Managing Groups and Teams/Motivation In Teams

Motivation in a Group and Team EnvironmentEdit

Motivation can be the determining factor for the level of success a team achieves. In most cases, a successful team/group will have been motivated from start to finish. There are some basic “laws of motivation” that need to be understood to maximize and keep a team motivated to achieve.

Laws of MotivationEdit

  1. An individual has to be motivated in order to motivate others: A person cannot expect to motivate others if he/she is not individually motivated. To successfully evaluate what is needed to motivate others, it is pertinent to consider the type of person that might motivate you. Is this the type of person that might arrive before anyone else, who is enthusiastic, positive, always has some sort of good news to pass on, is loyal to the group, and leads by example? As a member of a group, each person cannot expect to move the other members of the group to be motivated if he/she not motivated him/herself. If in a group dynamic, there is not a single individual that has motivation to perform or to complete the purpose of the group, that group is destined to fail. Richard Denney states in his book, Motivate to Win, that “if you want to motivate another person, you have to be motivated yourself.”
  2. Motivation requires a goal: Without a specific goal in mind, it is impossible for a group or team to be motivated. Although they might feel motivated, without a specific reason for working or something they are working towards, their motivation serves little purpose. Richard Denney points out that although this may seem like common sense, it is common sense that is not commonly recognized. He also points out that motivation is about striving towards the future and without a goal, there is no purpose. As an example, consider a team sport where there is no competition or league that they can be a part of. What motivation does the team have to practice and work as a team. The goal that most team sports have is to be the best compared to their competition. If there is no one to compete against, there is no reason to compete. The motivation to perform is lost. The goal to be the best compared to your competition is a vital component of the group or teams motivation.
  3. Motivation, Once Established, Never Lasts: Motivation should be an ongoing process. It cannot be a once a year booster. Groups must come together on a frequent basis to discuss their strengths and weaknesses and draw up plans of action and self-improvement for the future. Conducting a 360-degree appraisal as a group can be one way to ensure that each member is staying focused and makes necessary adjustments to their behavior. This gives each group or team member an opportunity to assess the performance and contribution of the other group or team members. Group members may need to be trained on this process for it to be worthwhile, effective and motivational, but this investment can lead to more motivated groups. Just because a group or team is motivated today does not mean that they will be motivated tomorrow. It is important that groups and teams understand the power of motivation, understand themselves as individuals, how they feel and why they react the way they do. Group or team members must understand what makes them happy or unhappy and what inspires them to do just a little bit more. It is also important to understand what demotivates individuals and as frequently as possible try to take steps to prevent it from happening.
  4. Motivation Requires Recognition: People will strive harder for recognition than for almost any other single thing in life. Consider a parents whose child brings home a picture that they have painted at school. If that parent admires the picture, shows it to other members of the family and pins it up on the wall, they have now motivated that child and may begin to see more pictures. A genuine compliment is a form of recognition and it takes a thoughtful person to give another a compliment. Small-minded people are unable to recognize the achievements of others.
  5. Participation Motivates: It is vital to get people involved and to seek their opinions. When working in groups or teams it is important that an environment is established that gives each group member an opportunity to express and share their ideas. People who are listened to and are given an opportunity to actively participate, are more effective and are more motivated. Julian Richer, founder of hi-fi retailer, Richer Sounds, says that when he started his company 100 percent of the ideas came from him. Now, 90 percent of how the company is run, including its systems and procedures, comes from his people. All members of his staff are required to give 20 ideas per year for improvement. For each idea they are rewarded a minimum amount, that increases based on the value of the idea. Every idea presented is given a response within three days indicating why the idea could not be implemented or whether further action would be taken. The consequence of this was a steady stream of innovation, but even more important is that Richer Sounds has an incredibly high staff retention rate. There is usually a list of people waiting for a vacancy.
  6. Seeing Progression Motivates: When individuals progress as a group, moving forward and achieving, they will always be more motivated. When they are going backwards and not making progress, people are naturally less motivated. All members of the group must learn from the past, but realize that they cannot change it. Instead, they must turn it to their advantage and learn from it. Learning to focus on the slightest progress, whatever it may be, allows a team to stay motivated. This law must be used, worked on, managed and planned in order to maintain a high level of motivation.
  7. Challenge Only Motivates if there is a Potential to Win: If targets for results are set too high, they may actually have a de-motivating effect. If the consensus of the group or team is that the targets are out of reach or impossible to achieve, de-motivation will be the result. Competitions and challenges can certainly be motivating and can inspire people to greater activity. People will rise to the occasion. Challenge groups or teams to get something worthwhile done and nine times out of ten they will do it. Sometimes, the work itself is a motivator, such as responsibility, challenge or a feeling of doing something worthwhile. One can make a person’s work more challenging by giving them the biggest job they can handle and with this responsibility must come some credit of achievement when the job is done.
  8. Everybody Has a Motivational Fuse: Everyone can be motivated. Everyone has a fuse, it is just a matter of knowing how to ignite it. At some point it may not be cost-effective to continue trying to motivate a group or team to into greater activity or performance. It is a person’s attitude to a job that makes the difference. A person can quite emphatically state and believe that theirs is the worst job humanity has ever created. Yet another person taking on that same job with a different attitude will say and believe it is a great job and will consider himself or herself fortunate to have it.
  9. Group Belonging Motivates: People want to have a sense of belonging. The smaller the group or team, the greater the loyalty, motivation and effort. Extra-curricular activities can be used to draw people together.
  10. Inspired Leaders are Motivational: This is not necessarily a manager. Leaders are those that inspire others to action. Leaders are willing to take risks, are continually looking for new challenges and opportunities. People are much more likely to be motivated when there is inspired leadership. Leaders will defend others in their group and take full responsibility for criticism.

