Solving the team motivation puzzle: 9 ways to motivate teams

A woman being lifted up into the air by her teammate's hands

With economic pressure continuing to effect organizations across the globe, redundancies are looming, and teams are overwhelmed. Savvy managers are looking for ways to motivate their teams, but with a widening generational gap in the workplace, it's becoming more challenging. The issue being, that "motivation" is relative to the individual, and so there is no one winning strategy for "team motivation". This is where smart companies are looking beyond generalized tips and tricks, and seeking  evidence-based solutions for team motivation.In this article, we'll be sharing smart solutions for team motivation, and how data-driven approaches can make all the difference.

Table of contents
The problem with "team motivation" and why it's so hard
9 ways for leaders to motivate a team
Frequently asked questions

The problem with "team motivation" and why it's so hard

It might be convenient to think that motivating a team is like a simple recipe. That by adding the right ingredients into the mix, out comes a fully motivated, engaged and productive team. Unfortunately, it isn't so simple. While there are some generic things that might work, popular advice on team motivation often fails because it doesn't take the individual into account.

Different team members are motivated by different things, and so strategies that give individual employees the boost they need may not impact the entire team.This is why smart leaders are investing in evidence-based, bespoke approaches to team motivation rather than relying on generalized approaches that often don't help.

Though getting to the core of what motivates your team may be a challenging process, the benefits are undeniable. Without a clear sense of the people who make up your team and what motivates them, team leaders aiming to foster more employee engagement will often miss the mark.

Leaders who manage to solve the team motivation puzzle will see the following benefits.

Improved workplace culture

With a more motivated team, improvements in workplace culture are sure to follow.  Engaged, motivated, and happy teams contribute to a more positive work environment, and, in turn, reinforce the cycle of employee engagement.

Improved performance

It shouldn't come as a surprise that higher levels of employee motivation also result in higher employee performance.  Demotivated  teams will often tend toward poor performance, and produce lower quality work.

Reduced conflict between team members

Workplace conflicts often come down to a lack of understanding of team member communication styles, motivations and ways of approaching things. Though it's important to note that it often isn't the difference itself, it's the lack of understanding, and therefore, the lack of appreciation of the difference that creates the conflict.

Understanding team member's individual preferences, work styles, and motivations can make a big difference when it comes to reducing friction and creating cohesion in the workplace that often leads to higher levels of motivation.

9 ways for leaders to motivate a team

If you want to unlock team performance, and foster a team of motivated employees, here are our best tips on how to motivate a team.

1. Learn your teams' individual motivations

As mentioned above, trying to motivate a team without understanding what motivates them is unlikely to work. Much like a doctor prescribing medicine for the wrong illness, leaders who use "team motivation strategies" without truly understanding what motivates their team are unlikely to get results.

For instance, a common method for boosting employee morale and motivation is to bring greater recognition for employee achievements and celebrate results. But what if this isn't what motivates that particular employee? F4S research shows that some employees will be more or less unmoved by a sense of personal achievement, and instead thrive on getting results, as a team.

F4S helps identify team culture and motivations
F4S helps identify teams that are prefer collaboration


A manager who has this data at their fingertips can tailor the way they give feedback to the individual. Taking the guesswork out of employee management, and making evidence-based decisions.

2. Create a positive team culture

Myths surrounding legendary figures in tech and their often harsh, unwavering standards giving way to groundbreaking results have been around for decades. The legacy of these stories have led some to equate warm, friendly workplace cultures with sub-par results.

For the vast majority of employees, this approach is completely demotivating and counterproductive.


A study by MIT revealed that workplace cultures that were identified as "toxic" have 10.4 times higher than average churn rates1. Employees also had a higher risk of burnout, low morale and low productivity reported.

Conversely, companies with a positive workplace culture have been shown to reduce the churn rate, boost productivity and enhance creativity2.

What is a positive team culture, and how do you foster one?

As Sahil Lavingia puts it3:

“Making something people want includes making a company that people want to work for.”

