The Essential Functions of Building and Sustaining Motivation Within a Team
One of the key terms in team building is motivation. It is a term we hear often and generally we think of motivation as something that invigorates us to action. However, what exactly does motivation mean and how does that play into the team building experience?
Motivation involves individuals being invested, integrated and engaged in the team building process. The question to ask is, “What makes individuals do a particular thing specifically?” Every decision we made is filtered through a process and evaluating our needs and potential consequences. The issue of motivation is both simple and complex at the same time. Much of what observe that takes place in human behavior and team building is either directly or indirectly related to motivation.
In understanding motivation, we can be better prepared to lead a group through a positive team building experience. Working as part of a team helps groups to accomplish a specific task. Individuals that are part of a team need to know what the purpose of the team is, who the team members are, what the authority of the team is, what is the reward and risk of participating in the team and how will individuals be better off as a result of participating as a member of the team.
Once we have some of these fundamental issues answered, a team can work together in developing a structure in forming. One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes individuals are working on teams voluntarily and sometimes individuals are working on teams not by personal choice such as when we are working on teams at work. As such, motivation can rise and fall based on numerous factors.
The team’s overall purpose is one of the factors that can affect the motivational level of the team. Having a clear purpose is an essential element for teams functioning well together. Individuals working on the team need to have a sense of ownership, vested interest or personal buy-in to the overall team purpose. Short-term motivation might be possible without such a purpose for an individual, however, the level of motivation may increasing diminish as time continues.
Another important factor in for team motivation is the level of challenge provided to the individual team members. Oftentimes, individuals enjoy working with environments that provide some degree of challenge. Having a challenging opportunity present can be motivating for teams. However, if an overly challenging issue is present, it may appear to the team to be impossible to overcome which will result in the opposite results. If the challenge appears to be too elementary, it may be viewed as insulting to team members with a high level of skills and knowledge. An appropriate level of challenge for teams can be stimulating and maintain motivation within the team.
Camaraderie is a third factor needed for successfully motivating a team. Highly effective groups tend to pay attention to both the technical and personal needs of the group. Teams should not be only highly functional in their performance, but also in their interpersonal relationships in order to be well balanced which has a direct impact on the team’s motivational level. Individuals enjoy working in team environments where there is fellowship, professional friendships and loyalty. Working together with individuals that like each other and desire to work hard in order to develop and maintain not only the team, but also the relationships. It is oftentimes a lot easier to support other team members when you share a positive professional relationship with them. In addition, open and direct communication flows smoothly within these types of teams.
A fourth important factor in motivating a team involves responsibility. Responsibility helps to stimulate a team by giving them ownership of a specific area. With responsibility also comes the authority to make necessary changes when needed. When a team appropriately has both responsibility and authority surrounding their task, they tend to maintain motivation over a longer period of time.
Finally, personal development and team development can provide another basis for sustained motivation. When people feel they are proceeding forward, acquiring new skills and knowledge, adding to their experience base, and expanding their minds, motivation tends to remain high. Personal development adds value to the individual, enhancing self-esteem and self-worth. In turn, team members and team leaders should look for opportunities that help add knowledge and skills. A good technique is to simply ask members what they would like to learn from their work with the team and then listen for areas of possible development.
In working with teams, a good leader can be an effective agent for change and for motivation in the short term, but the best leaders create the conditions for the team to motivate itself. Motivation is primarily intrinsic, residing within each team member. Therefore, if team members depend on something else for their source of motivation, it will be short-term. Great leadershave the special ability to help others see the best in themselves and then provide the appropriate environment for team motivation to fully develop. Great leaders alsounderstand the importance of team purpose, challenge, camaraderie, responsibility, and development and focus much of their time on creating the environment for these to exist successfully. Great leadersunderstand that their team members have needs, and that for motivation to grow and continue, the activities of the team must help in some way to meet these needs.