When managers hear the word ‘motivation’ there’s an almost audible groan. We all know workplace motivation is important for employee morale, focus and productivity, but the things we’re asked to do to promote it are often impractical. Usually, they just don’t work.

Motivational advice often lacks substance, and tactics like inspirational notes or asking about feelings often feels cheap and hollow for managers and their teams. This is especially true in serious and tech-related industries where these camp-style counsellor tactics might not work at all.

Here’s a test. Try patting a programmer or engineer on the shoulder and ask them to open up about their feelings. If you’re lucky, they’ll think you’re joking. Group activities like offering compliments in a circle (while holding hands and humming Kumbaya) or throwing around a ball covered in questions are party games and, while they might be fun for teenagers (still doubtful), they won’t work for a team of serious professionals.

If you want to motivate your team without acting like a touchy-feely camp counsellor, try focusing on what matters in the office instead. We’ve got four great places to start.

1) Respond to input.

Motivational post-it notes left on desks are funny at best, but what really motivates a team of professional thinkers and technicians is knowing that their team is being run effectively. Your team needs the ability to request and receive changes when it matters. One of the most important ways to motivate any group of self-directed professionals is to make sure their opinions and recommendations are heard and addressed.

This is especially true in tech circles where new solutions are constantly developing. It’s always possible that a new best option for building your projects will appear and your team will enjoy working with a well-configured stack of technologies and policies.

In fact, make it a policy to always give serious consideration every time one of your IT team members brings something up and then find a way to respond. Most professionals don’t make suggestions lightly and if they can easily exercise professional influence, they will feel more in control of their projects and more motivated to achieve.

2) Streamline pain points.

While your people may not bring everyday complaints to you, go out of your way to tease out the things they complain about amongst each other. Everyone complains about work to a certain extent but what they say might contain some real pain points that could theoretically be resolved.

Do your engineers joke about managers lurking over their shoulder? Maybe it’s time to dial back the micro-management. Are they constantly complaining about how much time it takes to write reports? You may need a software upgrade that will automate reports for them. Do whatever you can to streamline areas your techs find difficult. As the weights fall away, so will the work-related stress. Performance, mood, and motivation will all increase in unison.

3) Praise in private.

Conventional wisdom says, ‘praise in public and criticize in private’. I’m unconvinced. I think both need to happen in private. Public praise – especially amongst a group of contemporaries in the same roles – breeds resentment. “Why did Bill get a pat on the back for that project? I did just as much work on it…”

If you build a culture that truly recognises the skills, traits and motivations of each individual, you’ll conclude that praise or criticism is never relative to the other team members. It’s bespoke. It’s personal. As such, each person must be guided, critiqued and appreciated in a private setting. There are many advantages to this, but one that stands out is the eye-to-eye authenticity of the act. It says, “We’re not show-boating, here. I see you.”

4) Not everyone wants to be a boss.

Understand that not every great technician or engineer wants to move up to management. In fact, a surprising number of them don’t want that at all because it means leaving the specialist/expert track. Engineering is about hands-on work – getting elbow-deep in a project. Most engineers don’t want to be taken out of the field, and many technicians feel the same way. They’d much rather keep improving their technical skills and accomplishments than mess around with KPIs, management meetings and acronym-laced platitudes.

This doesn’t mean you can’t reward them with other forms of promotion. Make sure you have a variety of raises and promotion options besides the management track available and accept you might get a little top-heavy on leads and seniors if you want to keep your best technicians for a long time. You can also ask each team member where they really want to be in five years and then help them get there when promotions are earned, even it involves a small lateral movement.

Tech professionals are not retail clerks or marketers. They don’t need a cheerleader to get them motivated. They need a coach who’s got their back on the hard issues and understands what rewards are actually rewarding versus fluff. With intelligent, responsive support as your motivational approach, you’ll be able to effectively boost the morale of your tech team without the usual static about feelings and party games.

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For MSPs who recognise that a great business is built by people who feel supported, ServiceTree was made for you. Learn why here.

Photo by Fox from Pexels.

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