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Knowing Which Way the Wind is Blowing

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about team and team motivation. It’s more complex than you’d think, or at least than I thought. I’d like to ramble a bit on this.


photo credit: gus_estrella via photopin cc

There are so many articles on the web that discuss basic motivational tactics to keep a team focused and forward-moving. Even knowing where you stand isn’t always straight-forward. Sure, the standard strategy of asking “probing questions” is important to know the internal motivations and team direction. And then there is an indirect strategy of focusing on individual strengths and motivations rather than looking at the entire team.

Do I look at the forest or the trees to know which way the wind is blowing?

If I’m looking at the trees, i.e., the individual team members, then it’s important that I have a personal connection to each member of the team. That’s what I’ll call the “personal connection” (let’s keep it simple here).

There is a lot of truth that building a rapport everyone on a team, down to the greenest member (that means “the newest person on the team” to you non-Americans—apparently 20%, or roughly 4000, of my readership is from other continents) is important. I’ve worked to detach myself from the operational side of the business, but I keep coming back to the fact that the owner has a special connection—and motivational power—that other people in the company often don’t or can’t have.

At the grander scale, the forest, aligning myself with managers helps to motivate and lead the entire team. Thinking on it, there really is no other way to work at the macro-level other than by focusing effort and authority in a few select people so that my ability to lead and motivate is delegated down to the managers and then pushed out to the staff.

Where I often struggle is deciding where to cut off the delegation of responsibility and authority. If you push too much authority to the wrong people, and they buckle, then the team itself becomes dysfunctional and you’ve actually take a step backwards. When this happens, refocusing at the tree-level, the individual staff members, can help short-term in repairing the damage. At least that’s been my experience.

Some questions I have for you:

  • Do you focus your efforts only on managers below you, all staff, or some combination of the two?
  • How do you objectively measure the success of your approach?
  • What are the pros and cons of each approach?

I’d love to hear from you. It’s a tough nut to crack!

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