How to Kill Your Team’s Motivation Without Really Trying

When it comes to motivation, everyone thinks they are the expert–there are hundreds of blogs, articles and books on the subject.

It’s a genuine problem in a lot of organizations–I have been brought in countless times as a consultant and coach to help motivate a team.

But–as I’ve been saying for many years–motivation doesn’t come from an outside source. It’s an inside job, and if you want motivation, it’s you–as a team leader, boss, coach, manager–who must find what motivates and inspires each person.

What ends up happening more often, even with great leaders, is that they inadvertently kill the motivation on their team. Here are some ways that can happen:

1. When you don’t have a vision. To motivate your team, create a compelling vision. People need something they can hold on to, something they can resonate with and be proud of.

2. When you don’t have a plan. You can have the greatest vision and the best ideas, but without a strategic plan to guide them in turning those abstracts into something sustainable and tangible, your team is just going to keep spinning its wheels.

3. When you say one thing but do another. People want a leader who can be trusted–and they pay close attention. Inconsistencies in your words and behavior don’t just discourage your team–it erodes their respect for you, which in turn keeps them from doing their best.

4. When you make up dumb rules that give you more control. Rules and policies and processes are not what great leadership is about. And when you use them as a means to control those around you, you’re on your way to being disrespected entirely. The only message it sends is that you feel out of control and need to make up for it.

5. When you don’t give people the credit they deserve. In a team, everything that is done is supported by and a reflection of the entire group. If you fail to give people the credit they deserve, they’ll stop doing their best–and they may start to undermine you outright.

6. When you can’t manage conflict. Some conflict is healthy, but when it’s out of control you do nothing to manage it, people become wary of engagement. To keep motivation, creativity and productivity alive and well, step in and take effective measures to help resolve conflicts.

7. When you make yourself unavailable and inaccessible. Making yourself invisible to others, either by being gone or by barricading yourself behind a closed door or a protective assistant–your team will eventually stop trying to communicate or consult with you at all.

8. When you’re too busy to engage with anyone. Are you truly too busy to support, guide and mentor your team–the people who are working hard for you and who make you look good? Seriously? You may be trying to emphasize your importance, but the message you send is that your team falls low on your list of priorities.

9. When you play favorites. Favoritism alienates everyone. How are people supposed to work together when they’re divided by their leader? Playing favorites destroys the core of the collective and makes their work much harder.

10. When you threaten people. Whether the threat is a canceled vacation, missing out on a promotion or being fired, it’s the lowest form of attempted control. Threats will never get people to do what you want but will instead make them more disconnected, disengaged and resentful.

11. When you don’t celebrate wins. If your team can’t pause to celebrate their wins, it’s guaranteed that they’ll bring a little less enthusiasm next time.

12. When you withhold information. If you are withholding information from your team, not keeping them in the loop, how they are going to know what they need to do? Keeping them in the dark makes their work harder and leads them to care less.

13. When you overwork your team. Do you really believe that overloading people will going to make them work harder? The only thing it will do is burn them out, and before you know it they’re just putting in their time without much investment.

14. When you compare one person to another. Lousy leaders sometimes try to stimulate performance by comparing one person against one another. People don’t want to be pitted, compared or stereotyped but to be noticed as an individual. Let people be who they truly are so they can bring their best to work.

15. When you constantly keep your team feeling they can be replaced. The idea that people they are replaceable makes them edgy and anxious, which is not a state that leads to great work. They want to feel they are valuable and have something to contribute.

If you’re doing any of these things–in large ways or small–or if you even have tendencies in their direction, you need to get to work on your leadership before you do irrevocable harm to your team, because you are basically killing your team’s motivation.



N A T I O N A L    B E S T S E L L E R


What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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