Selected Applications of the Laws of MotivationEdit

Motivation requires a goal: One of the first steps to motivating a group is identifying the goals and purpose of the team and making them clear from the beginning. This first step has proven true for many group leaders and members. Managers and non-organizer team members can see success when it is used and dysfunction and failure when not used. For example: A branch manager of an office was charged with finding ways to cut costs and run a leaner office. As an office, his team has already gone through cost cutting procedures and the results were not seen positively by the team. The goal was to break the larger group into cross functional teams of three to five members and give them time to brain storm within their functional areas. Each group would have certain rules and direction. The team leader brought the entire group together and explained what they would be doing. He explained the plan and outlined the team's goals. They discussed the reasoning behind the goals; they reviewed the most recent performance report and discussed the health of the branch. Afterwards and over the next three days the smaller breakout sessions were completed. The overall project had great success. They came away with many wonderful ideas for cutting costs which were implemented in their office as well as many of other offices throughout the company. Knowing the goals, understanding, and supporting them were huge contributing factors to the success of these particular teams. In contrast, members of a team where no goal is clearly identifiable typically are not successful. As time passes with no overall group goal nor an understanding for the goal; each group member begins to realize and push towards individual goals. The lack of motivation towards a common goal may break the team apart and provide minimal success.
Motivation, Once Established, Never Lasts: The next step to motivating a group to an acceptable level of success is determining what the group as a whole and individually needs, in order to be driven during the entire process. Beyond providing a common goal and direction; how does a group organizer determine what will motivate her/his group to succeed? The simple fact is that in many groups; each team member may require different levels or types of motivation to push them to succeed. There are two types of motivation that exist: extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is motivation that is inspired by outside forces, while intrinsic motivation is motivation that is inspired from within a person. Both types of motivation are essential to success. Below you will find different types of extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors:
Extrinsic Motivation.
-Peer recognition
-Good grades
Intrinsic Motivation.
-Personal goals, values, and morals
-Willingness and eagerness to learn
-Physiological, social, and self-esteem needs
The best idea would be to determine prior to group organization the types and levels of motivation each group member will require. Assigning group members to teams with similar types and levels of motivation may be beneficial in the teams overall success. This is of course based on the types of rewards or motivators the organizer is willing to provide. If it is just going to be one reward, the same reward for the entire group, it will be extremely important to have team members who would be happy with that reward/motivator. Determining each group members’ types and levels of motivation requires the organizer to know each member. Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators can be used to motivate the group. One common device used to help understand a person and there by determine their motivators is personality testing. Many managers find it difficult to find the time to spend with each group member individually to discover their motivators. It would certainly be ideal if they could find the time as it helps put them on a more personable level; however even when they have the time they may find it uncomfortable to ask questions of a personal nature. For this reason personality tests can be very useful. Developing understanding of personality typology, personality traits, thinking styles and learning styles is a useful way to improve your knowledge of motivation and behavior of self and others, in the workplace and beyond. The more you understand about personality, the better able you are to judge what motivates people - and yourself. Some examples of easily accessible online Personality tests are:
Four Temperaments/Four Humours/”
Jung's Psychological Types”
Briggs® personality types theory (MBTI® model)”
personality types theory (Temperament Sorter model)”
Eysenck's personality types theory”
Benziger's Brain Type theory”
Moulton Marston's DISC personality theory (Inscape, Thomas Int., etc)”
Team Roles and personality types theory”
'Big Five' Factors personality model”
Personality Assessment model”
Birkman Method®”
personality theories and psychometrics tests models

