Help! I Need to Motivate My Team

Recently I was completing a project that required me to spend four days at my client’s headquarters. It was a good week, albeit a long week. In the airport before I boarded my plane, I purchased a CD of songs from the 40’s. Upon my arrival at my home airport about midnight, I quickly made my way to my car. To make my 40-minute late night drive home more enjoyable, I popped in the new CD to listen to a few tunes.

Without consciously thinking, my mouth opened up and these words melodically came roaring forth: You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you…

I was singing along with the old tune Dean Martin turned into an Easy Listening hit in the 60’s:

You’re nobody ’til somebody cares…
You may be king, you may possess the world and it’s gold…

The more I sang, the more emboldened I became:
But gold won’t bring you happiness when you’re growing old…

Then I began belting out:
You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you…

I’m thinking… American Idol for baby boomers, a great idea for the Fox TV Network.

You’re nobody ’til somebody cares…

Watch out America here I come.

You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you… so find yourself somebody to love!

Hey world! Call 1-800 DAVID… driving down an empty turnpike late at night, I was becoming a legend in my own mind.

Now I’m sure you have done the same thing! Maybe it was in the shower and not in the car, but when you were confident no one was listening, I know you have belted out the song of your choice with boisterous boldness and Grammy winning magnitude.

The song ended and I began thinking about the lyrics that I had just sung.

You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you…

“What a negative line … this has to be the most negative song ever composed”, my mind declared. “There are a lot of people in the world that don’t feel as if they are loved, but that doesn’t make them a nobody!”

But then I focused on the last line of the lyrics:

… so find yourself somebody to love.

And I realized, embedded in that song was a powerful truth; the principle from antiquity, “Give and it will be given to you.”

When you take the focus off of yourself and put that focus on others, value is generated. This is true of an individual and it is true for your organization. We seldom use the word love in the workplace, but when we, as leaders put our focus on others we will not only find them positively responding, we will stir in ourselves the valuable qualities that will motivate us as a leader.

How can we better the lives of the people we lead? Improving the lives of people is what brings value and significance. It is that value and significance that truly makes you somebody!

Let’s examine the four significant generators that will motivate your team: Passion; Fit; Shared Goals; Core Values.

1. Passion

Where does passion come from? It comes from people understanding that what they are doing is important; that their work is truly worthwhile.

Why does that bring passion? When your team members understand that what they do is worthwhile – that they truly are bringing value to the life of another individual – it makes them feel good about themselves. They realize that they are needed. As each member realizes that they are needed and that they don’t only offer value, they have value, it lifts their self-esteem. Self-esteem is one of the strongest human emotions… it’s right up there with love and hate.

When your team realizes that the job that each of them is doing is worthwhile and it affects other human beings in a positive way, it generates passion.

In our society, some occupations are obviously worthwhile:
Police officers
School teachers
The list could go on and on. But what about the factory worker?

A former client of mine manufactures steel out of their steel mill in Butler, Indiana.

How is the work of a front-line worker at a steel mill worthwhile work?

The repetitive work could easily seem mundane. However, one of the customers of this steel mill is a brake manufacturer for the auto industry. If the front-line worker goes about their day in a mind-numbing way without attention to detail, their sloppy work could negatively effect the components of the brake. If the brake then malfunctions because of lack of excellence in workmanship, a tremendous tragedy could easily occur. I wouldn’t want one of my loved ones driving in that car with a defective braking system and neither would you. Worthwhile work? You bet!

Pause and reflect for a minute:
Think of the most mundane, seemingly unimportant job you have ever done.

Now think about why that job was worthwhile.

Almost every job you name is important because it has the ability to touch and improve the life of another person.

It’s not the job itself. It is the understanding that the job is worthwhile. When your team understands that what they are doing is worthwhile, they will work with passion.

2. Fit

I might understand that my work is worthwhile, but where do I fit in the big picture?
What is my role? Where is my place? How do I fit with the other members of my team?

