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Motivating High-Performance Teams

Presented by: Randy Disharoon

Motivation is a key component of high-performance teams. Leaders who understand the importance of motivation, the best means of motivating, and effectively drive such motivation to high performance will be successful in guiding their teams to accomplish their objectives. There are many considerations leaders must make to ensure their teams are highly motivated, both intrinsically and externally. Factors such as the mission of the team, the required skill sets and experience of the team members, and the size of the team all drive leadership considerations. One important aspect of assembling a team is the selection of team members and the establishment of high expectations up front, essentially raising the bar of performance. Intrinsically motivated people can be a great asset to a team as long as their competitive drive does not hinder collaboration or cause conflict with the leader. This blog evaluates the role of leaders in motivating their teams and offers strategies leaders can employ in developing a highly motivated team.


The Role of the Leader

Leaders set the tone of the team, cast the vision, often recruit and select team members, and facilitate the establishment of goals and norms early in the group’s development (Wheelan, 2021). Because of their position, leaders have a significant influence on the overall team chemistry, cohesion and performance. Therefore, leaders who motivate through inspiration as opposed to a dictatorial approach will receive extra effort from their team and thereby increase the likelihood that the team will not only exceed expectations but will also be vocally optimistic and enthusiastic about their work.


Furthermore, Al Rabbi et al. (2017) evaluated three leaderships styles – democratic, authoritarian, and laissez-faire – and concluded that each style has varying effects on the motivation of their teams and suggest that leaders who modify their styles based on group dynamics and stage of development will generate the optimal motivation from each member. The most effective leaders put their teams before themselves and thereby reap a committed followership.


Effective strategies

Leaders who understand their roles and their teams will employ effective strategies to motivate their members. Of primary importance is securing organizational support and resources to be successful in the team mission (Wheelan, 2021). In addition, leaders should instill a culture of trust and accountability; for example, leaders who clearly communicate the mission of the team, guide the discussion on processes and role delineations, and develop a healthy accountability system have a greater success in fostering motivated behavior from their teams. In fact, Wolf and Felger (2019) assert that a common element of motivation among members of a team is the desire to participate in meaningful work that will have a positive impact on the larger organization or community; therefore, “motivation becomes a dimension of self-governance” (Wolf & Felger, 2019, p. 117).


The Kellogg School of Management (2021) advanced four strategies that would serve together as an antidote for “slacking teams.” First, leaders are encouraged to draw up a contract that expressly states the team’s goals, responsibilities, and norms. Second, research revealed that most teams meet too infrequently and for too long, leading to member disconnection and disinterest; therefore, having shorter but more frequent meetings is more effective. Third, leaders who require members to report out on the status of their assignments in front of their teammates experienced 34% higher productivity. Finally, the fourth strategy is for leaders to create a line of sight to end goals so that all team members can see how their individual contributions impact the overall performance of the team (Kellogg School of Management, 2021). As such, leaders who begin with a culture of trust and high expectations, institute a regular cadence of review, and consistently keep the end goal in view can be very effective in motivating their teams to increase levels of productivity and performance.





Al Rahbi, D., Khalid, K., & Khan, M. (2017). The effects of leadership styles on team motivation. Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 16(3), 1-14.

Heller, J., Notgrass, D., & Conner, C. (2017). moderators to the relationship between leaders' inspirational behaviors and followers' extra effort. International Journal of Business and Public Administration, 14(1), 36.

Kellogg School of Management. (2021, September 20). How to keep your team motivated.

Wheelan, S. (2021). Creating effective teams: A guide for members and leaders (6th ed.). Sage Publications. ISBN: 9781544332970.

Wolf, D., & Felger, B. (2019). Strategic teams: what really drives them? Strategic HR Review, 18(3), 116-121.

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