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How to Provide Motivation for Your Team like a Pro

Casey Shull
Author - - - 3 min. to read

In the wildly popular movie Office Space, there is a scene where the main character, Peter Gibbons, is called into a review meeting with “The Bobs,” presumably to declare his worth and save his job. And it ends up taking a completely unexpected turn: Peter has become so disenchanted with his bosses and his lot in the company that he flat out doesn’t care. He gives examples of being late on an almost constant basis, wasting time staring off into outer space throughout the day, and he eventually calculates that he works approximately 15 minutes each day. Total. Understandably startled, the Bobs dig deeper for a reason, only to have Peter simply state a lack of motivation.

When you’re a manager, part of your job is spearheading your team’s overall performance and well-being, while taking care to make sure both client and company needs are being met. A good leader focuses on the principal impact of their team. A great leader rallies around each team member. Human capital management company Ultimate Software released the results of a management survey they conducted, in which they found that 71% of managers say they knew how to motivate their teams. However, only 44% of employees polled agreed that their managers knew how to motivate them.

As a remote leader, it can be difficult to know how to make an impact when your staff is scattered around the globe. As mentioned in our article Smells Like Team Spirit, one of the obvious problems of leaders and team members operating remotely is that “If you share office space, then it’s easier to organize corporate team building activities; away days, brainstorming, or group bonding over a beer after work.” Remote workers miss out on some of that camaraderie.

Taking a leaf from the plot of Office Space, here are the top four ways managers who want to become leaders can guide their remote teams to greatness. But when it comes to hiring the best international talent, there’s only one best way – by talking to us.

Motivating Through Intercommunication

Milton Waddams was perhaps one of the most beloved characters on Office Space, with his constant mumbles and quest to find his stapler, all while being completely ignored by his bosses and colleagues. While Milton’s predicament was hilarious, to a remote worker it’s your worst nightmare. Neglecting employees, especially when working remotely, is one of the fastest ways to damage an employee’s motivation. It’s important to check in with each member in frequent intervals. Career coach and author Lisa Quast also cautions not to use these scheduled interactions just for getting your points across and hanging up. “To make these meetings as effective as possible, shift the discussion from you (the manager) telling the employee what to do, to the employee proactively providing you with an update on their work and explaining any help or support they might need.” If you want to motivate like a pro, begin your encounter with “What’s happening?” And be sure to mean it.  

Joanna suffered the opposite problem at Chotchkie’s with a manager who micromanaged while simultaneously failing to communicate. Eventually, Joanna cracks when her boss hints that by following his rule of at least fifteen flairs she is not following direction. Employers who manage remote teams well would tell you that because of the lack of one-on-one communication, a lot can be lost in translation. Ferrazzi Greenlight CEO Keith Ferrazzi says, “As the manager, you need to set clear, deliberate expectations in advance and establish ground rules for how interactions will take place.” Make sure your direction is clear and concise.  

Motivating By Promoting And Utilizing

Samir Nagheenanajar and Michael Bolton (no relation to the pop-rock legend of the same name), have the unfortunate disadvantage of being talented programmers at Initech. Not only are they both devoted employees but Michael also has the skills to hack into the company’s accounting software with a virus he created himself. However, neither receive recognition. When employees’ talents are not utilized, motivation can be the first thing to deflate. Research professor and motivation author Brene Brown cautioned against ignoring employee talent. “Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, and shame.”

One major factor for motivation comes from the idea of good work being rewarded by recognition and promotions. In a study done by Execu-Search, “76% of millennials say that professional development opportunities are one of the most important things a company can offer.” It must be something they feel like they can achieve. 

Recognition is so important that Businesscollective called it the “key” to motivation. When a manager only contacts a remote employee to offer criticism, they are unwittingly doing major damage to the remote employee’s psyche, work ethic and, of course, work drive. Hubstaff proclaims giving praise is an action that must be deliberate, stating, “some managers only contact remote employees when something is wrong. This lack of positive communication crushes morale. You must be deliberate about offering positive feedback and praise.” Dustin Grosse, COO of Clearslide couldn’t agree more. “Rather than micromanaging when they’re getting the work done, focus on what they’re consistently achieving.”

Provide The Motivation 

As Peter gets up to leave his meetings with the Bobs he points out, “That’s my real motivation – is not to be hassled.” It’s important to consider whether you’re hassling your employees or motivating them. Do they work better when you leave them alone? That’s a great thing! Remote employees that are well-trained and well-managed are able to function on their own. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, spoke on this very subject. “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”

Motivating your remote employees like a pro means you take communication seriously and use it to your advantage. Instead of neglecting your remote employees, you praise them, honestly and consistently. Instead of micromanaging them, you provide them with clearly defined objectives and step back. In the study done by Ultimate Software, half of the employees polled said they’d turn down a 10% pay increase to stay with a great boss. From our article Great Expectations – How to Get your Remote Team on the Same Page, it’s recommended for managers to “check in regularly, to answer any questions and see if any unexpected problems have cropped up.”

Furthermore, providing reachable goals of promotion, and offering praise as much as constructive criticism, are sure ways to keep the motivation flowing throughout your remote team.

If you haven’t seen Office Space, I won’t spoil the ending for you but let’s just say Initech’s poor management skills made any value go up in smoke. Something like that is sure to happen to a poorly managed team. However, you have nothing to fear if you stick with these tips. Instead, you’re sure to set your remote team on fire – the kind of fire that doesn’t end up with your business ambitions turned into ash.

If you’re ready to be a pro motivator with your management skills, contact DistantJob today to get your remote team on track for success.

Casey Shull

Casey Shull is a freelance writer who works with DistantJob to research and synthesise the best remote work related content into practical, accurate and actionable guides and articles on how to improve remote leadership and better manage your teams.

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