Nigel McPolin
Founder, etimes2 ltd

Last time, I suggested that managers should get to know their team members as individual people.  I focused on knowing their job related strengths and maximising these.  In this article, I will look at the role of ‘direction’ in motivating employees.


Every Employee is Motivated

We often hear about unmotivated work colleagues or team members.  Is it even possible for someone to be ‘unmotivated’?  It is difficult to imagine.


In the early years of my career, I worked in the same team as a guy, Andy, who I often describe as the most motivated person in the world.  Andy put considerable effort into achieving his goals every day, and was relentless in pursuit of his goals.


Andy was difficult to work with and our manager struggled to manage him.  Yet, he met all three conditions in order to be highly motivated:

  • Direction – he had a clear direction/goal
  • Effort – he worked hard to achieve his goal every day
  • Persistence – his efforts never waned in all the time we worked together


So, what was the problem?  Why was he difficult to work with and manage?

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Andy’s main motivation every day was to survive a job he didn’t fully understand and wasn’t properly trained for.  He was motivated to avoid another berating from our inexperienced manager.  So, he fussed about trying to help colleagues but mostly just getting in the way.  The poor guy was stressed with the effort.


To put it simply, his direction was all wrong.  His goal was not conducive to achievement.  His goal was to move in the opposite direction of something (ie a telling off) rather than towards a worthwhile target.


Everybody wants to feel good about what they do

Through our efforts to help Andy, we discovered that when we provided him with direction towards a worthwhile target, he was delighted and motivated.  He would carry out the tasks with enthusiasm, keen to get it right and eager for feedback.  This shows how clear direction is an excellent motivator.


This story also shows that most employees want to feel good about what they do.  Clear direction can help more people feel good about their work.

5 Free activities to become an engaging leader

Direction: is it still relevant?

Yes.  A successful organisation still needs its people to work towards its key objectives, regardless of how the business is structured.  Clear direction gives employees clear parameters within which to work.  Good leadership empowers people to innovate and be creative within these parameters.


Setting direction with your team

The following steps will help you set a clear direction with your team.  Please note, the direction of travel will be readily accepted and more vigorously pursued by those involved in setting it.  So, involve your team.


Develop a ‘Team Purpose Statement’

I have recently provided a blog article on this topic – see Team Purpose: a free activity for managers.  Please use this activity to establish a sense of purpose within your team.

The purpose statement should be motivational.  A high level statement of who the team is, why it exists, who it serves and how its members would like the team to be thought of by customers and colleagues.  It should not contain any detail – no mention of targets or figures.  It should be as creative as the team wishes to make it.


Agree your team’s mission

Now that your team has agreed and established a sense of purpose, you can focus on clear direction by discussing and setting your team mission statement and objectives.  You can now start to include more detail such as targets.  Some suggested steps in setting your team mission:

Review your teams key stakeholders and their requirements – then you can create key criteria by which the success of the team will be measured.

Develop your mission statement – create an overall team definition (more formal than the purpose statement) and its aims. Then generate clear objectives to address the key stakeholders’ needs.

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Let me help you uncover what drives motivation and engagement in your team. Click the image for a free diagnostic.

Team Strengths Review

Involve your team members in analysing team strengths and identify areas of potential weakness so these can be addressed.  A SWOT Analysis is perfect for this step.

Discuss and agree how to maximise strengths to avail of opportunities and overcome threats and to build up areas of potential weakness.

Empower the team to innovate

Now, you have involved your team in setting a clear direction with a focus on objectives and clarity of team strengths and weakness, you have established clear parameters.  You are now free to discuss innovation and creativity within these parameters to achieve team objectives quicker, more efficiently, and with better quality.

Share control of team issues with your team members empowering them to make decisions and use own initiative to live up to both the team purpose and mission statements.


What will you do to set clear direction for your team and to empower team members to innovate?

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