the same way as any other ‘hygiene factors’ such as safe working conditions, giving them the right tools and resources for the job, avoiding too much red tape.

No one is going to say “wow” when you provide them, but oh boy, will they notice when you take them away.

Are we any different?

When working with managers I often ask them to list the things that motivate and engage them. Then to think about the most challenging team member and write list of what they believe motivates and engages that person.

The first thing of note is that invariably these lists look very different. Why is it that challenge, achievement and personal development often feature on the first list but not the second? And money, job security and making the job easy often feature on the second list but not on the first.

I then go on to ask which one of the lists they think is most accurate. Of course it’s their own! Because nine times out of 10 the manager hasn’t ever asked the question nor had a discussion on what’s important to that person. It’s all based on assumption and perceptions, and sadly these are so often way off the mark.

So is it any wonder then that it’s easy to end up with a disengaged team if we don’t know what will engage them?

Ask the question

Finding out what’s important to people might start at the interview, and can be built upon during one-to-one reviews, informal discussions and meetings.

Being overly direct and asking ‘what motivates you?’ might not get you the information you’re looking for. So reframe the question, to make it more conversational, such as asking what they enjoy about certain tasks and why; how they feel about particular aspects of their job, what they’ve been most proud, or recent achievements at work. Conversely ask about the things that disappoint or frustrate them, and what they’d change if they could.

Ask casually about how their weekend was or what they have planned for the evening ahead or their day off, and show an interest in what they get up to outside of work.

Take action

So, stop trying to suss out for yourself what makes your team members tick. Ask them!

Related content

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Understanding your team video


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