As much as it pains me to say this, we’ve probably all been on teams where we’re trying to avoid thinking about Abbott and Costello’s ‘Who’s on First’ routine. The team is ‘communicating’ their part of mission and answering all the questions…but never seems to get any closer to the objective. As the leader of the team, you need to be able to recognize this and address it definitively and quickly. I’d like to lay out an approach and behavior. 

Before you can motivate a team, do you know:

-     WHY the team is assembled?

-     WHAT the goal is and HOW that ties in to the mission of the company?

-     WHOis involved, with a clear delineation of each other’s roles?

As the leader, you need to know the answer to these questions, and this should be clear to each member of the team. That’s the start, the critical first step, as this is the goal and the means to achieve that objective.


To motivate the team, you need to understand what drives team members, both individually and as a unit. This will require preparation on your part to ensure success but is really necessary to align your team.

-     Be respectful and sincere. This requires constancy and empathy on your part which you can’t conjure up in an afternoon. Take the time to develop and nurture the team and their respect follows.

  • The Good: Show the team your appreciation and celebrate successes – even with the simple things. Recognize their hard work and dedication, especially when they least expect it.  One thing to note, if you’re not sincere, or if it’s a ‘drive by’ compliment – the team will know, and respect will not be earned.
  • The Bad: Identify where they’re missing the mark.  Don’t just point it out, help or guide them through alternatives or learnings to avoid a repeat offense. Use this opportunity to coach, mentor, and teach.

-     Model the behavior you want to see.

  • Be decisive. Use the information your team of experts provides you and the skills as a leader you’ve obtained over the years and make decisions.
  • Set time for discussion and debate, but when that time is up, make sure the discussion ends and you have achieved the objective. Don’t continue to waffle.
  • Don’t instill fear – coach and teach more than dictate.
  • Show emotion; you are human. This lines up very well with the first bullet about being respectful and sincere.

-     Revisit the goal as it aligns to vision. A key to motivating teams is to understand not only the team’s goal and expected deliverable, but also how that ties into the company vision. Be specific and clear about what the success of your team will mean to the organization at large. This is a great opportunity to show appreciation and recognize success of team members.

-     Be accessible.Apply the above and be present for your team. When they come to you, make time for them. If they feel you are going through the process with them, sharing in both the triumph and the pain, the team will step up to an even greater performance. Listen, welcome new ideas that challenge the norm. Be open to ideas that challenge ‘This is the way we’ve always done it.’

Remember, as their leader your role is to keep the team focused on the goal aligned to the vision; keep them engaged and energized which could result in achieving results better than expected. Solicit feedback how you’re doing – and be sure when you hear it, you act on it. We all can learn and grow.