As a manager, nothing can prove more challenging than encouraging your team to roll up their sleeves and get to work, only to receive a weak response in return. But rather than throw your hands in the air or devise an arbitrary solution, you should get to the root cause of the lack of motivation. Who knows, it could even be you.
Six entrepreneurs who have had experience with the struggle of inspiring a complacent team share their tips for igniting the flame and fueling their passion.
Throw them in the fire.
Want to keep everyone on their toes? Introduce a new challenge to make things interesting.
"Sometimes teams lose focus and motivation when given unclear, unmeasurable or very long-term goals," says Ross Beyeler, CEO of e-commerce consultancy Growth Spark. "Set a challenge of building something (which doesn't even have to be core to the business) in a ridiculously short amount of time."
Much like a hackathon, Beyeler says getting people grouped around a singular goal with tight constraints will help their creativity come to life.
Take a look in the mirror.
If you find yourself up against a lackadaisical team, consider that maybe you might be the problem -- not them.
"While we often have a lot on our plates as entrepreneurs, it's our responsibility to ensure we're providing the support for our team and empowering them to feel motivated and fulfilled," says Zachary Burkes, director of business consultancy Predictable Profits. "If they're not, ask yourself, 'What have I done to empower my team? Can I do anything else to support them?'"
Tailor it to the team member.
"What motivates you might not work for another person, so motivation needs to come in different forms," says Jayna Cooke, CEO of event venue marketplace EVENTup.
"For example, some team members are motivated by positive reinforcement, some by recognition in front of other team members and others by private recognition." Cooke suggests trying out many different ways to motivate your team in order to ensure you're reaching the broadest audience.
Set realistic goals -- and celebrate them.
By showing your appreciation for the work that went into hitting a major milestone, your team will come to expect the same sort of treatment for any hard work put in thereafter.
"Employees need to be rewarded when completing goals, and not just through an email or note. By making employees feel significant, you can motivate them in a very personal way," says Anthony Pezzotti, co-founder of online content provider Knowzo.
"Our developer recently finished a big project and was rewarded with a new iPhone and iPad. This not only motivated him to continue to succeed in our company, but showed all of our employees what happens when goals are met."
Make abstract goals more relatable.
Why would your team have any reason to get behind a concept or idea they don't fully understand?
Simon Berg, CEO of content marketing software platform Ceros, finds that making abstract goals more personal and relatable goes a long way toward boosting productivity: "If someone feels personal ownership for a set of goals, they own it and care about it. Instead of using carrots and sticks, we find that autonomy and mastery are much better incentives."
When in doubt, ask.
"Managers tend to experience situations differently than their teams," says Justin Blanchard, CMO and co-owner of cloud server business ServerMania. "I've often found my assumptions about why a team is unproductive are wide off the mark, because there are an infinite number of reasons a team may fail to fulfill its potential."
Rather than guess at a solution, Blanchard recommends asking them what they need to get back to peak productivity. "You may be surprised," he says, "and the act of asking will communicate that you value the team's input."