motivateWhat motivates you?

After few years as a team leader/manager/scrum master/agile coach, there is always a simple question that comes to me every time I start to work with a new team: “how to motivate them?”

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know how to do it, or they don’t want to know how to do it. When people don’t know how to motivate someone, the wrong “motivator” is deployed and the damage could be worse than if we didn’t do anything. As you may already know, a lot of people think that “$$$” is a good motivator.  In my experience, it is the worst one, or one of them.

This being said, I am not a “motivator” expert, but I try to do my best to motivate the team and/or individual. In the end, I have good success in getting people and teams motivated.

In my toolbox, there is not any “magic” thing. I only have 3 or 4 things that I always try and it works:

  • Self-organization or autonomy.
  • Mastery.
  • Clear goals/objectives or purpose as you can see in the video at the end of this article.
  • Listening.

Self-organization or autonomy

This post is not to explain the advantage of self-organized teams. However, from my experience I am able to remark that everyday more and more people start to be uncomfortable with the “command & control” approach. Is “command & control” a bad approach? I don’t think so; in my opinion it is badly used and/or abused. I personally don’t like it, but I know that in some situations it could work fine.

As a coach/SM, when I arrive to a new team, sometimes I need to act as “manager” and use the “command & control” approach. However, I take a step back and quickly start again with the coach/SM approach. I will set boundaries and create a safe environment where people could be wrong with control damage. After that, validate the motivation of the people.


People like to be recognized by their peers. When this happens, it is because they are good in what they do, or they did a good job. In any case, pay attention to what people do, and find opportunities to say “a job very well done”. Remember, you can do this when managers, directors, and VPs are in the room, or you can call a meeting for it.

You can help people reach their best performance or the next step in their career path. Pay attention now, I said “career path”. It could be outside of your team or out of your company. You should not be sad because people want a bigger challenger outside of the company. Help them whenever you can. Today you may not be able to keep it within your team, but you never know if in the future you will have the challenge that he/she will be looking for.

motivate_1Clear goals/objectives

People are looking for a clear guide to follow. Your role, as good leader, is to provide clear goals/objectives. Without this, people become confused and they miss the purpose of their work in the company. Clear goals/objectives motivate people to come to work every day.


Sometimes, they are looking for someone to listen to them. That is all. Do it, it works. In my experience, I do it, and I am very clear that I am not able to fix that issue. However, they are not looking for that, they are looking for someone to talk to about their problems. Listen attentively and if the situation allows you to do some coaching, do it.


I am sure that you probably didn’t find a lot of things new in this post, but I will be more than happy if you can remember this technique for the moment you decide to motivate someone or motivate your team. Remember, in this post you find a very simple list of things to motivate people, but something I cannot provide for you is my “heart”. You really need to apply motivation with your heart, and feel it. Motivating people is not a process; it is something you really need to feel and you really want to do it.

In my case, when somebody leaves my team, I am so happy for him/her that I can express it with my heart. When you listen, do it with pleasure. When you set up boundaries and goals, you could use a lot of “manager” tools, but you need to remember that you are working with humans, and like you, they also have a life and purpose.

What about your approach to motivate people/teams? What do you have in your resource tool box?

Any comments and/or feedback is welcome.

Thank you,


About the author

Omar is an agile practitioner and lover. Certified Scrum master. Agile Coach & Agile Leader. He believes it is important to continually be learning and growing. His dream is to be a lifelong learner; growing each day. He is also passionate about leadership development and seeing people reach their full potential. He is also a good husband & father (his wife says that time to times). He has a wonderful wife and 2 fantastic kids. In his free time, if he does not have any plan ahead, he tries to apply agile methodologies at the family level :). He enjoys a lot to travel with his family and discovers new places for them.