The Best Way to Motivate Your Team

“They just don’t take initiative!”

This was how the conversation began with one of my clients a few weeks ago.

The organization had weathered a lot of change in the past few years and people were fatigued – mentally, emotionally, and physically. The leadership team was beside themselves with trying to figure out what new incentive or benefit they could offer employees to get them more engaged and motivated.

Here’s the thing: external incentives or benefits alone are not enough to motivate people. If you really want to motivate your team, you need to inspire them to do what they do instead of telling them how to do it. When people believe their work matters, when they have a purpose that aligns with the organization’s mission and their leader (you!), they are more creative and productive.

Inspired people are the glue that holds an organization together, especially during crisis and recovery. Inspired people care because their leaders skillfully communicate genuine care.

When you communicate genuinely, you engage your HEART and MIND.

If you haven’t heard it recently, I urge you to listen to the entire speech of Martin Luther King Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963. He didn’t begin with “I have a plan.” Nor did he open with necessary changes. He started by telling us why all people need to bond for a better future.

When you begin your communication with why, you engage the part of the brain most responsible for decision-making, let’s call it the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) part of the brain. This part of the brain searches for data on pleasure versus pain, friend or foe, help or hurt.

The area most responsible for decision-making registers subconscious thoughts, lacks language, uses gut intuition, and heavily influences feelings and drives for survival; it impacts your level of trust.

When you share a more significant cause and higher purpose, you help the people listening to you sift, sort, and decide whether and how much to trust and commit.

If you want your team to take more initiative, cultivate a culture of motivation by focusing on the why and then the how and what.

I’ve got some more thoughts about this I’ll share in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’m super curious about how you see communication in your organization engage the heart and mind. Share your stories with me here and on LinkedIn.