Are you struggling to motivate your team?

Three ways to help your people find more drive, fulfillment, and success

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about so-called “quiet quitting.”

According to a recent Gallup study, at least 50% of the U.S. workforce isn’t engaged with their work. [source] They show up and do the minimum requirements, but they’re not emotionally connected with their company’s mission or their team.

And boy, it’s costing us! Obviously, this low engagement means lower productivity. But it also takes a toll on your culture. It creates frustration for your top talent, who become more likely to leave. Left unchecked, an unmotivated workforce will jeopardize your big goals and market position.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. For leaders, the challenge of motivating a team is an incredible opportunity. Why? Because doing it well means building real relationships and trust with the people you lead.

And in my experience, making those genuine connections is always the most gratifying part of a leader’s job.

And of course, there’s an upside for your business, too: Companies with an engaged workforce are 23% more profitable than those whose employees report low engagement. [source]

So let’s not just accept “quiet quitting” as the way things have to be right now. If you’re ready to build a team that’s focused, energized, and working together toward big goals, keep reading. I’ve got three practical ways to help you motivate your team.

Define reality together.

As a leader, it’s your job to define reality for your team.

Here’s what I mean: you have to be crystal clear on what’s currently happening in your business. It sounds simple, but too many leaders get wrapped up in their day-to-day work and lose sight of that big-picture reality.

And if you’re not clear on the reality of your business, your team isn’t either.

How can we expect engagement from employees who aren’t clear about the challenges in the business and how they can help solve them? 

If you want to define reality, here are four areas you can break it down into:

  • Customer reality: Nothing should motivate you more than what your customers are telling you. What do they think about your business? What do they want from you?
  • Team reality: Find out what’s working and what’s not working with your team. Figuring this out goes hand-in-hand with boosting your team’s motivation. I’ll go into more detail on how to listen to your team later on.
  • Competitive reality: Too many leaders put their head in the sand about their competition. Know how you stack up and compare to your competitors. They’re also a great source of ideas for how to attack your own challenges.
  • Financial reality: You’ve got to know your numbers, both current and historical, so that you can really lay out to the team exactly where you stand and where you need to go.

If that seems like a lot, don’t worry. You don’t have to figure it out alone. Get your team involved in defining reality. When people do this work together, it creates a shared experience and a natural sense of alignment and motivation.

Listen to your team.

The most powerful way to motivate someone is to truly listen to them. When people feel heard, they feel valued. They see their ideas become action, and they know they matter to the success of the overall mission.

In fact, a 2021 study by the Workforce Institute found that 74% of employees say they’re more effective at their job when they feel heard. [source]

Here’s a great example of this. Recently, the CEO of Target, Brian Cornell, joined me on my podcast, How Leaders Lead.

Brian is a leader who really listens to his team. He regularly visits his Target stores to see what’s happening on the ground. And you know, when the boss shows up unannounced, some people may get a little nervous or defensive, because they feel like they’re under the microscope.

But Brian arrives and asks one simple question: “How can I help?”

And then he listens.

His team members realize he’s actually there to hear what their challenges are so they can work together for a solution. That dialogue creates trust and honesty. And as a result, he gets incredible insights from his team.

And his employees feel like they’re truly part of building a solution.

This way of listening won’t just boost motivation. It’s also going to help your bottom line, too. In companies that outperform their competition financially, 88% of employees feel heard – compared to only 62% at underperforming companies. [source]

You’ll see all kinds of benefits as you listen to your team, and they see their ideas turn into real solutions.

Recognize, recognize, recognize.

Now here’s something I never thought I’d say about myself:

There are a LOT of photos of me with a rubber chicken.

It sounds pretty weird when I put it like that, but there is a VERY good reason for it.

As the CEO of Yum! Brands, I was in charge of KFC. When I took over, morale was low and the business was struggling. But I still saw employees doing great work, and I wanted to make sure they KNEW they were doing the right thing.

To do that, I gave them a rubber chicken as an award. I wrote a note to say what they were specifically doing well and how it was contributing to our overall success. It came with a cash bonus. And we ALWAYS got a photo together!

It took off like you wouldn’t believe. The mindset of the organization started to change. It opened up lines of communication with the franchises and we turned the quality around in three years.

When you recognize your employees, they will work harder. They’ll know deep down that the work they do isn’t going unseen and unappreciated. 

If you don’t regularly acknowledge your team’s contributions, you will always face lower engagement and higher turnover. According to OC Tanner research, 79% of employees who quit their jobs cited a lack of appreciation as a major reason why. [source]

However you choose to recognize people, make sure you are genuine, specific, and regular about it. I’m confident you’ll see the impact it has on your team’s overall motivation.

It’s almost impossible to build a successful business with an unmotivated team. And it’s tempting sometimes to throw your hands up and assume people are just unwilling to buy in.

But I believe most people actually want to feel inspired at work.

As leaders, we play a huge role in how focused and motivated our teams can become.

Don’t assume “quiet quitting” isn’t happening at your organization. Don’t assume it will go away on its own. Instead, be intentional. Be creative about how you apply these tips. And I know you’ll continue to become a leader people look to for motivation.

Ready for your next step?

I talk a lot about recognition because I believe it’s the secret weapon for any business. In fact, I believe it in SO much that I built an entire online course called Purposeful Recognition. I’ll show you how to unleash the power of recognition to drive real business results. And I guarantee you can afford it. (You’ll see what I mean.)

Register here ]