A positive team, or company culture, is a company or team that people want to work for. One where employees are happy to turn up to work, and they feel supported by, and trust their team. Though what this looks like will differ from person to person. For instance, for an employee who is highly motivated by Affiliation and Group Environment, the idea of weekly catchups, Friday drinks and team building exercises could be their perfect idea of a positive team culture. Though an employee that scores low on these motivations, may feel like these are a real chore.

For this reason, understanding your team's individual motivations becomes essential.

This is where F4S comes in.

With the F4S platform, you can gain insight into your team's individual work style motivations with precision. With this data at your fingertips, you can begin to shape your team's culture in a way that will motivate your employees.

You can read more about how F4S helped Canva build stronger, more cohesive teams.

Ready to get started?

It all begins with a short, free assessment to find out your unique work style motivations and then set up a team and invite your team to take the assessment.

F4S dashboard shows individual and team motivations
F4S team dashboard

3. Foster collaboration

Team members who are highly motivated by Affiliation, Shared Responsibility and People will be much more motivated to work together as a team to get results.

Here are some ways you can achieve this.

4. Set shared team goals

While personal goals that are specific to each team member are important for a personal sense of growth and development, when it comes to fostering a sense of collaboration amongst a team, shared goals can help to galvanize a team and foster a sense of collaboration. Instead of  individuals pursuing their own goals, team goals help build camaraderie and the sense that "we're all in this together".

5. Use the right tools

Project management and communication platforms make collaboration among team members easy. Choosing the right tools for your team can be challenging, though.

Here are our guides to our picks for the best project management and communication tools available:

6. Prioritize inclusion

If team members feel excluded from the rest of the team, it can be very demotivating. It's rarely the case that anyone sets out to exclude other employees (unless they're a bully), but it can often happen inadvertently.

The cost of exclusion at work is real.

Recent research suggests that a sense of exclusion at work is not only demotivating, but it can cause employees to act out in an unethical or dishonest manner4.

The author of the study Marie Mitchell of George Terry College of Business puts it like this:


"Individuals who fear that they are being excluded can often engage in behaviors that are pretty seedy. They undermine anybody outside that workgroup, they cheat to enhance their group’s performance level, they lie to other workgroups."

These actions can have a ripple effect across the organization, leading to a toxic culture and an atmosphere of suspicion.

To avoid these, and other toxic behaviors, it's important to make sure that everybody feels included, and that they belong. Be sure to ask for each team member’s input, and go to extra lengths to let everybody know that they belong.

7. Set clear goals with team members

Keeping your team members’ individual motivations in mind, goal setting is the next most important step to getting your team motivated. Though this step is important, it comes with a caveat. Always be sure to work with your team to set these goals. Employees are much more likely to be engaged in achieving goals that they have personally set for themselves, rather than goals that were set for them.

Also be sure that when you set these goals, they're SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) to be sure that they feel attainable, and are motivating rather than demotivating.

8. Understand communication styles

Have you ever worked with someone who you just can't seem to communicate with? Almost as though you're speaking in different languages?

This is often the case when two people have different communication styles. Being unaware of these differences can lead to communication breakdowns and other difficulties. F4S research revealed the two main communication styles are Neutral Communication and Affective Communication.

Not to be confused with effective communication, Affective Communication refers to a more loose, emotive and informal style of communication. Affective Communicators both express, and read body language more readily, and they tend to be more "people people" than Neutral Communicators.

As the name implies, Neutral Communicators tend to be more reserved in communication, and stick to the facts. They provide as much information as is required, and no more. Neutral Communicators and Affective Communicators may clash, but with an understanding of the value of both types,  they can actually be complimentary.

Imagine a Neutral Communicator and an Affective Communicator teaming up to present a new product design to a board of potential investors. An Affective Communicator will provide an engaging description of the benefits of the product and drum up excitement. A Neutral Communicator would give a clear, succinct summary of the features.

If both team members are aware of, and appreciate their differences, determining who delivers what part of the presentation would be easier, and it is more likely to be a success.

