The Untold Secret of Motivating your Team

Contrary to what you might believe, I am not a huge advocate of the "hire for attitude and all your problems will be gone". What even is an attitude and what gives someone a bad one? The "positive power-horses" are an extremely rare breed and you might find one or two per team. Even your strongest players will get dragged down by the lower ones and due to this, often times perform even worse then the others, as they have much higher expectations for themselves than you do. What's the key you ask? Maybe you did not expect this, but it is simple.
The key is: Loyalty.

Do you take your team out for lunch? Well, you should. Give them your time and your attention. In the end it's about getting your team to work for you, because they feel personally responsible for your cause. Also, do they even know your cause? (Think about it)

Allow me to tell you a story of a very close friend of mine and incidentally one of the greatest managers I've ever met. Kevin taught me the best lesson in team motivation I have received so far. And all this by example of little Toy Soldiers. Here is his legacy.

The Toy Solider Method - by Kevin:

Kevin was the highest performer on the sales floor, he was a rockstar and till this day holds some of the highest worldwide sales records in company "X". His career progressed faster than anyones and very soon he was given the chance to manage his own team. The team assigned to him however, was the lowest performing team sales team in the company, half the team were on PIPs (Personal Improvement Plans) and they were jointedly hitting a whooping 30% target. You can imagine how difficult this would be for Kevin. As a high performer he was not used to being last and this only determined him even more to turn the tables. So he locked himself in his house over the next weekend to come up with a strategy. First thing Monday morning he went to HR and requested to take all of his team off the PIPs. "I'm trying something new, just trust me. If it doesn't work, this one goes on me". HR agreed.

Next thing Kevin does is call for a team meeting. He opens by asking about everyones mood and their greatest challenges on the job. They start yelling out things like "call stats", "the targets are too high", "undeserved improvement plans"etc. I'm sure you're familiar with the usuals. Kevin agrees with them and says, "Effective immediately, everyone is off improvement plans and I'm not going to even look the stats. I don't care about any of that. But what I am about to tell you, does not leave this room. We will never talk about any of this outside of our own team." Now, Kevin really had their attention. He walked around the room with a pouch and handed each team member a toy soldier.

After each team member had a toy soldier in their hands, he filled them in on his plan. "From now on, your only job is to focus on a single task. I have paired each of you up to a member of the other team." He proceeded to call out the list of who was paired with whom. "I don't care how much you sell, how much you call and for how long. The only thing you need to do, is to score higher each week than your counterpart of the other team. If they make $10 and you make $11, you won. And no questions asked. As we cannot speak of this outside of our group, you each have your toy soldiers. At the end of the week, if you beat the other guy, stand up your toy soldier to show the team you won. If your toy soldier is laying down, that means you did not beat him this week. "

You can imagine the energy in that room. Everyone was excited about their secret mission. The following Monday, Kevin came into the office and looked around at his teams desks. Two toy soldiers were standing up-right. He walked over to the two people from his team, shook each of their hands and said "well done". That was the only communication that was exchanged, otherwise he said nothing. The next week, three toy soldiers were standing. Within a few weeks, they were gaining on the other team, within a month, they were level. Guys that would usually go for two hour lunches or multiple coffee breaks and defined as what you would call "slackers", were suddenly seen at their desks, completely nailing it. The story has a happy ending, they all go down into history of company "X" and together finish the fiscal year at 150%. I am very proud to say, that I know most of the members of this original power team and each of their careers have grown into their own amazing stories.

What Kevin succeeded in, is giving everyone a joint mission and a cause. They came into work every day, because they were there for a purpose. They believed in something together and fought for a common goal, he created loyalty on a unique level.

I'm not going to end this with, on how many levels I think this is a perfect example for team motivation. I really want to hear your thoughts and what you take away for yourself from Kevin's experience.


Are you currently managing a team or are a part of a team lacking motivation? 

I'd really love to hear your input and alternative success stories.