Team Motivation

You cannot motivate frustrated teams if you don’t listen to them. Listening to our people’s frustrations, and helping them overcome their obstacles is how we motivate our people.

To help our people become the best people they can be, we must help them to remove the obstacles in their way. We must help them to solve their problems. However, we must not remove the obstacles and solve the problems for them.

Our role as a highly effective leader is to set our people in the right direction, and assist them on their journey. We must help them to help themselves come to solutions that will overcome their problems, obstacles, and frustrations.

One thing I have learned over the years of being a leader of teams is, the people in my teams have had a lot of frustration. I am sure you have experienced the same, with the teams you have been part of or have led. I have had a lot of frustration over the years when in work, and it is not always built up because of work.

A lot of my frustration has come from things that have happened in my personal life. For example, breaking up with girlfriends or family issues.

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But, what I wasn’t able to do was to talk about my frustration to a leader who was willing to listen. For years, as a leader I didn’t encourage my team to talk about their frustration either.

Not because I didn’t want them to, the reason was I just didn’t think about it. I didn’t think that it was my responsibility to listen to my team about their frustrations they were feeling from their personal lives.

1. A Leader’s Responsibility

Now, I believe it is my responsibility as a leader to listen to my team about anything they want to talk to me about. If they need me to listen to them so they can get things off their chest, then I will be there.

If their frustration is with work issues, personal issues, or any other issues, I wanted to show them that I was there for them. Not just tell them. I wanted to show them.

When I changed my mindset, and I started to show my team that I wanted to listen to them, and help them with their frustrations, I found it easier to get my team’s buy-in. Every person has problems to solve, obstacles to remove, and frustrations to vent.

This was my way of showing my team that I cared about their problems, obstacles and frustrations. I wanted them to know that they didn’t have to try to solve them on their own. I was there for them.

I started to enjoy listening to my team’s frustrations because I knew we were going to get to a solution together. The team actually got excited when they talked of their frustrations with me because they knew we were going to get to a solution too.

If you want to increase your influence with your team, and get their buy-in on any new changes or ideas, stop talking about work all the time. You need to become more personal with your team. Your relationships at work cannot stop at work. To build stronger relationships, and stronger trust, and increase your influence, listen to your people.

By listening to your people, and allowing them to vent their frustrations, you are automatically motivating them. Following your conversation, your team member will be motivated to go back to work, and do a great job for you and for the team.

2. Team Buy-In

When the team are motivated, they are bought-in. When your team are bought-in, it will be a lot easier to leverage their abilities and skills to improve results, and help the organisation.

If you read this section and then carry on working with your team in the same way, and not listening to their frustrations in their life, then the best you will do is communicate with them. If you change your ways, and allow the team to talk to you, and you listen to their frustrations then you are connecting with them.

It is very uncommon in the corporate world for a leader to listen to their team’s frustrations. However, you are not a common leader, you are an uncommon highly effective leader.

When having a conversation with one of our team members and they are talking about their frustrations, we must be very careful to let them do 80% of the talking, and we do 80% of the listening.

That’s the difference between a highly effective leader and a low performing leader when it comes to conversations like this. A highly effective leader opens his/her ears and listens. A low performing leader opens his/her mouth and talks.

When we listen 80% of the time, we are showing our people that we care about them. We are showing them that we want to help them.

I wish I would have known from the very beginning of my leadership career that listening to my team would have more of an impact than talking to them. I wish I would have known that giving my team the opportunity, to talk to me about their frustrations, would motivate them more than anything I would ever say to them.

3. Listen More Than You Talk

But, now, I am really happy that I do know these things, and that I can teach you and many others that listening is far more powerful than talking.

When it is our turn to talk 20% of the time in our conversations, we must be very careful in what we say because what we say really matters to our team. Especially when it comes to a person’s frustrations and problems.

What we say can be the difference between getting our team’s buy-in, creating trust and increasing our influence. Or, losing our team’s buy-in, creating distrust, and decreasing our influence.

To provide you with an illustration of what I mean, I want to present you with two scenarios. One of them really happened with me when I was engineering production manager in Scotland. The other scenario is what really should have happened, but didn’t.

Scenario 1. It is my daily morning brief with the engineering production team at 8:30am. I stand in front them with my presentation behind me.

I say, “Good morning. Erm…come on guys, I have said good morning to you, why aren’t you saying it back? (Silence) Today’s work is on the board, work it between yourselves who is doing what. I will be around to your work area at 1pm to see how you’re getting on. Let’s get to work guys.” I walk out of the room back to my office.

