It’s half-time in the Everton-Newcastle Premier League encounter, and the visitors are on the receiving end of a battering. In an effort to turn the game, United manager Alan Pardew brings Demba Ba off the bench, and the Sengalese striker responds with a brace that earns his side a draw.
Pardew tells us afterwards that Demba Ba was angry at being left out, and thus channelled his anger into goals.
If it’s a deliberate managerial tactic by Pardew to motivate his striker, then it was a successful one. But it’s a strategy that is best used sparingly, otherwise resentment quickly turns into simmering disaffection and underperformance. Other players left on the bench may sulk and take the exclusion as confirmation that they weren’t thought good enough by the management.
Being able to continually motivate a group of individuals is the mark of any manager or leader. The biggest mistake that leaders make, is to believe that a one size fits all approach works. In other words that everyone is motivated the same way. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been able to keep his United players mentally fresh and stimulated over the twenty plus years of his reign, by creating an US v Them mentality, that pits his group against enemies that Fergie appears to pick fights with. For example, rival managers, The FA, referees, The BBC and so on. Not wanting to let the US down is a powerful motivation in a strong winning group.
But inside the collective motivation, is the individual personal motivation, and knowing what makes each person tick, and thus able to deliver consistent high-level performance, is a skill that not all leaders understand.
The individual motivation requires a constant investment of time by the leadership. Time that helps you get inside the head of the individual and what their unmet needs or key drivers are.
Not everyone is motivated exclusively by financial reward for example. As a leader you have to work to find out the hidden forces that motivate the individuals in your team. Then try to make sure that they are given individual and collective responsibilities that match motivations.
It goes without saying that praise and encouragement is a vital part of any leader’s motivational tool-kit. But how should that praise be given. Publically or privately? Verbally in front of others, or a quiet word? And how often do you need to praise that person – regularly or occasionally?
Here are some examples of different needs and triggers, and how to integrate them into the group dynamic.
This is the individual who is always looking out for the needs of the team. The individual who brings the team together. Give them the job of The Staff Morale Officer or put them in charge of the social fund and activities. Get them to check in at the weekly meeting with reports of morale in the group, and factors that may be impacting upon it. Having someone who can measure the group temperature is vital, as subtle signs of weakening morale can be overlooked by a busy or distracted leader.
This individual is inspired by continuous learning. Make sure to keep sending them out on courses, but backed up by opportunities to spread that learning into the organization or group. This keeps the knowledge bank of the group growing, and negates familiarity and boredom. New ideas that can transform the business can come out of this kind of investment.
This individual needs themselves and the group to be challenged and taken out of the comfort zone. They don’t want Security or Realistic Goals, but big scary Barrier Breaking Goals to feel motivated. Let them set these kinds of goals, then allow them to inspire the group as to how they can be achieved. Needs to be pushed or will get lazy and underperform.
This individual loves responsibility. Perhaps they have been a senior person in another organisation and are used to leading. They don’t enjoy just following orders, so give them a project they can go away and get their teeth into. They will love the fact that you trust them, and thus respond in kind with quality work. And don’t feel threatened by them. They may be more experienced than you, so use it to the collective advantage.
This individual has an eye for the small detail and quality. Give them the task in the team of being responsible for the small stuff that others overlook. Yes they make get on people’s nerves sometimes with what appears to be ‘pickiness’, but the overall quality of work and standards will benefit because of their attentiveness.
The futurist who should be given permission to think the unthinkable. A valuable asset in any business facing new challenges. The group may find this person wacky and odd, but their unusual ideas can transform the group, and help them become transforming leaders in their field.
The Devil’s Advocate
The person who loves to pick holes in why something won’t work. Can be irritating and perceived as negative, but if you give them the specific role in the group of Devil’s Advocate, their ‘common sense’ can be channelled into making sure that all ideas are properly thought through, with all the downsides properly considered. Once the Devil’s Advocate has a role in the group, they will become much less trouble!
The Keeper Of Core Values
The keeper of standards and values. Is able to quickly pick up any deviation from core values in the behaviour of the organization and bring the group back on track. Again something which can be missed by a busy leader, who is too caught up working IN the business not ON it. Their presence ensures the group behaves in a way that it has said it is going to.
The Rule Breaker. Doesn’t ask for permission to do things. Hates authority and over-bearing governance. Loves to dare to lose to win. Can inspire the group with a belief in the not achievable! A friend to the Barrier Breaker and The Visionary. A rebel at heart, their presence ensures the group never procrastinates and sits on its hands waiting to start a project.
The person who can turn a boring PowerPoint and make it a thing of beauty. Their role is to make sure that all communications that come out of the group are stimulating, colourfully presented and make their point.
The one with the world view who takes into account how the organization impacts on others. Put them in charge of group charity work, and engagement with the larger community. Their world-view creates a sense of perspective for the group, and prevents arrogance and self-centredness from holding sway.
A team that has all these roles at play and working together can become a very powerful and effective group indeed. The roles naturally balance themselves out, and if all the people respect the different qualities at play, then it can be a team that is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Martin Perry is a Leadership Coach whom Sky News turn to when they want insights into why a business or team are under-performing. Martin’s leadership coaching allows leaders and managers to lead their teams through these times of change, with self-confidence and a quiet sense of assurance.