Six Ways to Bring the Best Out of Your Work Team – and Yourself

When we join the workforce, we typically get some training on the new tasks we will be taking on. We get the manual, review the steps, practice, observe and learn the systems and the rules in place.  However, the most useful aspect of life at work – interacting with your fellow team members – is rarely, if ever, mentioned in all of our training and on-boarding. We are expected to navigate those waters intuitively or learn as we go.  And if your new role is a lead role, with others looking to you for guidance, you may feel even more disheartened – how do you learn this on your own?

Thankfully, there are many motivational and human behavior-driven theories out there as helpful guides to us as we embark on our career journeys – perhaps too many, it seems sometimes.  The issue becomes picking a method that works best with your personality and the personalities of others on your team – and often there is just no time for the trial and error approach – nor would you want to make a faux pas after a faux pas as you work to build a great working environment!  To help streamline your search, this article offers six simple ways to effectively work with others.

It is always essential to understand what motivates people at work and what drives their performance, which will ultimately add up to the overall performance of your team and company. Employee motivation is a building block for reduced turnover, higher quality of production, improved customer experience and customer loyalty and shareholder/stakeholder satisfaction – just to name a few benefits.

Cooper (2012), describes two different kinds of human motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Those that are mostly intrinsically motivated enjoy a sense of psychological well-being that is more sustained that those who are mainly extrinsically motivated. Research shows that if we are able to engage our employees intrinsically, beyond their salaries and monetary perks, and peak their intellect and confidence, we would also be able to develop enhanced loyalty, performance and creativity. Conversely, when we only motivate our employees extrinsically, we actually may contribute to their anxiety, lower sense of well-being and even physical ailments.   Put simply, when the only things driving us are external and we feel uncared for and not challenged to do our best, we tend to lead unhappier, unproductive work lives.

The six steps to help bring out the best in ourselves and those we work with are intrinsically-based and follow a particular hierarchy of order. For certain, we all need to feel that we are adequately compensated and that our work environment is safe.  But beyond that, intrinsic motivation begins to take shape.

  1. Positivity: It’s first suggested that when working with others, we employ the power of positive, and not negative, consequences. We always have a choice of punishing undesired behavior or rewarding desired behavior instead – however, punishing unwanted behavior usually leads to motivation by fear or being motivated by avoiding something. A much more powerful motivator is being motivated by success. Geller calls these two types of motivation “success seeking” and “failure avoidance”. Success seeking will get one much further in their career and performance goals as well as overall satisfaction (Geller, 2015).
  2. Setting Good Examples: Remember that we learn best by observing and by having others observe us.  When we see behavior we deem as successful, we tend to emulate it. As a leader, we are observed at all times, and we teach behaviors even without saying anything. Positive, honest, inclusive behaviors will promote better motivation than any retreat or team builder.
  3. Giving Feedback: Feedback is essential to behavior change and motivation.  As the saying goes, we don’t care what you know until we know that you care – and giving feedback is a great way to show that you care about your team. Communication is very important in this step as is the way we word our feedback.  Harsh, punitive feedback will lead to the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. Geller points out that feedback is designed to lead to greater personal acceptance and self-accountability – which then, in turn, will drive designated behavioral improvement (2015).
  4. Being Supportive: We need to consider what’s important for our team member – not what’s important for us when crafting our interactions. Some of us prefer public praise; some prefer one-on-one recognition and coaching, for example. This also helps develop more authentic connections which will lead to better self-actualization. Another important piece here which drives a great employee experience, including motivation, is showing empathy and support as they go through their learning and career experience. Focusing on what is important to those you are leading can increase feelings of empowerment, build trust, and cultivate a sense of teamwork or belonging.
  5. Management: An important difference here is also between managing behavior and leading people. Management at its core is about accountability; while leadership is about inspiring others to become their best selves – frequently outside of work too. Management uses systems and processes, while leaders influence through emotions and perceptions. Both are motivational techniques, to be sure, but one yields more short-term, and the other, long-term results. Things to consider here are the language we use in our verbal and written conversations; what we tout and promote as the “main thing” and the “bottom line”; how many choices and autonomous decisions employees feel they have; are there expectations or rules; compliance or commitment – and many more decisions that we can make as managers and leaders that motivate our teams to travel in a certain direction. Ultimately, the more involved your employees are in the decisions, the more likely they are to uphold the rules they had helped create.
  6. Assess Needs: We are all somewhat familiar with the hierarchy of needs created by Abraham Maslow in 1943. The needs rank from physiological and safety (food, shelter) to social (acceptance, belonging, tribe), to self-esteem and then self-actualization and self-transcendence. The hierarchy assumes that people do not and can not attempt to satisfy needs at the higher level until the needs at the lower levels are met. Where we are and where our employees are in terms of what they need in motivation relates directly to where we find ourselves in the hierarchy at any given time. And, as we ascend the hierarchy, we and our employees see how self-motivation links up with the consequences of how we are managed and how we manage others.  We need to remember that we are driven by needs that are different from others’ and to use our communication and relationship-building to help others ascend to the next level of their need.

If we keep in mind that both internal and external motivators, as well as the combination of both, will work at certain points in time, this will help us create the culture we want in our organization. From defining our vision and communicating our goals and objectives, to actively caring about our employees and having them involved in goal development and idea submission, these six steps will help us build a strong, intrinsically motivated and engaged workforce while also discovering our own strengths and work path.


Cooper, M. (2012), The Intrinsic Foundations of Extrinsic Motivations and Goals . Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 53 (2), 153 – 171 , 10.1177/0022167812453768

Geller, E. S. (2015). Humanistic Behaviorism. Journal Of Organizational Behavior Management, 35(1/2), 151-170. doi:10.1080/01608061.2015.1031427


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