motivate team

Query: I manage a team of 12 people in a marketing firm where the culture neither rewards achievement nor tackles failure. High achievers are treated the same as people who appear to lack motivation and have high absenteeism. I’ve raised this issue with the CEO, but he is close to retirement and doesn’t seem concerned. How can I encourage and motivate staff to achieve good results for themselves and the company in such circumstances?


Answer: Culture and drive need to be fostered from key leaders in an organisation. When that is lacking it can be frustrating and limiting. A relaxed organisation can suffer the same attrition issues as high-pressure, driven organisations because the organisation’s expectations and goals do not match those of the staff members. The key question would be: Is the CEO aware of this situation? It is easy to assume that the key leaders know exactly what is happening on the ground, but in many cases they may be oblivious. The CEO may not be aware of the additional value that could be brought by finding a proper structure to incentivise staff members.

You have raised with the CEO an issue you expect him to solve – why not approach him with a solution? This could be a great opportunity for you to stamp your brand on the business and could help with future promotion opportunities.

Here are some guidelines you can follow:

Get buy-in from the Senior Management

Start with the end in mind. Do not approach the CEO or leadership team without a goal – this should be the starting point of all discussions. Have a plan on how you are going to achieve this.

Any business needs an incentive programme. Most immediately jump to financial incentives, but this is not always the best approach. Do not assume that what drives and incentivises you is what incentivises the overall team.

Know the benefits. Be clear as to how the business and the CEO will benefit;

Be aware of and plan for the challenges. It is always best to plan for the worst-case event;

Know the timelines. Have a strategy around a realistic timeframe of implementation;

Assume the role of leader. This is an opportunity to show your leadership skills directly to the CEO. It will pay dividends in the long run.

Get buy-in from the Team

Getting buy-in from senior leadership is the easy part – now you need to engage the team. There are many ways to do this, and the key is collaboration.

You need to start with the end goal in mind and be able to discuss the benefits, advantages and features of implementing new processes to the team and individually. At this early stage if you fail to get buy-in, all future steps will be futile.

A group session is an excellent way to get some great ideas. If workers feel they are part of the process, they will buy-in more easily. Initially, select some key members of the team to get support before you engage the larger team, as this will ease the process. Don’t over-promise. However, all suggestions should be considered, and feedback given.

Select groups before the think-tank so you have a good mix of high achievers as well as the less motivated on each team.

Discuss the issues in a structured way. In groups, the teams can discuss the problems and ideally present the solution as a group;

Clearly establish the goal. Give time to groups to discuss how would they structure things. Do not be involved directly with each group, but engage with them during the session;

Ask what incentives they wish to see. You may be surprised that many of the issues will have nothing to do with receiving financial rewards. They may include: annual leave, company social events, team building events, staff recognition programme, working from home, educational assistance, bonus structure, progression opportunities and professional development.

The key is planning, but don’t assume you know what will develop a motivated staff. Start with a goal in mind and structure your approach around this.


This article first appeared in the business section of The Irish Independent on February 25th 2019, and the original version can be viewed here.

Read some more of our blog posts here.


David Fitzgibbon

Mid-West Regional Manager

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services Group