9. Foster personal development and professional growth

Another great way to motivate your team is to make personal and career development options readily available. Leaders who prioritize this create a dynamic team culture - one where things happen and people go places. There's a sense of forward motion that is highly invigorating to your team members. Aside from fostering a more motivated team, it also comes with a range of other benefits.

A more skilled workforce

The most obvious benefit to creating a culture of continuous personal development and growth is that you'll have a more skilled and knowledgeable team.

Makes succession planning easier

Professional development programs nurture future leaders within your organization, promoting internal talent and reducing knowledge gaps. By equipping employees with essential skills, you actively shape the growth of your future leaders.

Improve employee wellbeing

When employees have opportunities to learn, grow, and advance in their careers, it boosts their confidence, job satisfaction, and overall happiness4. In other words, employees who are given the opportunities to learn and grow make for happy employees.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best way to boost employee motivation levels?

The most effective way to boost employee motivation is by:

  • Creating an appealing work environment
  • Giving regular feedback
  • Prioritizing employee well-being
  • Offering development opportunities

Keep in mind there is no single formula to boost employee motivation or productivity levels. Employees are driven by different incentives, and are motivated by different things, and so what motivates one employee may demotivate another.

How to build a sense of camaraderie at work?

Leaders who foster a sense of camaraderie can raise morale and boost team motivation. Here are some critical steps to cultivating it:

  • Create platforms for employees to share ideas and concerns
  • Actively listen and respond to feedback
  • Acknowledge and reward individual and team achievements.

What is the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation stems from internal factors, such as personal enjoyment, a sense of accomplishment, or genuine interest in a task. Individuals driven by intrinsic motivation derive satisfaction and fulfillment from the work itself. Extrinsic motivation is derived from external rewards or consequences, such as praise, money, or recognition.

Employees motivated extrinsically may perform tasks to attain a specific outcome or avoid punishment.

When it comes to motivating a team, both types of motivation are needed. In challenging economic times, intrinsic team motivation alone isn't enough to motivate a team. Monetary rewards and career progression will often take precedence over the joy in the work itself.

What are the symptoms of low employee motivation?

If you suspect that employee motivation is low, here are some signs that you may be right.

Poor performance: Demotivated teams typically perform worse in their respective duties. They may miss deadlines, despite being given ample time, or produce lower quality work.

Decreased ambition levels:  When employee motivation levels are low, they may be less likely to chase their career goals, or company goals. They may appear to be less driven overall, and may only do the bare minimum.

What leadership qualities help foster team motivation?

Strong leadership qualities play a pivotal role in team motivation. A leader's leadership style, characterized by empathy, clear communication, and vision, can inspire and energize their team. Effective leaders in a leadership role exhibit a genuine interest in their team's well-being and development.

Unlock team motivation with F4S

As we've explored, motivating a team of diverse individuals can be a challenging task. Though, with a data-based approach to honing an engaged, driven team; it's possible to take the guesswork out of team motivation. That's where F4S comes in. Based on more than 20 years of research on the traits that lead to organizational success, our platform helps leaders to understand, and leverage their team's core traits to drive business results.

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Show References
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1. Sull, D, 2022, Toxic Culture is Driving the Great Resignation, Available at: https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/toxic-culture-is-driving-the-great-resignation

2. Iqbal, S, 2017, Effects of Job Organizational Culture, Benefits, Salary on Job Satisfaction Ultimately Affecting Employee Retention, Available at:
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Shuja-Iqbal/publication/323084488_Effects_of_Job_Organizational_Culture_Benefits_Salary_on_Job_Satisfaction_Ultimately_Affecting_Employee_Retention/links/5cc1865f299bf120977da27c/Effects-of-Job-Organizational-Culture-Benefits-Salary-on-Job-Satisfaction-Ultimately-Affecting-Employee-Retention.pdf?_sg%5B0%5D=started_experiment_milestone&origin=journalDetail

3. Team Building, 2023,  58 Best Company Culture Quotes To Inspire Teams In 2023, Available at: https://teambuilding.com/blog/company-culture-quotes

4. Weeks, M, 2014, UGA study shows what happens when employees feel excluded at work, Available at: https://news.uga.edu/employee-exclusion-study/

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