Top 10 Tips For Motivating Teams and Individuals

Is motivation a challenge for you? Do you struggle to keep everyone inspired and excited about work? I know how tough this can be. I know how easy it is to feel like giving it up.

But, as the leader you MUST aim to keep your team motivated. If you don’t then who will? In my experience it will be the next team leader who will pick up that task and before you know it you are no longer the team leader!

Here are my top tips for motivating teams and individuals:

Think about what motivates YOU. 

Whilst we are all individuals, when it comes to something like motivation you can be pretty sure that if something drives you then it is likely to be a motivator to others. This seems so obvious but so often you will see a leader abandoning everything that they know about what would motivate them, and instead expect their team to have completely different needs.

sBe clear about purpose. WHY are you all there? 

Your first thought might be ‘for the money’. In actual fact that is only a factor and so long as people are being paid fairly, and what they expected, then it’s a small part.

Purpose is about your ‘why’. Why do you and your team do what you do?

Are you all clear about that? Have you agreed that is why you are there?

Know what your goals are. 

These may be weekly, monthly or annual goals and may vary for individuals. Unless people understand what they are aiming for, how will they know when they get there? Make sure all of your team members have some individual responsibilities so that they can take ownership and be accountable. This makes people feel good and helps them to see where their accomplishments fit into the overall success.

Recognition is vital. This includes everything from a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ to formal recognition of performance and skills development. 

Recognise the small things and celebrate the big things. Be consistent! If you are not then you could be perceived as favouring individuals.

Celebrate success meaningfully. Bringing in cakes every Friday regardless of what went well or badly becomes stale really quickly. Look out for little things you can do personalise your recognition.

Be grateful for the support you get from your team – even when it doesn’t always happen in the way you would like.

Trust has to be built. Your team needs to know they can trust you and vice versa. 

Involve the team in decisions which effect them all and be prepared to trust that someone other than you might know best.

Let others take the lead in their areas of strength. This will show that you trust in them and aid their development.

Be open and transparent. 

Help your team to see the bigger picture. Be honest without betraying confidences. If you can’t do something, explain why not and tell your team what is possible.

Remember that we are all individuals.

Get to know your team members. Gain an understanding of what their personal goals are. What are the benefits, from their perspective, of being a part of the team?

Then help them to achieve their goals. Do things which speak to their individual needs.

Be realistic. 

There is really only so much a person can do within their working hours. If you expect more than is possible, everyone gives up because they can see they will never hit the success sweet spot.

Why would we try at all, if we know from the outset that we will fail?

Perfectionism gets in the way of excellence.

Do it! 

If you say you are going to do something then you must follow through. Nothing disillusions a team quicker than fake promises.

And make sure you feedback: either collectively, or to an individual as appropriate. They need to know what you have done and what the outcomes have been, or should be, as a result of your actions.

Be understanding.

Human beings are complex and lead complex lives. What works for us one day might not be the same the next.

Outside of work we all have lots going on.

It is unrealistic to expect personal lives not to impact at work to some extent. Be caring, compassionate and empathetic. Next time you are having a bad day you will want your team to care about you. Be sure to have evidenced that this is important in everything you do.

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How the words you use matter in leadership

What you say has the power to make or break a person or a situation. The words you use as a leader will have a profound effect on motivation, personal development, and your own success.

With a busy work place, an increased reliance on email, text and ‘fast’ communication, now more than ever you need to mind your language. And, I don’t mean that in the obvious way!

Imagine the scenario. Your leader meets with you and your peers and tells you that budgets are being reduced. They could deliver this in two distinct ways.

They could say ‘we are going to have to make cuts’. Or, ‘we need to find ways of increasing our income’.

The first will instantly make everyone concerned about their jobs and the future of their team. The second will motivate you to start thinking innovatively. The outcomes may be some cuts, but the likelihood is that this will be a managed and more positive process.

The words we use have a lasting impact, positive or negative. Who can forget the boss who lifted us up in the past with a few encouraging words?

Some leaders (we can all name one) feel that the only way to influence people is through criticism, threats and negative words.

Some leaders think that pushing their team through hard words makes them respond better. Sometimes this works, but generally out of fear.

Great leaders influence through words of affirmation and positivity.

If we are to be great ‘human’ leaders then we must want to see people as humans and not machines. Therefore the words we use must treat our colleagues with respect.

Be Kind

Kind words create a kind atmosphere. They have the power to inspire others to change behaviour.

When a great leader speaks, their intention should not be to dominate or control, but to inspire, serve and support.

Have compassion and empathy 

Understanding your team as individuals, and using language which is compassionate and empathetic to their story, is key to positive communications.

Remember your P’s and Q’s

So often I have heard the basic niceties and good manners go out of the window. But, remember more than just saying please and thank you, you have to mean it!


This one word holds great power but far too many ‘bosses’ don’t use it.

Somehow, tied up in the hierarchical structure of organisations, there is a perceived weakness in being wrong or sorry about anything.

Which is crazy in itself! No one is perfect. Being able to admit that you may have been wrong, being prepared to say sorry if something has had a negative impact, shows the greatest of strengths.