At a very traditional wedding, the young nephew of the bride was enlisted to be the ring bearer. Dressed in a tuxedo matching the groomsmen, he politely proceeded down the aisle at the direction of the wedding planner. However, instead of quietly walking slowly down the aisle, he took a few steps, turned to the people on the left side of the church and let out a ROAR. He preceded a few more steps and turned to the people on his right and let out another ROAR. He continued this process until he reached the front of the church. The audience’s laughter followed the youngster with each step he took. Upon reaching the altar he surveyed the church full of people laughing at him, broke out in tears, and bolted out the front door of the building. His father, who had compassionately observed his son’s reaction, followed quickly behind his upset son.

“Buddy, are you OK?”, the dad said.

The young boy replied through his sobs, “Daddy, all those people in that church are laughing at me.”

“What were you doing in there?” the dad inquired.

As gigantic tears streamed down his cute face, he looked up at his dad with the seriousness of a lawyer standing before the Supreme Court and firmly said, “Daddy, I was just being the Ring Bear!”

He thought he was doing the job he was asked to do and that he was doing it with great passion. But he did not understand how he fit in the overall picture.

I’ve run into these proverbial bears as a customer: the airline employee at the gate; the desk clerk at the driver’s license office; the customer service agent on the phone. I’ve been “roared” at because the worker was focused on the stress they were feeling at the moment, or the task they were engaging in, or the inconvenience I was causing. Each time, they failed to see me as the true customer (profit center that I am) as they focused on “roaring” through their job.

When I understand, as a team member, where I fit and where the job I do fits in the overall picture, that understanding lifts my self-esteem. I then work out of motivated drive to serve the customer/client. This understanding of fit, just like passion, is true of the individual and of your team.

3. Shared Goals

Goals are focal points, the things that propel us forward. They are what take us from where we are to where we want to be. They are the markers on the football field. First and 10; second and 6; third and 2; first and 10; second of 7… they tell us where we are going and give us feedback on our results.

Effective goals that motivate are shared goals. A lot of my clients have expressed, “we constantly share our goals”. I’m not talking about shared, as in articulated to the whole assembly. I’m talking about the team being focused on the same goals resulting in a mutual commitment.

There is an old story about the barnyard breakfast:
The chicken and the pig volunteered to be in charge.
The chicken suggested the menu be bacon and eggs.
The pig looked at the chicken and said:
“For you, that means involvement; for me that means commitment.”

A motivated team isn’t a group of people just involved in the activities of business. It is people committed to mutual goals that define where they want to be.

4. Core Values

Core values are the defined realities of how we want our lives to impact our co-workers, clients and customers, vendors, community. Values are like the sidelines on the field that govern our relationships, how we operate, and what we do.

Goals get us going; values sustain the effort. Goals are the future; values are now. Goals are set; values are lived. Goals change; values are like strong steady rocks. Goals can be negotiated and compromised; values are fixed because they become the boundaries by which we operate.

Sometimes the fastest way from point A to point B is not a straight line, it’s crooked.

But if our values say, we are not going to operate in a crooked manner…
we’re not going to cheat the customer
we’re not going to slide by in this area
we’re not going to close our eyes or simply wink at the mistake in the report
we are going to do the things we do with excellence
… then our core values truly dictate our behavior.

Values give us the boundaries by which we are going to operate. So even if it is faster, or easier, if it is crooked or goes out-of-bounds of one of our core values, we will not do it that way.

Clichés exist because they stand the test of time. We are all familiar with the cliché: “Opposites attract”. We are equally familiar with: “Birds of a feather flock together”. They are both true.

How can they both be true when they appear as if they are juxtaposed to each other?

Opposites attract: when a team forms, we need people with different strengths, different abilities, and different personality styles. Sometimes, if not most of the time, this causes challenges but it is the offset of perspectives that actually brings strength. We need these “opposites” to get where we are going. Just like a football team needs big players and quick players, your team needs people with different styles.

Birds of a feather flock together: when it comes to values, we need a team where the same values are mutually and strongly held. These values are realities we can’t and will not compromise on.

The manifestation of these two clichés working in tandem provides the ingredients for a strong team.

Every person in your circle of influence is seeking affirmation of their value and appreciation of their contribution. Create a motivated team by fostering an environment where each team member realizes that what they do has value; they know where and how they fit within the team; they, as a team, possess shared goals; and the team is governed by commonly held core values.

And always remember…
Find yourself somebody
Find yourself somebody
Find yourself somebody to love!

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