What are some actions team leaders can take to encourage their teammates? Every competent manager must ask himself or herself this question to maximize team performance. With my background in psychology and experience of owning two successful businesses I have learned the answer to this question.

1. Relationships: The American Management Association regularly studies why employees leave their jobs. You, the reader, may immediately think money is usually the number one factor. But employee compensation usually falls to the 4th or 5th reason on the list. Consistently the number one reason people leave employment is an unsatisfactory relationship with their supervisor. So number one on my list of employee motivators is building quality working relationships within your team. It is not necessary to be "friends" with teammates, but it is important for each member to feel connected.

2. Feeling Heard: One aspect of highly functioning teams is the wealth of ideas generated by teammates when problem solving. This happens when the leader encourages everyone to participate. Every idea is given an opportunity to surface. What may seem silly or off-the-point initially may spark a unique solution. Years ago a car dealership in Arizona was trying to increase sales during the hot, hot summer months. At a sales meeting someone suggested "air conditioning the outdoor lot." What seemed impossible at first glance ultimately turned in to the mist sprayers that are so prevalent in public spaces today.

3. Recognition: Some managers spend too much time criticizing team members. These same managers rarely take the time to compliment or identify positive contribution. Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation," suggested a hierarchy of human needs. At the base are physical necessities (food, water, physical safety). Higher up in the hierarchy is what he called Esteem Needs. We all seek achievement and the respect of others. The manager who calls attention to success helps teammates meet these needs.

4. Safety: In this country in modern times most workplaces are physically safe. The safety I am referring to is emotional. A manager can create an unsafe environment through fear: criticizing a teammate in public for an error or ridiculing a question asked in a meeting. I have a friend who works for a large IT firm. On a very large conference call, a vice president asked why the company was losing market share to a competitor. My friend suggested that while their hardware was superior in every way, the competitor's software had desirable features clients were seeking. The VP's response was, "Sounds like you'd rather be working for XYZ instead of us." After this manager's biting remarks there were no more ideas offered about how to regain market share. Teammates must feel safe.

5. Sense of contribution: Ford Motor Company found in a time management study that assembly line workers produced at a higher rate when they rotated duties. Having the opportunity to work at multiple stations on the line allowed them to feel a larger sense of contribution. To maximize team motivation don't "pigeon hole" teammates in certain tasks. It can happen casually. Sue is very good at spreadsheets and receives praise for her work from your manager. Very quickly that's all Sue is doing... spreadsheet after spreadsheet. A better approach is to have Sue coach another teammate and then you have two who are good at the task. Sue can then apply herself and her skills to other aspects of a project.

Motivating a team is an ongoing effort for every manager. Practicing these five steps will lay a solid foundation for your team. Some of the steps may not come naturally to you. With patience and persistence you can master the techniques and help your team achieve its potential.

Author's Bio: 

Richard Highsmith, rick@qualityteambuilding.com, is President of Quality Team Building. He has twenty-five years experience training and coaching. He has built and sold two successful businesses. To learn more about becoming a team leader visit our website at http://www.qualityteambuilding.com or call Rick toll-free at 1-888-484-8326 X101.