Reluctant Team

Strategies to motivate reluctant people

Alexanne Riggle Blog, Lead Others, Lead Yourself

You’re passionate about your company and believe in its mission wholeheartedly. You have a fire burning inside of you that pushes you to work hard each day, try out new tools and methods, face challenges head-on, and ultimately, succeed. But perhaps you can’t say the same about every person on your team. 

Motivation is a key factor not only in employee retention, but in productivity. You, of course, want to build a team of employees that work efficiently, are productive on a daily basis, and show up with the initiative needed to thoughtfully solve problems. If that’s not currently the case, and you’re struggling with inspiring reluctant, unmotivated team members, know that it is possible to inspire them to move past their mental blocks in the workplace. Some common issues that create these blocks are fear, a lack of enthusiasm about a project, or a desire for more control. 

Rather than letting reluctant team members continue to resist change and inevitably slow down the progress of the entire organization, use my four steps for motivating reluctant people to strive for success: 

1. ALIGN YOUR TEAM

Give your team all the facts. It’s hard for your employees to get (or stay) motivated if there are aspects of a project, or even their role, that they’re in the dark about. Give your team a sense of purpose by ensuring they understand your vision. Most importantly, make sure your employees understand the plan. Where are you headed and why? How will you get there? What is the end goal? 

Here are some ways to align your team and make sure everyone is on the same page: 

Be transparent. 

Engaging in open communication with your team about what’s happening in relevant areas of the business is key to providing them with a sense of understanding about their current tasks. It also ensures that no one feels blindsided or caught off guard if the plan changes down the line, or if things veer off track. 

Share numbers and relevant statistics.

Having a set goal is a naturally motivating factor both in and out of the workplace. Allow your team members to see where things are in the company and where you want them to be. Show your team the bigger picture so they can see how what they’re working on will eventually contribute to an end goal. 

2. ASK FOR INPUT

Once everyone is on the same page, ask your team for their input—especially the more reluctant team members. Let your team speak openly on their thoughts about the initiative, and give them an opportunity to voice any concerns, suggest areas of improvement, and comment on what has been working thus far and what hasn’t. This will show your team that you trust and depend on them. Everyone on your team should have a voice; once you allow them to speak up, you will likely discover the reason behind any reluctance, giving you a chance to address any concerns.

Here are some ways to ask for input:

Hold one-on-one meetings.

These sessions between you and your employee are invaluable. They give you a deeper look at each employee’s role, because no one has more insight into the role than the person executing its tasks, day in and day out. This is also an excellent opportunity to build trust within your team and allow more reserved team members to voice their concerns. 

Have an open-door policy in the workplace.

Ensuring that your team members feel they can come to you with questions, suggestions or concerns is a surefire way to make them feel confident in their position within the company and make it known that their voices are being heard. This is particularly crucial for reluctant team members, who may be feeling like they are unable to share their thoughts and have a voice in company-wide decisions. 

3. GET EVERYONE INVOLVED

After you get input from your team, it’s time to figure out where your most reluctant people will fit best, given their individual strengths and weaknesses. Give them ample opportunities to contribute; when employees become involved in your vision and goals, they’ll be more committed to seeing tasks through. 

Here are some ways to involve your team:

Treat each employee as an individual.

Everyone on your team has a different background, their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and therefore, their own individual way of doing things. While your end goals will certainly need to be aligned, the best way to ensure everyone on a team is working toward a common goal is to present the strategy in multiple ways. For example, perhaps your most motivated employees do their best work when left alone to, well, do their best work, and see regular check-ins as micromanaging. But maybe your most reluctant and hesitant employees work best with weekly check-ins. You don’t need to employ the exact same structure and methods for each and every person on your team. Instead, ask them how they prefer to be managed, and watch them thrive in their roles. 

Respond to employee criticisms and suggestions.

While requesting input from your team via things like surveys or meetings is great, actually taking those suggestions into consideration as you move forward and directly responding to criticism is a whole other story. Showing your employees that you value their input will go a long way in motivating them—particularly reluctant team members. Hold yourself accountable and make the necessary changes to help them grow and succeed. For instance, if your more reluctant, unmotivated employee tells you in a one-on-one meeting that they aren’t feeling valued or like their strengths aren’t being fully utilized in their role, show them that they are being heard and give them new tasks that they can excel at. 

4. GIVE RECOGNITION

I can’t stress this point enough: tell your employees that you value them and their contributions to the team. Many reluctant employees feel the way they do because they’ve gradually been made to feel invisible in their role, or like their contributions don’t make a difference in the bigger picture. By communicating to your team that you value their input and believe they are capable of bringing about change, they will be more willing to embrace new initiatives.

Here are some ways to effectively share positive feedback:

Make your goals realistic and celebrate with your team when you reach them.

Rather than only setting lofty, big-picture goals for your company that will take years to achieve, set smaller, more attainable goals, too. After all, weekly or monthly successes are the stepping stones toward your end goal, and they deserve to be recognized. For example, while you may have a long-term goal of selling x amount of product by the end of the year, setting a monthly target makes that goal feel more attainable to your employees. Once they reach their targets, reward them with a team lunch, outing, or whatever works for your company. 

Create positive feedback rituals.

It’s easy to just tell yourself that you’ll get better at giving your employees positive feedback, but setting such vague goals inevitably leads to forgetting those goals exist. Instead, implement company rituals such as setting aside five minutes at the top of each meeting for each department head to go around the room and recognize one team member who has recently exceeded expectations and really excelled at a task or project. This will not only motivate reluctant team members who will undoubtedly want to eventually be the person whose work is being highlighted, but it will hold you (and other managers) accountable for actually providing positive feedback.

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