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What motivated you to begin reading this article? Are you an intrinsically motivated seeker of knowledge? Or maybe you’re doing assigned research for a team project? We all have intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for doing work. Smart team leaders know how to motivate individual employees by leveraging personalities and needs.

Here are several methods to inspire curiosity and motivate your team.

1. Use All the Resources Available

Motivating an entire team isn’t merely scaling up individual motivations. Team dynamics need a specialized approach — and inspiration and curiosity are key. For inspiring a team’s interest, learning is mandatory. So, use affordable and easy-to-get resources. For example, have team members subscribe to a regular newsletter highlighting innovations in your field. Have them subscribe to a new podcast. Or give them a list of the best documentaries of 2018 to spark fresh ideas, educate, and inspire them.

2. Help Your Team Use Its SEEKER Instinct

Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp’s most significant contribution to employee motivation comes from his discovery of the “SEEKER” system. This primordial instinct pushes us to search our environments for information to help us survive. Without exercising this instinctual drive, humans feel depressed, stuck, and uninspired. For employees, the SEEKER system shutdown translates into low job satisfaction, boredom, and lack of purpose.

To promote the SEEKER system in your team, give them the freedom and flexibility to determine, not what, but how to complete a goal. Often, leaders gather their teams together to discuss how to approach the next product — injecting your ideas of how things should proceed limits outside perspectives. Team members will interpret your suggestions as non-negotiable parts of the process (when they may be the least effective).

Inform your team of what; let them determine how. Promote experimentation and self-expression. The freedom to solve problems will support their SEEKER instinct, improve job satisfaction, and fill them with a sense of purpose.

3. Motivate with Team Recognition

There are plenty of benefits of employee recognition programs. Employee-of-the-month programs are great for company-wide motivation. But mutual recognition also carries valuable motivational benefits. It reinforces the value of teamwork and creates a sense of collective purpose.

If your company has many teams, individual team shout outs bring similar benefits to individual recognition:  increased morale, team production, loyalty, and retention levels.

When teams meet goals and go above-and-beyond, recognize them with certificates, gifts, time off, or other incentives. Point out specific instances of teamwork (e.g., “I’d like to recognize how well Sue and Jerome worked together to create the copy and graphics for the report. Great example of teamwork!”.)

This reminds each person of the interconnectedness of the team and team of the value of the individual contributor.

4. Research Your Competitors

Opposition research can be as beneficial to your team’s productivity as it is to keep up with your competition. Nothing pulls a team together quicker or motivates them to succeed as having a common enemy. So, encourage and budget resources for your team to research what the other side is doing.

Include every member by dividing the research responsibilities. And make time for reports in your meeting agenda. Inspire and education the team together, and motivation will be contagious.

Ivy league school - Diverse Workforce

5. Diversify Your Team

Team diversity isn’t some politically correct attempt to be a “woke” company. Studies show that teams with ethnic and gender diversity maximize profits and make smarter business decisions. Compared to homogenous groups, diverse teams remain more objective and tend to reexamine facts more before making a decision.

Teams with more cultural and gender diversity bring more innovative products to market.

Higher objectivity of a diverse team makes it more reliant and focused on facts and data. That means emotions and personal feelings are less likely to get in the way of decisions. Better innovation leads to more team wins and increases morale. Consider diversity when forming in-house teams or hiring new employees.

6. Cross-Train Your Team Members

When forming your team, choose members based on their strengths. But also cross-training team members to motivate them and keep things fresh. By rotating jobs, members get to learn a new skill, grow in their current role, and get a new appreciation for other responsibilities. The result is a decrease in boredom and increase in intellectual stimulation.

Cross-training shows your team members that you’re investing in them and their careers. Job rotations give members opportunities to flesh out their resumes. And it lets you identify highly-motivated employees for advancement. Cross-training also allows you to:

  • Improve customer service with a broader employee knowledge base
  • Cut onboarding costs by leveraging internal resources instead of hiring new people

7. Help Them Manage a Good Work-Life Balance

Teams are most inspired and creative when they can focus on their work. Increased stress and guilt are common outcomes when work-life is out of balance. And productivity and quality suffer as a result. Team members have more focus, feel less stressed, and are more motivated when they know things are okay at home.

Worries about home life are inevitable. But employers can cut their impacts by offering the following benefits:

  • Flexible work schedules
  • Remote work opportunities
  • Technology to accommodate remote work
  • Paid time off
  • Unpaid leave of absence
  • Sponsor family events

Aside from these company perks, managers and team leaders can help their employees the most by drawing sharp lines between work and home. Set and manage expectations that work email is for work hours, weekends are for personal time, and vacations are for taking.

But offering perks like paid time off won’t benefit your team if no one ever uses them. So, model an excellent work-life balance by taking advantage of them yourself. Bring stories of your relaxing weekend with the family into the meeting room. Share why family time is valuable to you and your work. Your team members will follow your lead.

8. Model Inspiration and Curiosity

The bottom line: the most significant source of inspiration and motivation for your team is you.  Your team members pay attention to you. If your team isn’t feeling inspired, it may be because you’re not modelling the right behaviours and attitudes.

Take a personal inventory and be honest about what you discover. Are you motivated to learn new skills? Does recognition inspire you to excel? Do you understand how to do every job on your team? When is the last time you took a day off?

Hold yourself accountable to the same standards as your team. Being a good example is the greatest source of inspiration a leader possesses.

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