“Motivating volunteer workers is one of the most significant challenges for leaders. Despite the presence of a serving spirit among staff and volunteers, it is sometimes difficult to adequately fire their enthusiasm, participation, and commitment. Misunderstanding the true nature of motivation is a key part of this problem. Motivation cannot be turned on and off at will like a faucet. The trouble with this on-again, off-again approach is that it overlooks the pivotal role of relationship building—you can’t motivate people until you have built a professional bridge to them.
Instead of asking, “How can I motivate the members of my team?” ask, “How can I build a closer working relationship with team members?” Some ideas:
- Determine a vision and mission for your team, but first determine how important it is to the overall mission of your organization. How well will your team’s service be supported by the organization?
- Create a niche (special place) for each member on the team.
- Carefully develop and communicate contributions descriptions for each team member. Specifically include a particular job, approach, length of service, names of other team members, and invited performance.
- Promote success by equipping and training team members. Help them understand through teaching and demonstration how they can excel.
- Let team members personally participate in running the show. Consult with them when making decisions; remain open-minded and willing to change; help them buy into what the team is trying to accomplish.
- Listen, Listen, Listen! Be alert to and create opportunities for listening. Let others “unload” on you before you “unload” on them.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! Periodically remind people of the team vision and goals. Keep members up-to-date on team progress and activities. Help them share their personal experiences, feelings about events, personal joys and frustrations, and appreciation for one another. Get feedback from team members on what they are doing and accomplishing for both team and organization.
- Minimize the demands you make on team members. Keep time and meeting demands reasonable. Respect the fact that there are many claims on their “free” time.
- Help members of your team hold themselves accountable for performance. Goals and deadlines must be set, progress reports made, and follow-up taken. Any criticism of team member performance should center on their actions, not on them personally.
Note: This article is an excerpt from VIRTUAL TEAMWORK: Building Your Own Professional Community of Productivity and Meaning, by Phil Van Auken