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Four Ideas to Motivate Unmotivated Team Members

By Samantha Laprade posted 07-19-2022 13:44


Motivating employees who have lost the pep in their step is an exercise in patience, tenacity and flexibility. We have all journeyed through these uncertain times. Even the most dedicated employee has felt unmotivated for days or weeks at a time.


Managing people has changed and thank heavens! Punitive, shaming and heavy-handed boss tactics have been replaced with servant leadership. Servant leadership combines listening, empathy, stewardship and collaboration.


Those leaders who encourage diversity, create a culture of trust, foster leadership in others, and make the work less about themselves as the leader and more about the work are witnessing firsthand the benefits of servant leadership.


When employees underperform, miss deadlines or simply are unengaged, remember the principles of servant leadership.


There are four ways to engage employees who need support to achieve the goals and objectives of the role.


  1. Listen to the Cues


Reading between the lines and listening for the cues with staff who are not performing at their peak is an important skill. Some employees may not recognize fully why they are not excelling.


For example, a staff member may complain about the donor database and avoid using the platform. However, the real problem may be a lack of training or possibly the database is truly outdated and runs like a Commodore 64.


Whatever the reason for the lack of engagement in the database, the employee is frustrated and therefore unmotivated. Listen for the cues as a servant leader and take time to explore the tools and resources employees need to work efficiently. There may be an easy solution to increase the staff member’s motivation.


  1. Quick Daily Check-ins


Communicating with staff who are unmotivated may seem obvious. However, the way you communicate may make all the difference in the results. Short meetings every workday that last no more than 15 minutes keep people on task.


Many managers worry this will be seen as micro-managing. If done well, these meetings provide support to staff who need a boost. They can begin as a daily routine and as performance improves, meetings can be reduced as agreed upon together.


These quick meetings should cover:

  • work for the day
  • objectives for the week
  • check-in regarding any work challenges or personal barriers the staff member is facing that day


More listening than talking during these sessions is an element of servant leadership.


  1. Keep, Start, Stop


Employees that are not tackling every task they are assigned may benefit from a “Keep, Start, Stop” exercise. This can be done individually and as a team.


Engage staff by asking what parts of their jobs they should keep doing, start doing or stop doing. I love using a whiteboard for this exercise.


They may wish to stop doing certain items essential to their role. In these cases, this exercise opens a dialogue as to why that task is key for the organization. Your conversation may uncover tasks perceived as not beneficial or unearth a potentially more streamlined way of accomplishing goals.


As servant leaders, we cannot underestimate the value of asking employees for input into their daily work. Many times, by listening and being flexible, the role is shaped and molded to better suit both the staff member and organization.


  1. Recognize Small and Big Wins


Everyone appreciates recognition for their work. Being recognized for the small details can go a long way to motivating staff. If a staff member has a difficult time meeting deadlines, recognizing even the smallest deadline that is met can encourage this behavior. A simple email stating, “Thank you for sending the report today as it will help keep us all on track for the project” will go a long way.


Big wins may include a grant that was approved or a direct mail campaign that sprinted past goal. Celebrating these accomplishments are morale boosters. As servant leaders, it is key to focus on team members and their contributions. This is not a time for us to be tooting our own horns!


From handwritten notes to a gift card for the staff member’s favourite coffee shop, these are the moments struggling employees remember as they work to improve their results.


Motivating employees is like brushing your teeth—you need to do it daily!