How-To: Motivate, Engage, and Involve Your Team

There is no algorithm for building and maintaining all-star teams, there are a few strategies you can employ to improve the engagement of your team.

By Brad Karsh

It is no easy task to motivate, engage, and involve your team, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Even today’s most prominent business tycoons admit the most difficult part of their job is managing and leading their people. Take the late Steve Jobs, for instance. Jobs obviously made extraordinary contributions at Apple, but he spoke openly about his struggles in his role as CEO. Jobs learned from mistakes, and his analogy for what builds strong businesses was spot on:

“My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. And that’s how I see business. You know great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

While there is no algorithm for building and maintaining all-star teams, there are a few strategies you can employ to improve the engagement of your team and, in turn, your bottom line:

Ask! What better way to find out exactly how to motivate, engage, and involve your team than to simply ask? You may be surprised. What motivates one person may not work for another. Customize your approach to engage every team member.

Defy the golden rule. It isn’t about treating people the way you want to be treated. It is about treating people the way they want to be treated. Learn how individuals on your team like to communicate, and adhere to their preferences.

Give credit where credit is due. Everyone on your team wants their contributions to be recognized and appreciated. Simply say, “Thank you!” Your behavior will be contagious, and the habit of “thanks” on your team will make everyone feel valued and vested in the business.

Set small milestones. Everyone enjoys achieving goals and celebrating success. If you have a big annual goal, set monthly milestones that can keep your team motivated and connected to the goal. Figure out a fun incentive that will inspire everyone to reach those monthly checkpoints.

Embrace change and new ideas. Archaic, bureaucratic practices stifle creativity and innovation. Encourage and implement new ideas from your team. Remember: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.

Give feedback—the good, the bad, and the ugly. You know that spinach leaf that gets stuck in your teeth after lunch? No one wants to be the one to alert a co-worker of the spinach, but everyone wants to be alerted that it is there. The same applies to feedback at work: It can be difficult to deliver, but everyone wants to hear it. Your team wants feedback, and it’s crucial to making them as productive as possible.

Let go. We know no one can do it as well as you can, but you need to delegate to give yourself time to complete tasks more appropriate for your level. The added responsibility will motivate your team to take it to the next level.

Have fun. An engaged team enjoys going to work. Play 10 minutes of Boggle in the afternoon, institute a fitness challenge, or hold a sandwich swap to keep the positive energy flowing. Let your team design what the fun looks like.

Managing a team is challenging, but it’s rewarding and worthwhile if you invest the time and the effort.

Brad Karsh is president of JB Training Solutions, a training and development company based in Chicago, IL, dedicated to helping individuals succeed in the workplace through Webinars, e-learning, and live training workshops. For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.