Motivation VS. Discipline, or Both: How to Impact Your Team Most
The best managers will go to great lengths for their team members. Through resource allocation, analysis, mentoring and other strategies, memorable leaders ensure that their teams are enabled for success every step of the way.
How effective these efforts are comes down to the leadership style you practice — and consistency is key, here. I’ve found that the participative leadership style has served me and my team well. Here’s a deeper look at what that entails:
What is participative leadership?
Participative leadership is easy to spot: it’s when management is willing to lead their team by diving in headfirst. Instead of being too busy to chat or allocating work to the team, participative leaders are accessible, available, and willing to use a little elbow grease. Whether inviting people to give feedback during a team project or attending a conference alongside your team, your involvement is key. In essence, it allows you to meet your workers on their level while simultaneously helping them rise to yours. And it’s cracking the business world wide open.
Traditionally, businesses implement a hierarchical structure that isn’t designed to be contested. Your boss sits in the big office with the door closed, while their boss sits in theirs — and so on. No one challenges their boss’s thoughts or feels comfortable enough to share constructive ideas with them. While this model can work, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms ofo workplace culture.
In a participative leadership environment, management allows members of the team to help make decisions and build strategy. Instead of leaning on a traditional hierarchy where directions filter down from the top, the team is truly that: a team. Giving them more say in what takes place helps build teams, democratically.
Participative leadership addresses the core objectives of the organization or business unit from both the employee and employer perspective and acknowledges that the organization has a wider responsibility to be a force of good for the team. It can also effectively meet two key needs for engagement — motivation and discipline — in the new workplace environment created by the pandemic and the rise in remote workers.
In my personal experience, this method helped me cut down those regional barriers that existed within our global team. To make sure that the teams gel together and synergize, I would engage my team directly. This allowed us to achieve what we set out to as a business unit. Once I invested my initial months in my global role, I created our business plan. Then, I downloaded it with my team, asking whether they felt it was the best path to get where we’re going collectively. Should we tweak it? Do we want to adjust this plan? Giving my team an opportunity to offer their input helped solidify our identity as a unit., which ultimately cut down those global barriers.
Keeping workers motivated
Giving workers autonomy to make decisions impacts their buy-in. They tend to be motivated when they feel that management is receptive to their ideas, wants, and needs.
Motivation is a challenging aspect of worker engagement. Not all team members are at the same level at any given time. It would be nice to believe that your team members are giving everything they have each day, but that expectation is unrealistic. People are human, so their motivation naturally fluctuates. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad worker; maybe they’re just in a bad season. For example, they may be facing undisclosed illnesses or other personal issues. Others might be distracted. Setting the tone and pace of meetings based on the team’s mood is essential.
Your workers may come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures, and regions. Because of this, leaders must understand and overcome employee differences before they can motivate the team in a unified way.
Being a present leader
During the first few months in my global leadership role, the expectation from our chairman and executive committee was 40 percent growth year-over-year. If we were going to deliver that hypergrowth, we needed to draw from the energy of our people. I made sure to review what we wanted to do and got feedback about whether the expectation of the chairman and executive committee was appropriate.
I had always been interested in what my bosses were doing — is it possible that my team could feel the same? I wondered if my team would not feel included if I didn’t share the kudos, criticisms or opportunities happening above them. Because of this, I’ve prioritized being transparent. This ensures my team never feels out of the loop or discouraged.
Applying discipline to strengthen your team
Before the pandemic, workers were used to having some discipline in their workday. Teams worked regular office hours and had a commute to break up the day and create boundaries. Once the pandemic hit, however, much of that built-in discipline dissolved. Like many other professionals, I found myself connect with large teams online, doing reviews over Zoom, and running multiple programs without any of the usual structures. At the initial onset, I didn’t know how I was going to manage everything.
I quickly realized that discipline would be essential for me to stay motivated and focused in such a disruptive environment. So I designed my surroundings to be conducive to my needs for discipline while optimizing my new work environment.
Another thing I did was take my workday head-on by swallowing the dirty frog. Or, in other words, figuring out my most taxing task that day and getting it out of the way. Learning to identify challenging tasks and prioritizing them helps prevent leaders — and the team — from putting them off and neglecting them. Plus, it’s a bit invigorating. Have you ever eaten frog?
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Mobilizing my team and prioritizing their health
I am conscious to be aware of the needs of those around me. When you’re around others, their habits — even their good discipline — can rub off on you. In contrast, an environment that constantly asks people to deliver too much drains both their energy and health over time — and it’s not sustainable. Work should not empty a person’s emotions or cup, even when they are working remotely. It’s important to be disciplined enough to give ourselves breaks and boundaries so we can recharge our batteries.
Support is essential for a team. No one should be thrown under the bus — that goes against the nature of being a team. And by meeting my team where they were in a collaborative way, I was able to simultaneously get myself back on track while helping them build an effective and balanced new environment. Thankfully, it proved to be useful. My team benefitted greatly, both in work-life balance and in productivity.
After just three months in my new role, an external hire told me that he was impressed with my leadership style. He could see that my team would feel just as comfortable going to war with me as they would standing in front of a train with me. I don’t share this as bragging rights; I share it to inspire other leaders who are looking for a viable and successful approach to leadership. Being approachable and real is the best way to build a strong team.
Get everyone in the game, starting with you
Flexibility as a leader is imperative. You must be mature enough to adapt to challenging situations while not letting emotions or ego get in the way. No matter what situation is in front of you, you have to participate in it and allow others to do the same. If you commit to carrying and representing your team well, they’ll support and reflect you with the same strength.