Motivation in Challenging Group and Team EnvironmentsEdit

Potential causes for a poorly motivated groups and teamEdit

The lack of motivation or poor motivation; most often will cripple a group’s ability to succeed and or hinder its progress. For the most part it is widely known that when a group is not motivated to perform, it will not succeed to a level of satisfaction that was previously desired. So the question remains; why are some groups not given the motivation to succeed? Two possible scenarios potentially explain this phenomenon:
1. The group leader provides the wrong type of motivation.
2. The group is unwilling to be motivated.
Some type of motivation is always provided for a group to succeed. The problem is that in several instances the methods for motivation are not correct and thus do not produce the sought after results. The first scenario states that there are occasions when the wrong motivator is provided. As described in the section “How to Motivate a Group;” the group leader must determine how the group needs to be motivated in order to be successful. Presuming that the group leader has successfully followed the prescribed advice and now knows what his group needs to be positively motivated; if the group fails based on motivation, what has happened? Either the group leader disregarded his findings or he has misunderstood them.
There may be situations when a group requires motivation that is unrealistic or not within the power of the group leader. There may also be situations when a group leader is simply unwilling to motivate the group. When she/he is unwilling and able; this will be a situation where the group leader may not be motivated properly and may need to be replaced. On the other hand when a group requests a bonus which the leader is unable to provide; even though she/he is willing, this is a situation where the team may need to be dissolved or changed.
The second possible scenario states that the group itself is unwilling to be motivated. Typically this will mean that either their desires are elsewhere or they no longer have faith in what they are doing. Take the example of a business owner who earns a healthy income. She is part of a group that provides a service at a premium. Over time she realizes that she does not believe in the product any more. She feels that it does not provide the value she has been promising. Will she continue to be an effective leader and support the rest of her team members in this business? The answer is that it depends on what motivates her. If she is motivated by money alone then, yes, she will continue to be an effective team member. However, if she is not motivated by money than she will begin to lose interest and become very ineffective as a manager for the team. If one important motivation to her is providing a quality product to the consumer, then if the product were to change to be a better quality one, then she would be properly motivated again and would again be effective as a manager.
Both scenarios boil down to a leader knowing what truly motivates his or her group and finding a way to provide that motivation.