Scenario 2. It is my daily morning brief with the engineering production team at 8:30am. I stand in front of them, and I hand out a copy of my presentation for everyone to see and read.

I say “Good morning guys, I want to thank you again for your contributions last week. You all put in a great effort again, and the senior leaders noticed. I have encouraged them to come to the depot to come and see us, so we can show them what we’re doing.

How was your weekend? John replies, “It was great tom, I took my son to see the football. I reply, “Great, glad you had a nice time. I have printed out the workload for today and assigned each member of the team to the tasks that you have strength in.

If you need my help and assistance please don’t hesitate to ask. I will be walking around to see how everyone is, so if you need to talk to me about anything, just grab me. If you want to share your frustrations with me, I would love to listen and help you. I’m here for you, so let’s all have another great day.”

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What scenario would you rather listen to if that was your leader addressing the team at 8:30am? What scenario would your team rather listen to you say to them at 8:30am? What scenario would inspire you more?

What scenario would you have a better chance of getting your team’s buy-in? What scenario would you trust your leader more from? What scenario would you find it easier to make a contribution to? The answer is easy, Scenario 2.

4. Share Your Vision With Your Team

What we say to our team, and how we share our vision to our people is extremely important when we want to increase our influence. As a highly effective leader, we have followers. Our followers will put their hand up and volunteer to contribute to our vision, and do their best to make it a success.

Our followers will already be bought-in and motivated because we have listened to them and said the right things. They make our vision their own, and make it their mission to achieve the vision.

There is one thing having a vision. It is another thing having a vision with a plan. It is the only thing when we have a vision, a plan, and we consistently act on that plan to bring the vision to life.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

30 thoughts on “Team Motivation

  1. Hi Tom,

    Excellent article, and it’s an important one, not only at the workplace but also in our personal lives. We must learn how to listen when we have a conversation. I find myself having conversations sometimes and instead of the other person listening to me and contribute evenly, I end up listening to them about him,him,him, or her,her,her, and no one else. It feels draining … As a boss it is wonderful to show that you want to listen to your team. It makes the team feel important and cared for. I would always pick scenario 2, never scenario 1.

    1. Hey Christine,

      Thank you for your comment. Means a lot to me for you to say this is an excellent article.

      When we learn to listen, we must listen to understand and not listen to reply. When we listen to understand, our people feel heard. When our people feel heard, they feel cared for. When they feel cared for, trust builds. with trust, we are in a position to lead and increase our influence.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. I found that there are many people who like to think of themselves as leaders
    but are only there for their team when at work.

    It takes a certain type of person to go that extra mile and take on board
    their team’s issues whether they are work-related or not.

    As far as I am concerned this is the difference between a leader and a great leader
    and the team will greatly appreciate it which goes towards good working
    relationships.

    Been a good listener, communicator and motivator are what makes a great leader.

    A great post and thank you for sharing

    1. Hi Mick,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this a great post.

      It really does take a certain person to go that extra mile, somebody who is a leader. However, we all have the ability to influence, so we all have the ability to lead. So therefore, we all have the ability to go that extra mile for others. The question is, do we want to?

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Tom,

    I too, think it’s important to listen to what all your employees have to say. When I was GM, I always worried about my staff when something seemed off. I would normally just ask them to come up to my office, and then I would let them know that I noticed they were different, something was off. Often, it was a simple, “Everything okay?”

    That was all it took for them to divulge into me that something happened the night previous, and soon I was the center of their venting. So many of my managers would take it wrong when staff would vent, often getting upset because once they started venting, they would get animated. I never took it the wrong way, especially if the employee was frustrated with something about the job.

    I would listen to their frustrations, then paraphrase back what I heard to be sure I was correct, and form it into a question. Once I knew that I had the problem right, then I would offer up suggestions. It didn’t even have to be about work, it could’ve been personal as well.

    My staff never complained that I didn’t listen, that’s for sure. They knew they could come to me with anything at all.

    Thanks for sharing this! It was so truthful!

    Katrina

    1. Hi Katrina,

      Thank you for your detailed comment. I’m so pleased that you found value in this article.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences as a GM as there will be others (including me) who will be able to relate to you. This will reassure them that they are not alone in what they’re doing as a manager and that others have worries too. I hope people can learn from you just as much as they learn from me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hi Tom,

    Sharing and talking do play an important role in the office. Most of the time, people are only busy with things they are engaging in, especially for managers and team leaders. There are too many works to complete by the strict deadline for every project, so it seems that people seldom speak their minds about what makes them frustrated at work.

