If you lead a team, my guess is that one of your biggest challenges today is finding ways to keep your team motivated. Below is a list of easy-to-apply surefire ways to step up your motivation game today.

Set Short-Term Achievable Goals

Nothing is more de-motivating than unrealistic goals.  If you want to motivate your team, set goals that are realistic and attainable for them.  Unfortunately, I have heard countless examples of leaders tasking their teams to beat and exceed pre-pandemic numbers in an effort to make up for a rough 2020.  If that wasn’t bad enough, in most of these cases, a large percentage of the teams’ compensation is based on these goals.  Meaning, they are being handed an unattainable goal with the likelihood that their income will be cut as well.  Talk about de-motivating.

If the goals that you set are unattainable, you can skip reading the rest of this list.  There will be no “motivating” anyone with goals that can’t be achieved.  A leadership best practice for goal-setting during times of uncertainty is to create extremely short-term achievable goals.  In other words, don’t say, “You need to beat your 2019 numbers by 10% over the course of this year.”  Instead, try establishing a short-term goal like, “Try to beat last month (or last week) by 10%.”

Recognize Efforts and Results Individually

Any skilled motivator knows their job is to recognize not only the results, but also the efforts of each team member.  I recently joined Orange Theory Fitness (OTF) in an effort to shed my “COVID 15” (that’s short for the 15lbs. I picked up sitting in my home office all day).  If you aren’t familiar with OTF, it is essentially a high intensity interval training workout accompanied by a heart monitor that tracks how many calories you burn as well as other data to ensure your optimal workout.  It is designed to provide you with short-term attainable goals for every class (ex: how many calories you burn in an hour) as you set out on your longer journey to optimize health.  Each class has a “coach” that roams the studio watching each participant closely.  In addition to  providing instructions and ensuring proper form, coaches constantly and consistently recognize individual’s efforts. As a  participant, when you accomplish something meaningful (for example, a personal record on a challenge), the coach is the first to congratulate you and say how proud of you they are.  It would not be the same experience if the coach was just hanging out by the front desk during class.  Instead, the coach’s attempts to motivate not only make the experience feel more personal, but also encourage the effort that each of us has deep down.

What about you? Are you watching your team closely enough to know what and how they are doing?  Are you recognizing their efforts?  Are you celebrating their small wins and accomplishments?  For an added bonus, consider sending a hand-written note to each member of your team telling them how much they mean to you and how proud of them you are for all of their hard work.  Sound cheesy?  Try it.  I guarantee you will see an impact that goes beyond anything you could anticipate.

Celebrate Wins as a Team

To state the obvious, it is much more difficult to create a truly connected team environment when everyone is working virtually.  If you find yourself in one of those situations where your team is still virtual, I would highly encourage you to work in a time each month to celebrate the accomplishments of the entire team.  To add a little more structure to this important conversation, consider having each team member take a turn to share something they have noticed and appreciated about another member of the team during the past month.  To ensure that no one gets left out, consider assigning each team member a different team member for them to observe and recognize at the end of each month.  Think of this as a monthly motivational “Secret Santa.”  This not only allows you to spotlight progress of the entire team (reinforcing teamwork and collective goals), but it also shares the motivational burden across your entire team so it isn’t just on your shoulders.

Recognize Your Team Members’ Other Team

To say today’s work/life boundaries have been blurred is an understatement.  In this environment of commuting to our kitchen table for a Zoom call at 7:30am, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the efforts that each of our team member’s “other team” is contributing to allow our team member to focus on their job.  Perhaps, there have been some creative childcare strategies that have been put in place on the home front to allow your team member to focus without distractions.  Or perhaps, your team member’s partner has taken over some of her or his household responsibilities.  Or perhaps it has been a team member’s pet that has helped them weather this storm.  Regardless, consider sending a gift of “thanks” to your team member’s “other team” in appreciation.  I had a participant in a session a few years ago share with me their experience with a similar approach.  He was busily working long hours over several months to close a big contract.  During this time and the many late nights at the office, his boss didn’t give him any extra rewards.  No.  Instead, his boss recognized that someone else had to pick up the slack on the home front for him to be able to make this enormous sacrifice.  So one day, his boss sent fancy flower arrangement and a $200 gift card to the best steakhouse in town to the employee’s wife, thanking her for her sacrifice at home that allowed her spouse to put in the extra hours.  A few months after the contract was landed, this individual was approached by a competitor with a very lucrative job offer.  When he told his wife, she quickly and firmly responded, “You aren’t going anywhere.  They appreciate me around there.”  Time to look for some fun and creative ways to thank those in your team members’ lives that help them in all of the small (and large) ways every day.

There you have it.  A simple list of four ways to keep your team motivated.  I challenge you to give these a try.  The good news about everything on the list?  You stand to lose nothing by trying any one of them.  No one is going to be frustrated with that hand-written note, or the surprise box of treats from Chewy for their pup.  Pick one and give it a try this week.  I promise you won’t be disappointed with the results.