It’s not about rewards!

It’s hard to have a good team. I’m not saying it’s rare; I’m saying it takes an effort to nurture and maintain one.

Some of us have been with teams where the leader is only interested in getting the job done; in which we’re mere tools for the leader to achieve his/her goals. Chances are, I would move on as soon as an opportunity comes along.

Most leaders are not like that; I’m sure. We want our teams to feel they belong, to have a sense of camaraderie, be committed to the team, possibly willing to die for the team; or maybe not, but willing to go several extra miles would be great!

Motivating a team takes effort. We already know that money is not a good motivator, and rewards tended to feel superficial. So what could leaders do?


Five simple ways to show your team you value them

It turns out, one of the simplest ways to motivate your team is to show them you value them!

Not just value their contributions, though that’s important. Value them as a person, for who they are!

There are many ways a leader could show his team he values them. Here are five simple ways that do not require lots of efforts, but would go a long way towards motivating your team.

“Value them as a person, for who they are, and not just for their contributions!”


1. Listen well

There are lots of training that help you communicate so you can be heard, or understood, and some that deal with how you can listen well, and understand others. Most communication classes will touch on Active Listening. The question, though, is not whether you’re listening, but how much time you listen, and what happens in your mind when you are listening.

As a coach, I’m committed to listening 80% of the time, and talk only 20% of the time; but listening well goes beyond just the amount of time. As I listen, am I already thinking about what I will say next, what responses will I give the person, wondering when he/she will finish so I can start talking, thinking about what I will have for lunch, what I would do after work, or worse, pretending to listen while my mind is actually shut down? Or, am I giving my full attention to the person?

When talking with your team members, take time to listen well. Focus on what he/she is saying (or not saying), understand, empathise. Listen so you’ll know what he’s really thinking or feeling, instead of listening so you can give a response. Give him/her your full attention, and not be distracted by other things.

By listening well, you are giving your team members a gift they rarely get from others.

When you listen well, you show your team you value them.


2. Acknowledge and affirm them

We all want to know that our efforts are worthwhile and that our work mattered to someone. We want to know that we’re not insignificant or irrelevant. We are encouraged and motivated when we know that our efforts, however small, are important.

One easy way to encourage our team is to acknowledge and affirm them. To do it well, though, we have to be specific. A generic “Good Job!”, “Well done!”, or “Awesome!”, can often feel clichéd or hollow. An acknowledgement or affirmation grounded in specifics communicates to the other person that we “noticed”!

You can say something like,

  • “I noticed you did [ something ], it made a difference because [ reason ]. Thank you!”
  • “I saw you doing [ something ]. I recognised it required efforts from you. Appreciate you for doing it!”

Focus more on the efforts than the results. A person’s result might be “less than successful”, but his/her efforts are still valuable!

To do this, you need to truly value your team!

Then, when you acknowledge and affirm your team members, you are showing your team that you value them.


3. One-on-one time

When we are with our team, our conversations revolve around the tasks. If we are not careful, the tasks might become everything to us.

I believe that a leader needs to get to know his team members, beyond just their skills and responsibilities. A good leader needs to connect with his team at a personal level.

A simple way to do this is to spend regular one-on-one time with your team members. No doubt, you might already spend time with them as a group in an informal setting like lunchtime; and those times are important. But one-on-one time allows you to accomplish more than what you could in a group setting.

I used to schedule one-on-one time with individuals on my team (i.e. when I had a team), at least once every two months. We’d go out for tea or coffee, and be away from the office so that we would not be distracted by work. During those times, the focus is on the team member: their dreams, struggles, family, interests, what they are learning, their thoughts, etc.; I would share some of mine too, but made sure the focus was mostly on them.
To do it well, a leader needs to know how to listen well and ask powerful questions to draw the person out.

When you spend the time to connect with your team members at a personal level, you show your team that you value them.


4. Time for fun together

Life is more than just work. In my experience, fun and relaxation help energise the team to go further. I valued my team enough to create opportunities to energise them and build the relationship!

Years ago, when I was an Operations Director, I scheduled a monthly half-day of fun for my team. We would announce, ahead of time, to the entire organisation that the Operations Team (which included admin, HR, IT, finance, and media; big team!) will be unavailable. We would leave the office at lunch, and go do fun things together. I didn’t plan everything, of course; different team members planned for each month. We occasionally funded the fun from our team budget, but most times we paid from our own pocket. Most times we had simple activities: movies and afternoon tea, bowling, sports, etc.

It created some inconvenience for other people in the organisation because we were not available; the team had to plan their work ahead too! But team members loved it! They got to share moments together and build a relationship that helped them better appreciate each other. They knew that I valued them more than just the work they could do.

Having time for fun allows you to show team members you value them as a person, that you are interested not just in their output, but also in their being.


5. Celebrate!

Celebrations are our way of creating highlights, peak moments, and shared memories. It’s also an opportunity for leaders to show appreciation to their team members.

Most teams probably already celebrate birthdays; that’s a good start, but birthday celebrations can become just a routine.

There are many other things we could celebrate: milestones, successes, achievements, improvements, someone joining the team, even when someone is moving on from the team. We could also celebrate things that are not directly related to the team’s mission!

The key is not to celebrate everything, but to choose those that allow us to show appreciation for their efforts. It doesn’t even need to involve a cake or something elaborate, but it should at least allow the team leader to communicate acknowledgement and affirmation towards the team member.

When you take the time to celebrate with your team members, you show them you value their efforts.


What about you?

Which of these five ways have you tried? Which would you like to do for your team?

What other ways can you think of to show your team you value them?

Want to learn how to listen well and ask powerful questions that draw a person out? Check out our Coaching Workshop!


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