Motivating a team within a negative environmentEdit

Before you are able to motivate a team who has a negative view of a project, you must first understand what caused the negative view to be held. It is best to directly talk with each team member to determine the root cause. Once it is known where the negative view comes from, actions can be taken. To begin with, the root cause should be examined. To determine the cause, it is important to analyze the responses to questions such as:
1. Is it an appropriate factor to have at the work environment (e.g. tight timelines)?
2. Is it due to a disruptive team member?
3. Is it due to stress surrounding the project (e.g. new procedures, difficult paperwork, etc.)?
Once the main factor has been examined and assessed, it is important to determine if there are additional underlying factors that can be adversely impacting team members (e.g. no vacation in six months, new child, divorce, etc.).
With the main factor (and underlying factors) in hand, the negative views can be addressed head on. It is important to help shift the team’s perspective to a positive mindset. If the team is struggling against tight timelines, incentives can be put into place for when the team hits the timeline. Something as simple as a promising a launch party can successfully change the team’s dynamics. This example is a large form of recognition, but smaller forms can also be helpful in changing the team’s dynamics.

Motivating teams in a Cross-Functional environmentEdit

Before learning how to motivate teams, it is best to understand what can de-motivate them. A Bnet.com1 article provides the top ten de-motivators for team members as, “Relations with project manager, co-worker relations, remuneration, leadership, security, working conditions, the organization’s policy, team subordinate relations, personal time, title/status”.
Cross-functional teams can be especially difficult to motivate as each individual comes from a different group. Each group can have different goals and incentives to motivate employees. When the individuals of a cross-functional team have different goals and incentives, the results can become more individualized. In addition to different groups, cross-functional team members come from different backgrounds and ways of thinking. These differences can pull a team apart, thus de-motivating them to work together. This does not necessarily need to happen. If differences are managed well, they can be leveraged to make the team stronger and ultimately more motivated to perform well as a group. Furthermore, each cross-functional team will go through the four stages of a team: forming, storming, norming, and performing. It may be difficult to motivate a team during the norming and storming phases. As such, it is important to take the phase the team is at into consideration.
Motivating a cross-functional team, however, is possible. Rowe2 explored the motivational issues on cross-functional teams specifically focusing on the free-rider problem. Through different experiments, Rowe found that the severity of the free-rider problem in groups was severely underestimated. So not only was there an issue within the team, but it was much larger than perceived by the team. The free-rider problem can be reduced by building trust and collectivism within the team. Rowe also found that, “when properly aligned, accounting and team structures operate interactively as a powerful group framing device that helps to resolve the free-rider problem.” By focusing more on aligning the incentives and goals of a group, a diversified team can be motivated to perform successfully.
One way to align the incentives and goals within a cross-functional group is to create a project scope document. This is an exercise that not only allows the team to work together to define a project, but also gets buy-in from the team on the goals of the project. The team discusses the different aspects of the project and identifies assumptions made, items that are in/out of the scope of the project, and also identifies risks and constraints on the project. At the end of the meeting, a project scope document is formed. All team members are responsible for reviewing the document and will approve the document if everything documented fits their understanding.


In this chapter, we have discussed what motivation is, what groups can do to motivate others, and some of the challenges that groups face when trying to address motivation. Motivation can take several forms. There are also many ways to approach motivation. It is important to evaluate the situation that you are in and then take the approach that will motivate the group to achieve the desired outcome. Without proper motivation, groups may not achieve their full potential or accomplish the goals that they set. Groups must work together to set goals and work to accomplish them. Proper motivation can ensure that groups will work together and everyone will do their part to achieve the goals of the group.


  2. The Effect of Accounting Report Structure and Team Structure on Performance in Cross-Functional Teams, Casey Rowe, The Accounting Review, Vol. 79, No. 4, 2004, pp.1153-1180
  5. Denny, Richard. 2005. Motivate to Win (3rd Edition). Kogan Page, Limited.
  6. Ephross, Paul H. and Vassil, Thomas V. 2005. Groups that work: Structure and Process. Columbia University Press
  7. Forsyth, Patrick. 2006. How to Motivate People (2nd Edition). Kogan Page, Limited.