Great leaders know it, and use it.


By taking out negative language you can change the dynamic of almost any conversation.

A really great tip is to ask yourself ‘How would this make me feel?’. If the words you are using would make you feel bad in any way, then stop using them!

Use uplifting and positive language which helps individuals visualise what is possible.


This is a simple but effective technique in any conversation. Use the persons NAME!

Evidence that you know who you are talking to, make them feel special and noticed.

Be careful not to overuse it though – that is just annoying and comes across as insincere.

None of this is particularly mind-blowing, but I can assure you that every great leader I have ever worked with has had all of these traits.

Ten steps to support your team through a coaching leadership style

To help your team colleagues meet their potential great leaders use a postive coaching leadership style.

A coaching leadership style recognises, and works with, the individuals needs and considers their specific training, development, and motivation requirements.

The coaching leader looks for opportunities to help colleagues to improve themselves and also takes their preferences into account.

A coaching leader promotes responsibility and independence and their team feel supported and involved in their work.

Whilst a coaching leader is not a coach, they must use coaching skills.

It takes more time than telling people what you want, in the style of an authoritarian leader. Instead of making all decisions and delegating tasks, the coaching leader takes the lead to get the best out of their team colleagues. In the long run this is far more rewarding for both parties.

A coaching leader is closer to their team than the authoritarian leader and will know the individuals better. They will understand the role of the team member and will know what is happening within the team.

By following these ten steps a leader will have different conversations with their team members and as a result, better outcomes.

1. Time

You will need to have made enough time in your diary for the conversation and for follow up. You will need to make the time to notice the little things. You may need to spend time with the individual in their work world to understand any issues, barriers or complexities.

Starting on this journey without investing the time is a recipe for disaster. Your intentions must be backed up through your actions and failing to follow through will demotivate your team and damage your relationship with individuals.

The coaching leader offers enough space and freedom for the individual to talk about the tasks that must be carried out. You will need to ensure that there is time to try things out.

2. Tact

When you function as a coaching leader your team members can call on you in case of personal problems.

In doing so, sensitive and private situations may be discussed. These sensitive matters must be handled tactfully and professionally. You must create a safe space for the individual.

Even if the conversation is entirely work related, we all want to feel safe in admitting where we struggle with certain tasks and why. Tact and diplomacy is needed to ensure that your team member does not feel that they are ‘stupid’ or ‘not good enough’.

3. Open Mind

You need to clear your mind of preconceptions about the person and any issues they may have. You need the individual to feel secure so that they feel safe to explore any issue they have in their own way.

If you have already made up your mind about how you expect them to behave they will pick up on this and it will affect your conversation.

4. Clarity

What are you both aiming to achieve? Is this clear?

You need to make sure that there is absolute clarity about the purpose of the discussion and the ‘rules of engagement’.

You can reassure your colleague through clarity and set the tone for the conversation. You need to be mindful though that this is based on what will work best for them. This will not be a ‘one size fits all’ scenario.

5. Questions

As a coaching leader you should be giving limited instructions. Your colleague needs to be able to think for themselves about a possible solution to a problem by asking questions.

Creativity is to be encouraged.

The questions you ask should draw out the individuals thinking, and give them the opportunity to explore ideas with you.

6. Action and outcomes

Coaching has to result in outcomes. These need to be measurable in some way.

What is to be achieved and when? What support is needed? What might get in the way? These are all questions that must be addressed as part of the conversation. Agreement must be reached and you need to be realistic about what is achievable.

Small positive steps forward are far more motivating than failing at the first hurdle.

Ultimately you need favourable results. Established objectives will take you to where you need to be, step by step. Your aim is to develop and improve the talents of your team member. Thus, the outcomes will be aimed at development rather than task completion.

7. Feedback

Feedback and reflection are the corner stones of any coaching conversation.

Feedback must be provided based on clear measures. Feedback must be professional and must not include any personal judgements or attacks.

Feedback is often only half understood and processed. As part of the conversation recheck whether the person receiving the feedback actually understands it.

8. Safe

You are there to help your team colleague. You need to keep them safe. Watch for signs that they are uncomfortable. Encourage them to step back from whatever is causing that.

Help them to look at matters from different perspectives. Help them to imagine what could be possible.

Make it as easy as you can. This should not be an intimidating conversation.

9. Knowledge and understanding

You should be close to the activities within the team and understand the issues, barriers, and blockages that your team are encountering.

Time spent ‘in’ the work and understanding the way that the work happens is a powerful tool for understanding the challenges that individuals face.

10. Belief

Your role is to believe in people and instil that belief in each one of you team members. If we believe we can then we are much more likely to do so.

Building self belief and confidence is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a leader.

A few words of caution …. Coaching is not always be what is needed.

Whilst coaching is a powerful method of helping a team colleague to overcome difficulties it may not always be the answer.

An individual may be experiencing severe private issues or psychological problems which are impacting their ability to do their job and to develop in their role. In such cases it is vital that you recognise that this goes beyond your skills and that therapy may be a better option. The greatest service you can give is to support them to get the level of support required.

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