    I happened to meet a good team leader in my previous job, and she was good at listening & giving hands to her team members. No matter what I discussed with her, work-related or personal issues, she would give me advice and encourage me to take some time off to think clearly about them. This resulted that every team member supports her about anything…So, I vouch for what you said here in this post.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Matt

    1. Hi Matt,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article helpful.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with your team leader. Leaders who are good at listening definitely do know how to lead. Listening to understand is one of the biggest traits of a highly effective leader and is one they practice more than most. Keep practicing your listening skills and keep practicing understanding your people.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Great read Tom and one of my biggest professional challenges in truth – listening.

    While listening in all honestly is still a work in progress for me, I’m learning that the more attention I pay to it, the more effectively I’m able to embrace a situation, get by in from team members which in itself helps create a sense of mutual achievement. Kicking a few goals can be pretty motivating so there is clearly a link.

    Some great reminders and useful tips so thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article valuable.

      I appreciate your honesty because listening is a work in progress for everybody. There is nobody who is the perfect listener, we must keep practicing our listening skills every single day. Just remember that you are listening to people to understand them, not listening to reply.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. “You cannot motivate frustrated teams if you don’t listen to them. Listening to our people’s frustrations, and helping them overcome their obstacles is how we motivate our people.” – I wish more managers were educated in this paradigm.

    It’s been nearly 20 years now since I was an employee and working in teams. One of the issues I had was that management had no idea how to motivate people and never listened to what they were being told by their teams.

    Complaints were routinely brushed aside and when management made unrealistic promises to clients, it was the team’s poor performance that was blamed for not meeting deadlines.

    There was one particular software project I was working on where our company had got the contract to rewrite the payroll system for the European Space Agency. Our managers bounded in enthusiastically with the news and asked me and a colleague to independently determine how long the work would take. We each came up with estimates of 8 months.

    The problem was that the managers had promised the ESA that we could do it in two! And they’d made this promise without consulting any of the software staff.

    Their answer to the shortfall in time? We’d all have to work 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week.

    After several weeks of this, one of my colleagues arrived in the office one morning, looked at his PC and burst into tears. Yes, he had a breakdown right then and there. As far as the managers were concerned, this guy had just let the team down and the rest of us would have to take up the slack.

    I saw red, not at my colleague, but at the managers who’d put him in that position and I called them out on it.

    That didn’t go down well and they fired me. They also fired my colleague because they now saw him as unreliable and a liability.

    We both finished our jobs at the company on the same Friday and walked into new jobs on the following Monday.

    When upper management heard about what had happened (they’d been kept out of the loop), they fired the software manager, moved his subordinate into Human Resources and the third manager handed in his resignation.

    The best manager I ever had wasn’t a manager. The guy who’d been hired to manage this other project backed out at the last minute and one of the in-house programmers was handed the task of managing a small group of software contractors like me, Being a tech guy, he knew what we needed and understood why we needed it. And he got, and did what we asked for, once we’d set out our case. We did what was thought to be impossible on that project, and we did it under time and under budget,

    Too many managers are not qualified for the positions they hold and they’re not given any, let alone adequate, training on how to be an effective and competent manager.

    I saw more than my fair share of bad managers in my time in the software industry.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Thank you for your extremely detailed comment. I am pleased that you found this article valuable and that it drew so many memories for you that you felt compelled to write about. It’s a great thing.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to write your detailed comment because there will be a lot of people reading this article who will be able to relate to you. Hopefully they can learn from you just as much as they learn from me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. everyone does get frustrated but it’s what you do with it and how you handle the situations that come at you. It is always good to talk about them to overcome obstacles in life. As a leader, you need to listen to your team and make changes as needed. In team motivation, we can use our skills to talk more about situations that need to be addressed.
    Great topic to talk about and get inspiration to motivate your team.

    Cheers,
    Mathew&Deloris

    1. Hi Mathew and Deloris,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article an interesting topic.

      Listening is so important is we want to motivate our teams. When our people feel heard, they feel cared for. When they feel cared for, trust builds and that is when we can lead and increase our influence.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom
    Great article.

    Listening to your staff is an essential component of being a team leader. I often find that new ideas, tips, hints and constructive feedback from staff to be informative and can lead to progress, motivation, appreciation and excitement when a project needs to be completed by the deadline.

    I use the word excitement because when your employer or manager listens staff become excited about their team leader listening and the fact that some of the ideas or suggestion have been taken on board to try out.

    1. Hi Yvonne,

      Thank you for your comment. It means a lot for you to say this is a great article.

