Melbourne-based Michelle Gibbings has more than 20 years' experience in leading and guiding people through change across multiple sectors and industries.
Great leaders work to bring out the best in each person, so that each person in the team is motivated to take action – both individually and collectively.
Essentially, teams are brought together to get things done. The logic being that more gets done together, than alone; although the merit of that logic depends on how well the team works together.
The effectiveness of financial planning practices – regardless of size – can be improved by considering and addressing the factors that can get in the way of teams operating optimally.
Focusing on the wrong motivational levers
In 2010, researchers, Amabile and Kramer, asked leaders and employees what they thought motivated employees. The purpose of the research was to see if there was a difference in what managers thought motivated employees, and what actually motivated employees.
There were five options:
Recognition for good work;
Incentive and rewards;
Sense of progress;
Clear goals and targets; and
The managers thought that employees were motivated by being recognised for their good work. However, that wasn’t what motivated employees. It was a sense of progress.
The researchers found that when workers thought they were making headway in their jobs, or when they received support that helped them overcome obstacles, their emotions were the most positive and their drive to succeed was at its peak.
In contrast, on the days when they encountered roadblocks and setbacks, their motivation was at its lowest.
It’s incredibly demotivating when progress is impeded. Everyone wants to see that they are making headway, and that their contribution is making a difference.
Not having a clear sense of purpose
Teams achieve more when there is common purpose and clarity on how they work together.
The team’s leader will usually know what each team member is doing, and how each individual contributes to the whole. However, often team members don’t have the same level of understanding.
Sometimes this can be because two teams have recently been merged, and so the newly combined team’s purpose isn’t clear; nor is the role that each team member needs to play.
Regardless of the reason, this ambiguity breeds disengagement and distrust. It also means that team members can’t leverage each other’s skills as effectively. If you don’t know what someone does, you don’t know how they can help you (or vice versa).
Effective leaders know it’s critical to get the team working together to achieve a joint outcome as quickly as possible – so that the team is motivated to make progress on the right things, at the right time.
Build your team’s vision
A key way of creating connection across the team is for leaders to spend time with their team developing the team’s vision and discussing how they jointly bring it to life.
There’s a number of ways you can do this, and one of the key elements to include is the creation of a vision board.
A vision board is essentially a summary of what your team wants to achieve and how you want to go about doing it. It’s visual and colourful, with images and words.
It’s not just words on a page. It needs to evoke energy, emotion and connection.
This vision board is then something that can be displayed where the team works, and it becomes a point of reference and a constant reminder of what the team has agreed to work together to achieve.
Work with your team’s strengths
Research conducted over the last 30 years shows that taking a strengths-based approach leads to greater work satisfaction, engagement and productivity. This is evidenced in Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s book, Strengths Based Leadership, where they detail how working with strengths helps leaders be more effective.
Leaders play a crucial role in bringing strengths to life at work – for both themselves and their team members.
It starts with the leader understanding their strengths and how they are best used at work.
The next step is for the leader to help their team members:
Appreciate the strengths they bring to their role; and
Recognise and value the strengths their colleagues bring to their role.
People are more motivated to achieve when they use their strengths.
Know your leadership moments of truth
People notice what a leader does and doesn’t do, particularly when there are variances between what a leader espouses as their leadership values and their actions.
When there’s a disconnect, it demotivates the team.
Key defining moments or leadership moments of truth for leaders include:
What the leader pays attention to and prioritises;
How the leader reacts when things go wrong and when they are under pressure;
What they say and don’t say, and what they do and don’t do; and
How they allocate resources and rewards, and recruit and promote.
All of this plays into the concept of fairness.
People don’t want to be unfairly treated. If a person believes they work harder than someone else, and yet they are paid less, they’ll be unhappy. While we would commonly see this as fairness, in research terms, it’s known as equity theory.
As Furnham and Taylor in their book Bad Apples: Identify, prevent and manage negative behaviour at work, state: “Equity theory is concerned with outcomes and inputs as they are perceived by the people involved, not as they actually are.”
What happens in practise is that the greater the perceived inequity, the greater the motivator for the person to try and find a way to restore the balance. How they do this will vary but it can lead to an employee being less productive, taking more sick leave or committing fraud, as the person tries to find a way to fix the inequity.
Leaders play a key role in ensuring that the amount team members are paid is fairly distributed, and that people are recognised for their efforts fairly.
Great leaders are able to see value in the difference each team member brings, and to recognise that each person is unique and therefore has different needs.
They work to bring out the best in each person, so that each person in the team is motivated to take action – both individually and collectively.
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