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Question: How do I motivate my team during the second lockdown?

Answer: You don't...

I’ve seen a lot of articles recently, aimed at managers and team leaders, which provide guidance on how to keep people motivated while working from home during lockdown.  The points they contain are absolutely valid; communication is key, be open and transparent, create virtual social events…the list goes on.

As new managers (and maybe even more established managers), we tend to put an immense amount of pressure on ourselves to take responsibility for everything and everyone. Right now, that pressure might feel overwhelming. Not only are we trying to deal with our own emotions, but we’re trying to manage how our team feels too. 

Say you have a team of five. That’s five unique individuals, all with different experiences, all with different perspectives, all with different beliefs. What motivates one person will not motivate another, and vice versa. Are you really being fair on yourself to think that you can come up with ways to motivate each individual while also managing your other responsibilities? 

So as we brace ourselves for the second UK lockdown, what if we flipped the question? 

Rather than:

“How do I motivate my team?”

What if we changed it to:

“How do I inspire my team to motivate themselves?”

Did you feel the weight on your shoulders suddenly get a little lighter?! 

The benefits of this approach are two-fold; not only does it remove some of the pressure on you, it also becomes so much more empowering for your team. 

But how do you inspire your team to motivate themselves? It’s so easy for us to go straight into problem solving mode, coming up with complex answers, overthinking and overcomplicating. Tip: keep it simple and ask them! 

“What is going on for you right now from a personal and professional perspective?”

The insights that you can get from this question alone can be profound. But you may need to prompt a little more (how many of us are guilty of saying everything’s fine when we really feel like we’re sinking?). This is where clean questions can be invaluable:

And when X happens, what’s that like?
And where could X come from?
And what else?
In what way?

The key here is to guide people to come up with their own answers which will not only empower them but will also make the outcome much more likely to happen. Afterall, how often do you respond positively when it feels like ideas have been forced upon you versus when you come up with the ideas yourself? 

Motivation is exactly the same. There is no blueprint or off the shelf package you can wheel out. We need to identify our own unique ways to keep ourselves motivated and then be empowered to do what we need to do in order to reach that state.

Take me as an example. Having previously worked in an office, I might have sat at my desk for an hour or so before going to a meeting or making a cup of coffee and chatting to whoever was in the kitchen at the same time. At that time, I had no idea that the impact of being able to have that change of environment was actually incredibly motivating, something that isn’t as easy when you’re in your own home, with the same person or people. Therefore for me, a big motivator while working from home is having the freedom to take myself off for a walk with my dog or jumping on the spin bike whenever I like. As an employee, you may feel like you have to be chained to your desk from 9 – 5 but as a manager, you can help to break these patterns and encourage people to take ownership of their time and their outputs, helping to increase not only their motivation but also their productivity. 

It is your role as a manager (in my humble opinion) to help your team unlock what really motivates them. It might not be something that they ever thought would be an option so clean questions (i.e. without any assumptions or judgement) may be needed to bring this to the forefront. The chances are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you discover. 

Regardless of circumstance, it’s always worth remembering the power in a well thought out question. When we begin in a managerial role, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of thinking you should always have the answer. The truth is, you will get so much more out of your team by asking them great questions. And what’s more, they will love you for it!

Want further support in your new role as a manager? Kate combines her first hand experience and qualifications as a coach and Master NLP Practitioner to help those new to management positions to develop the mindset and skills which will elevate them in their role. Read more about her leadership coaching here or book your free discovery call.

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