      Listening to understand is far more powerful than listening to reply. When our people feel heard, they feel cared for. When they feel cared for, trust builds. Trust is the foundation of leadership and it is impossible to lead or influence a person without trust.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Great point about leaders listening. Something bad leaders seldom do. And to use active listening where you pay attention and engage people makes a huge difference.
    Good information, thanks
    Mickey

    1. Hi Mickey,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found great points in this article.

      Listening to understand our people rather than listen to reply is so important. When our people feel heard, they feel cared for. When they feel cared for, trust builds. With trust we can lead and increase our influence.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. I love reading your content Tom! It always gives me so much to learn from. I enjoy learning from your past mistakes in leadership and your recommendations of how to improve them. It is totally true that most leaders don’t know how frustrated their teams are and it is a leader’s responsibility to address them. However, I am not too open for the idea of allowing team members come to you as a leader with their personal/family problems. Personally, I have felt super bogged down emotionally with my staff members’ family/life issues. Perhaps it doesn’t work for me because I am way too empathetic. What advice would you give me to better deal with emotional frustrations?

    1. Hi Sasha,

      Thank you for your comment. It means a lot for you to say that you love reading my content so thank you for that too.

      Learning from mistakes is so important to me and for everyone if we see mistakes in the right way. We must see mistakes as opportunities to learn and keep moving towards our goal and our dream. We cannot use mistakes as excuses to give up because that will tell us that we didn’t believe in our dream in the first place.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. Excellent post. If more people took an interest in others and really listened, then, help them with solutions together, the world would be in a much better place. As a trained special education teacher, I was taught to stop doing what I was doing and really listen. I would purposely put my pen or pencil down, fold my hands so I couldn’t fuss with papers, look them in the eye and really listen. And like you said…..listen 80% of the time and then talk 20% of the time.

    This type of listening works wonderfully in all aspects of life, especially in parenting. To be a good parent, you really need to listen.

    Thanks for this article. I think more people would be happier and more productive if the bosses would just listen to their employees and solve issues together.
    Nina

    1. Hi Nina,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you say this is an excellent post, mans so much to me.

      Listening to understand our people is so much more powerful than listening to reply. When we listen to understand, our people feel heard. When our people feel heard, they feel cared for. When our people feel cared for, trust builds. Trust is the foundation of leadership and without it, it is impossible to lead. So build trust and you can increase your influence on your people. The same is true in parenting too, it is exactly the same.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. I met a good team leader in my previous job, and she was good at listening and giving a helping hand to her team members.

    No matter what I was discussing with her, work-related or personal issues, she would give me advice and encourage me to take time to think it over clearly.

    She even did fundraising for me personally when I had a huge drama in my personal life.

    As a result, every member of the team supported her about anything. She was always there to listen.

    1. Hi Lyne,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences with your team leader. There will be a lot of people reading this who will be able to relate to you and had a similar experience as you did. Hopefully they can learn from you just as much as they learn from me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  13. Sometimes getting your team to buy in can be very difficult. If you give them a listening ear and show them that they can trust you and you care, they will definitely be happy with you and be comfortable around you and will definitely open up to you in almost any situation. Giving your team a listening ear is definitely what sets you up there as an effective leader and it goes a long way to help.

    It is definitely the responsibility of the leader to listen, address and possibly help fix these issues. Involving them and asking them for their opinion will make them feel more important an involved and i believe this could boost their efficiency in a positive way

    This a really great and detailed article and thank you for sharing this with us.
    Keep up the good work

    Cheers

    1. Hi Femi,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this a detailed and great article, means a lot to me.

      When we listen to our people, we must listen to understand, not listen to reply. When we listen to understand, our people feel heard. When they feel heard, they feel cared for. When they feel cared for, trust will build. Without trust, it is impossible to lead, as trust is the foundation of leadership. Build relationships and build trust if you want to lead and increase your influence.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  14. Very well said Tom. 2 parts that I found insightful were “We must help them to solve their problems. However, we must not remove the obstacles and solve the problems for them” and your part on listening more than you talk. I’ve had plenty of supervisors but the ones that stand out in my experience were the ones who actively listened and empowered me to make my own decisions. That has really helped me grow as an individual.

    And as for listening more than talking… too often it seems like people want to insert their point of view before listening to the whole issue. I feel better when I’m allowed to express my frustrations wholly, without interruption, and feel like I’m being heard. Those leaders who can do that, allow the individual the space to vent, and offer some helpful advice will be a leader who inspires others. Another great article on leadership Tom, thanks for sharing your expertise!

    1. Hi Dereck,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article insightful, means so much to me.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences with your supervisors as there will be many people who read this who will be able to relate to you and hopefully learn just as much as from you as they learn from me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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