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University of Sunderland

How to motivate and inspire a high-performing team

Posted on: May 31, 2024
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Inspiring team members and motivating them to achieve high performance levels is a topic never far from the front of managers’ minds. If you’re leading a team, you want your team to be effective and efficient, achieving positive results that hit company goals as it reflects well on you to your superiors and the wider business. 

But, the best leaders are also thinking about how they can inspire their team in a way that creates positive results in a long-term and sustainable way. These leaders know that in order to get the best out of the team, they have to manage each team member individually and tailor their style to be what each employee needs to enable them to have a positive attitude and feel empowered.

Here, we explore some of the ways in which leaders can motivate and inspire their teams to achieve higher levels of performance.

Be a team leader, rather than a manager

While the need to feel in control of everything your team is doing can be overwhelming, one of the most important lessons a manager can learn is to be a leader to the people beneath them.

Micromanaging isn’t just uncomfortable for the person on the receiving end. Studies have shown that this type of management ultimately leads to decreased growth potential in a department. While it can sometimes be useful in some short-term situations, such as while training new employees, the long-term impact can result in low employee morale, high staff turnover, and reduction of productivity.

Each employee will want and need to be managed differently. As a leader, you must understand the balance each team member requires to feel happy in their role whilst enabling them to deliver what the role requires.

Create a positive work environment

A positive and healthy work environment is one where employees feel able to show up as they are, and feel mentally and emotionally supported in their role. While this is often a result of the company culture as a whole, there are steps you can take to create a positive environment within the team you manage.

Team motivation can be impacted by the camaraderie within the team, and how they relate to each other on both a personal and professional level. You can create more of a bond within the team by making time for team-building activities like a shared training session or scheduling a team lunch. You can also have regular team check-ins, and allow for a time for people to small talk with each other before launching into any business updates or work-related points.

Creating a place where employees are happy to work leads to higher levels of productivity and employee engagement, and lower staff turnover, allowing leaders to focus on the task at hand rather than spending a lot of time backfilling the roles of employees who have left.

Encourage effective communication

Effective communication is important in all areas of life, but is especially important in a work environment. Ineffective communication not only creates an unproductive environment, it can also be costly if stakeholders aren’t on the same page during key decision-making processes.

Regular one-to-ones with team members offer a place to deliver positive feedback and encouragement, as well as a time to answer questions, talk through ideas, and discuss any pain points. Leaders must focus on two-way communication in these spaces, encouraging employees to engage by being an active listener who is present with distractions removed. 

While having regular team check-ins can improve people’s emotional reaction to the workplace, it can also improve teamwork and prevent people from working in silos.

Set clear goals

Employees are more able to be productive when they know exactly what is expected of them. In order to set expectations, clear goals and objectives should be set.

The key to effective goal setting is to make them time-bound with a deadline so they’re actioned rather than left to linger, and measurable so there are results which indicate how well the task has been completed. It is important that the goals are challenging but achievable, as setting team goals that are impossible will create frustration and a lack of motivation.

Celebrate milestones

In busy workplaces, it’s easy to forget to take a moment to celebrate any milestones and achievements teams have hit, but acknowledging positive results will encourage employees to continue working hard long-term.

It’s important to consider both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when someone engages in a behaviour because they find it rewarding and enjoy performing the activity itself. While many employees have tasks within their role they like doing, all roles come with some tasks we’d rather not do. For these, it’s useful to create extrinsic motivation. This is when someone performs a behaviour or engages in an activity because they want to earn a reward.

By introducing perks and incentives to the team, you can motivate staff to complete tasks even if they don’t enjoy doing them.

Enable professional development

To help employees feel supported to reach their full potential, leaders can encourage their team to seek out and spend time on professional development opportunities.

This can include learning new skills through training courses, such as those available on LinkedIn Learning, or creating mentoring connections between team members and your wider network.

Support a work-life balance

Employee wellbeing is a hot topic that shows no sign of slowing down, and a work-life balance is one of the central tenets of ensuring your team has enough rest to not burn out and continue producing good work.

A positive work-life balance is not just good for employee motivation. It creates higher staff retention and improves wellness, avoiding the large costs associated with recruitment when team members leave, and the profit lost as a result of staff sick days and low performance.

Learn how to become a leader that inspires hard work

If you’re looking to develop your skills and knowledge to become a leader that inspires and motivates teams to achieve higher levels of performance, study the MSc Management with Human Resources with the University of Sunderland.

Our 100% online and part-time course boosts your career prospects and progression without you needing to take a study break. Course materials are available any time and on a range of devices, enabling you to fit your course around current commitments and your existing role. 

Apply what you learn to your current position as you study to develop your hands-on knowledge and strengthen your chances of moving up the ladder to leadership.

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