The Secret to Motivating and Engaging Your Team Virtually and In Person

One of the most popular questions my team and I get from leaders is, “How do I motivate my team?”

It’s a great question!

The quick answer?

The secret to motivating and engaging your team is to develop your emotional intelligence.

As leaders, we have many opportunities to better understand ourselves and our teams. Daily, we find ourselves in situations where our level of emotional intelligence can create the results we desire, but to make that happen, we must first understand what emotional intelligence is about.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to use your emotions to help you – not hold you back. When we practice emotional intelligence, we become aware of what we and others are feeling. We can “read the room” and then choose how we will express our emotions in a way that promotes growth, good judgment, and well-being for ourselves and our teams. Emotionally intelligent leaders have stronger relationships and more productive conversations with their teams because they notice the nuance of emotions experienced and respond accordingly.

For example, say you are facilitating a team meeting where everyone is unusually quiet. As a leader, how do you respond? Some leaders may move through the agenda because they don’t notice the feelings in the space, or they do notice but are unsure how to respond – or even how they feel about what is happening. Emotions are complex.

On the other hand, emotionally intelligent leaders might notice that something seems “off” with the team. They may acknowledge to themselves how they feel about the silence and then open the space to the team, free of judgment and in full support, inviting them to share as they feel comfortable. The agenda takes a back seat to the people in the room.

When we practice emotional intelligence as leaders, our work with clients repeatedly shows that there are significant benefits to the leader, team, and organization including:

  • A positive, psychologically safe workplace and culture
  • Direct reports feeling supported and valued, leading to greater commitment
  • Increased self-awareness that translates into better communication and results
  • More engagement and motivation throughout the company

With this understanding of emotional intelligence and its many benefits, take a moment to consider where and when you can practice emotional intelligence. Here are two strategies to get you started.

Facilitate Your Meetings with Your People in Mind

As a leader, how do you start, lead, and end your meetings?

Whether you are facilitating your meeting with one person or many, in person or virtually, follow these strategies to ensure that your meeting is productive and fosters a healthy, psychologically safe environment so that your people can fully express themselves.

  • Show up positively. You set the tone, and your team will pick up right away if you are having a good day or a difficult one. It is okay to have a bad day every once in a while. You can still show up positively by acknowledging it to your team and then continuing to show up for them with a commitment to their growth and development.
  • Focus on solutions. What we invest our energy in expands. Focus on the learning, process and possibilities. When you do, your team will also. And you will soon find that creativity and solutions-based thinking will be more readily available to all.
  • Be transparent about the facts of the situation. At times, leaders have to bring bad news to their teams. Share this kind of information openly and honestly. Stick to the facts but notice the emotions that come from what they are hearing. Then give your team the time and space to share, leaning into grace and empathy.
  • Start, lead, and end with your direct reports in mind. Be present. Ask questions to make sure that everyone has had an opportunity to express themselves. Take notice of what is not said as much as what is. Respond with intentionality.

Build Your Awareness Around What Engages and Motivates You

Though effective leadership is about supporting the growth and development of your direct reports, the only way to achieve that is to start with yourself. If you want your employees to become more engaged with their work or motivated in their positions, practice emotional intelligence and become more aware of what engages and motivates you. When you are engaged and motivated as a leader, your team will also be.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink speaks to three motivators that may provide a framework to get started in figuring out what engages and motivates you and your team.

  • Autonomy – Do you have a choice in how you do your job? Are you able to make decisions? Are you able to contribute your ideas and skills fully?
  • Mastery – How are you growing in your role? Are there opportunities to develop your skills and discover new capabilities?
  • Purpose – Are you serving a cause beyond yourself? Are you passionate about what you are doing and why?

Once you have answered these questions, invite your team to answer them as well. Then discuss at an upcoming team meeting what you have learned about yourself and each other. Incorporate these learnings into your leadership practice.

As we continue to celebrate Emotional Intelligence Awareness Month, I encourage you to add one of these strategies to your leadership toolkit and use the strategy whenever and wherever you can. Then, let us know how it went. We would love to hear about your experience.

If you would like to learn more about developing your emotional intelligence, including identifying your strengths and key areas to focus on for improvement, contact us at [email protected] to take an EI assessment and get a one-on-one debrief of your results with one of our coaches.