Team Success Secrets: Communication and Motivation Strategies
How do managers get their teams to see the same things they see?
Earlier this summer, my wife and I were sitting in our pool watching puffy clouds float by. I pointed out a cloud that looked like an alligator and steered her eyes toward the snout, the teeth, the eye, body and tail. She couldn’t see it. I could clearly make out the creature, but she still couldn’t see it after numerous attempts.
This small encounter reminded me of several instances in my career when I could clearly see an issue or vision, but a co-worker or group could not. It was apparent to me, but the others just couldn’t see the alligator.
How do maintenance and engineering managers get their teams to see the same things they see? How do they communicate the vision and the path forward so the team clearly understands what managers want? How do managers motivate individuals to get on board?
Anyone who has attended any of my trainings, workshops, speaking engagements at the NFMT conferences or read my past articles knows I like to tell stories. Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to communicate. Stories capture attention, conjure emotions and inspire change. They also help illustrate a vision by using concrete examples, scenarios and objectives. There are three aspects to communicating a vision: the purpose of the goal or objective; the depiction of the future; and the benefits.
When convincing or influencing people’s behaviors, certain components can help managers ensure the team is engaged.
Keep the vision simple, honest and authentic. Keeping the message simple so teams can understand it is much easier for them to process. Being honest and authentic builds trust within the group. Trust is the most effective motivator for employees. Ask yourself: Am I motivated by someone if I don’t trust them?
There are four primary forms of communication — verbal, nonverbal, visual and written. One communication skill managers must have is active listening, which involves paying close attention to the person being communicated with by engaging with them, asking questions and rephrasing. Active listening can build respect with colleagues and increase understanding in the workplace. Managers who actively listen focus on the speaker and avoid distractions, such as cell phones and laptops.
Using the right method of communication also is important. There are benefits and disadvantages to communicating through emails, texts and phone calls. Communication is more effective when considering the audience, the information to share and the best way to share it.
Friendly attributes like honesty, empathy and kindness can help foster trust and understanding when communicating at work. Managers need to communicate with a positive attitude, keep an open mind, and ask questions to ensure understanding. Small gestures, such as asking someone how they are doing, smiling, and offering praise for work well done can help foster productive relationships with coworkers.
The key to effective feedback is sharing specific examples of the issue and the consequences of the issue and asking questions to frame solutions. Strong communicators can accept constructive feedback and provide constructive input to others. Feedback can answer questions, provide solutions and help strengthen relationships. Providing and accepting feedback is an essential workplace tactic because it can help both you and the staff make meaningful improvements to their work and their professional development.
Respect is another aspect of knowing when to initiate communication and respond. In a team or group setting, allowing others to speak without interruption is a critical communication skill tied to respectfulness. Respectfully communicating also means using time with someone else wisely, staying on topic, asking clear questions and responding fully to any questions.
Some communication happens through nonverbal cues, such as body language, facial expressions and eye contact. When listening to someone, a manager might choose not to pay attention to the words the person is saying but instead to their nonverbal communication. It is essential to not judge others based on their body language because not all people display the same physical gestures due to individual differences.
Human beings do not process communication the same way. Each person receives, filters, processes and reacts to communication differently. As a result, one means of communication does not fit all. There are multiple mediums of communication, but the best form of communication is one-on-one.
When managers communicate a vision, they need to allow time for the recipient to filter and process the idea. They need to allow time for the vision to marinate, and they need to always circle back and be open to feedback. Be consistent with the message, and visually map out the path so they can see.
Nobody changes for the sake of change. There must be a compelling case, desire and motivation for change. The definition of motivation is the need, desires, wants, or drives within the individuals. It is the process of stimulating people to actions to accomplish their goals. In the context of work goals, it involves the psychological factors stimulating people's behaviors.
When managers communicate their vision, success depends on the motivation of the individual to accept or reject. External and internal sources or actions can influence motivation. Examples such winning a team sporting event, accumulating frequent flyer miles or earning pay raises are external or extrinsic motivators.
Increased feeling of self-worth, contribution and self-accomplishment are all examples of internal or intrinsic motivation. “What’s in it for me?” is another motivating factor for managers.
When sharing a vision or embarking on a change initiative, managers need to take several steps to ensure acceptance, behavior change, and ultimately the embedded vision and change.
Managers need to start with a well-defined vision. They can clearly and simply communicate the reasons for the change or initiative by painting a picture of what it is they want the staff to see. Is it an alligator or a kumquat?
Change does not happen overnight. Managers cannot expect embedded change to happen with a massive event.
Instead, take small steps that align with the plan. Roll out the plan and allow time for processing and feedback. Share successes when milestones or activities are completed. Continually encourage and reinforce the right behaviors and offer steps to correct nonconformance. Help the team by removing obstacles and barriers that might prevent them from achieving the vision.
By keeping motivation as a primary focus for success when communicating a vision, managers will have a profound impact on the achievement and the adoption rate. Remember, what motivates one person does not necessarily motivate another.
When managers look at the clouds, they need to take the time to clearly communicate their vision and motivate the team to see the alligator for themselves. One vision can lead an organization to becoming a better-performing holistic group.