3 Tips to Motivate Your People: Remember The WHY

3 Tips to Motivate Your People: Remember The WHY

A client was recently telling me about some struggles they were having with their team.

In general, everyone has pretty much checked out of work. They are physically there, but mentally on another planet.

This was creating some challenges for the organization: the team leader wanted the same comradery to exist in a virtual space in the same way that it did when everyone was working in the office.

And now, the months of working remote are starting to show a strain.

Team members aren’t excited about online meetings. They don’t seem engaged or want to offer any additional or personal information.

The team used to have regular happy hours after work with great attendance: team leaders have tried to implement “virtual happy hours” with very little success.

What are leaders supposed to do, especially when it appears that we will not be working in the same physical space again anytime soon?

Motivating people is hard, in general, but so many factors are making this even MORE challenging right now.

But you can do this. It’s not going to be perfect and it’s probably going to get a little messy at times.

That’s ok. That’s life in the real world.

The most important thing is that you TRY and that you are AUTHENTIC in your efforts. At the end of the day, that’s what’s going to resonate with your team and pull you through this difficult, challenging time.

Ready? Let’s do this.


  1. Make it personal. A fundamental part of motivation is knowing that the person you are working with honestly gives a crap about you.

    As a leader, you can’t fake this. Don’t even try.

    Faking that you care about your team is the equivalent of wearing a 15-year-old toupee: everyone can see right through the façade.

    ASK people how they are doing or how the project is going.

    LISTEN to what they have to say. This means you don’t talk for at least 30 seconds after you ask the questions. I get this is so hard to do. But sit on your hands if you need to. Give people time to process and respond thoughtfully.

    ASK follow-up questions.

    Can you guess what the next part here is? Yep – LISTEN to what the person has to say.

    In order for this to be an authentic conversation, there has to be time set aside with only this on the agenda. Which leads us to….

  2. Be intentional. This isn’t a conversation that you can have on the fly…or think that you’re going to remember to check in with everyone by the end of the week.

    Times are weird, people. It’s ok. But you have to embrace the weirdness and set yourself up for success.

    This means scheduling a 15-30 min conversation with each of your people.

    Let them know that you just want to talk and hear how life is going.

    And that not seeing them every day/week in person makes this kind of check-in difficult, but that you miss having hear about ____[fill in the blank travel, kids, cats, etc.]________.

    That’s the challenging thing about our virtual reality: the informal and impromptu conversations of running into someone in the hallway don’t happen anymore.

    Which totally sucks.

    But that doesn’t mean we can or should lie on the floor in the fetal position (even though we’ve all had our moments – and still will – of doing that).

    In order to have those STILL meaningful and perhaps even MORE NEEDED conversations, as the leader of your team, YOU have to make the effort.

    No one is going to do it for you, unfortunately.

    YOU have to set the standard and the precedence for your team.

    I promise you, even though I know this is hard, it will make a difference to everyone on your team.

    And when this very challenging time is over, they will remember that you made the extra effort.

    And they will reward you for it – by hard work, by loyalty, by paying it forward to someone else, or some other way. This kind of leadership will continue to reward you and everyone around you in ways that you can’t see today. Know if will be worth it.

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  4. Explain why things matter. Early in my career, I worked in different organizations as an administrative assistant. Nothing made me want to run screaming from the building more than the answer, “do it because I said so.”

    If you want people to be motivate, they need to understand why a particular task matters.

    How it fits into the bigger picture – on your team, in your department, and in the organization.

    WITHOUT knowing this information, I have no idea how important or unimportant my task is – and how it might be impacting others.

    Again, explaining why becomes even MORE important if you’ve hired anyone new in the past 9+ months and they’ve only worked for you remotely.

    Say, for example, my job is to run the TPS reports on the 15th of every month and send them to my supervisor.

    If all I know is that they go to my supervisor, I might not really care if the reports are late. Or sent in at 11:58 PM on the 14th of the month. Or if the data ‘seems’ correct.

    I am just going through the motions.

    However, this all changes if I know that my supervisor forwards on my TPS reports to the head of the department, who shares them directly in monthly reporting to the CEO of the organization.

    And that if the data is late, or incorrect, it negatively impacts organizational decision making (which helps make sure I have a job). Or, that I might look like a jerk if month after month the data is late or incorrect.

    Different story all together, right?

    Your job as the leader is to make sure that everyone on your team understands how all of the ‘pieces’ fit together in the organization.

    This transparency helps your people understand why their work matters.

    In turn, this gives them some ownership.

    Let’s be honest: knowing how everything fits together and why it matters won’t make everyone ecstatic about work overnight.

    They still might be a bit grumpy.

    But that’s ok. That’s life.

    However, they will be more motivated to do the work if they know other people are counting on them.

    At a fundamental level, we ALL want to be valued. And know that our work – and our time and energy expended away from our family – matters.

    Help your people understand how integral they are to the system by intentionally explaining why.

  5. Times are weird, my friends.

    Remember to keep focusing on WHO and WHAT really matters.

    As time moves on, you may find your priorities and interests shifting, professionally and personally.

    That’s ok. Even though it can be scary as hell.

    Lean into the change. Embrace the change. And see where it takes you.

    We’ve got videos of this content – and MORE – on LinkedIn.

    Keep rocking and I look forward to connecting online SOON!


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