Motivating Teams and Businesses

How to re-energise your team and rediscover momentum

Over the last couple of years I’ve worked with several teams, businesses and organisations who felt that they’d become stuck and had lost a large part of the passion and hunger for what they do. As a result, they were grinding along, with every step seeming to cost a huge amount of effort, losing out on opportunities and not really addressing the problems they were facing.

I’ve used the tools and techniques described here to help the top teams in those organisations and businesses to re-energise themselves and find their own momentum to carry them along.

It’s Not Just About Strategy

Some people will tell you that, in those grinding circumstances, your organisation, team or business needs to re-asses its strategic priorities. And I think there’s sometimes some truth in that. BUT – you’ve got to do one or two other things first. Otherwise, when that strategic re-assessment is required, that also just becomes another ineffective part of the soulless grind.

It’s Not Just About ‘Why’

There’s also been a lot of interest recently in Finding Your ‘Why’.
People say, “Always start with your why” – Why did you go into that business, in that segment? – Why does your organisation or your particular team exist?

And this is a good exercise to do when you already have momentum and want to have a coherent marketing message. In fact, the WHY is one of the most powerful marketing messages there is. BUT – my experience has been, when it comes to re-energising your own business and finding that momentum that will carry your team forwards, asking “Why” can stop you dead in your tracks.

It Can Be a Virtuous Circle

I don’t know about you, but I started doing what I do because I felt I might be able to become good at it. Along the way, I had to overcome quite a few obstacles. And as I started to get better at doing it, I liked it more and more. I believe this virtuous circle is the key to re-energising your team and finding momentum, and it’s the one I’ve used successfully with those teams and businesses over the last couple of years.

At its simplest, I think people enjoy doing what they’re good at and that this enjoyment carries them over any obstacles to becoming even better at it. And that overcoming those obstacles is itself a way of getting even better.

Motivating Teams and Businesses

If you want to re-energise your team, business or organisation, and find the momentum to carry them forward, you need to remind people how they’ve already lived this virtuous circle.

I’ve used lots of different tools and techniques to do this. First, because I like experimenting, finding out what works. And second, because I like to take an approach that is tailored specifically to a particular team or business, so that it is really effective and is just for them and they can own it as theirs.

Tools, Techniques and Guiding Principles

Amongst these tools and techniques, there are three guiding principles that I think should always be present:

1. Time

It’s so easy when you’re in the busy day-to-day of running things to forget your story. We tend to focus on what needs to come next and forget to look back, at what’s already happened. As Bob Marley sang:

If you know your history, then you will know where you’re comin’ from…

I’ll always include some way of representing the journey of that team and business from the past through the present. And along the way they’ll also get a chance to remember what they had to overcome to get there and what they had to become good at doing.

There are many different ways to anchor that journey over time, so that the exercise can breathe some life into their experience, but the best ways usually seem to…

2. Play to Their Strengths

For example, if this is a team who are good at thinking in logical steps, I’ll use a ‘spatial anchoring’ technique, marking the timeline of their business along the floor and re-tracing their steps from the past to the present. If they’re a team who listens well, I might have different members represent key points along the timeline, and tell the story of that point as the group moves along. I’ve asked video production companies to make a visual vignettes of their business’s journey. One organisation I visited used bright colours and diagrams everywhere, so I asked them to colour-code and map-out the obstacles they’d had to overcome and the things they’d enjoyed along the way. Another business, good at summarising and explaining to each other, were asked to peg out cards to an impromptu washing-line, each card briefly describing their experiences over the 15 years since their business was founded.

Once you’ve got the timeline represented in some way, with a good recollection of the obstacles they’ve had to overcome and the things they’ve become good at doing, you need to make sure there is…

3. Space for the Future

I don’t know about you, but I want room to grow into. I want to know that there is space and potential in my future. Not too much space, because I don’t want to be rattling around not knowing where to go, but enough space to house my ambitions.

I think teams and businesses are the same. The people that breathe life into those teams and businesses unconsciously need to see, feel and understand that there is a supporting structure that has enough space for an enjoyable future.
This is the key to the second part of what you’re trying to achieve – as well as re-energising them, you need keep them going. To create momentum to carry this team into the future.

Whatever technique you’ve used to represent their journey so far, make sure that it can also extend easily and spaciously into the future. So, for example, if you use the ‘spatial anchoring’ technique described above, make sure there’s also room along the floor to include the future without cramming it into a corner.

Recreate that virtuous circle for your team, business or organisation. Help them to re-live the overcoming of obstacles that got to where you are now, to reconnect with the things you’ve become good at along the way. If you can do that, then I think you are most of the way there to re-energising and rediscovering that enjoyment. If you can do it in a way which deploys those three principles of: Time, Playing to your Strengths and creating Space for the Future, then I believe you will also find the momentum you want.

Teams vs Groups

What’s the difference between a Team and a Group – when do you need them and what makes them work?

People don’t always realise that there’s a difference between a Group and a Team and that not every group should be or even needs to be a team.

(In contrast, and technically speaking, every team is a kind of group)

Knowing which is which and giving some thought to what the functions and groupings in your organisation require can be really helpful, especially when it comes to improving performance, designing workflow and diagnosing the causes of dissatisfaction.

When you need a team

You’ll probably need a Team if you need synergy – if you need the sum of the parts to be greater than the whole.

If the efforts of individual people, working well in a Group give you all that you need, then don’t try to make them behave like a team. People working in a process, where they pass a task along to be progressed by somebody with different skills are also a Group.

If the outcomes you’re after are complex, challenging and beyond the scope of individuals, even working well as part of a process, then you need a Team.

I don’t know if the academics would agree with me, but I understand it in terms of my experiences:

  • relay runners racing in the 4 x 100m are a Group
  • rugby players, even with specialised skills and tasks, need to be a Team.

If you’re a member of the most senior group of people who run your organisation, you and your colleagues probably should be a Team – unless your business is a highly-specialised, one-off, short-term, project-based activity like making a movie. And even then I’d argue you’d add something by aiming to be a team.

You can use the table below to see the other key differences between Groups and Teams and some of the important implications for helping people to be productive and fulfilled. Alt-click the table and select “Save image as…” to download a copy:TeamsvsGroups

Be a Team Player

When he was 11, my son played football for his local team.

They were still at that stage where it feels better to make a lone (and often forlorn) dash in the hope of scoring a glory-goal, than to pass the ball and let someone else grab the shot.
Knowing that playing as a team is what wins games seems to be something that comes with emotional maturity.

Generally, men are really good team players and I suspect that being part of a great team is something that we want in a deep, heartfelt way.

Sometimes though, men have a tendency to forget the rest of the team and go chasing-off on their own. They forget to ask for help. They forget that they’re not in it alone. Their intentions are often sound – these actions mostly seem to come from a sense of responsibility, not irresponsibility. Perhaps what gets in the way is that boyhood dream of being the daring centre-forward who single-handedly saves the match?