2 Different Ways To Motivate Your Teamby@hc_adria
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2 Different Ways To Motivate Your Team

by Adrià HernándezAugust 2nd, 2016
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One of the benefits of competition and playing sports is that you learn and develop useful skills that are applicable to many fields of your life.
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How 2 opposite strategies lead to results in different scenarios

One of the benefits of competition and playing sports is that you learn and develop useful skills that are applicable to many fields of your life.

It’s interesting how two classical strategies coaches use to train and motivate their athletes, have a direct application to lead and manage people you work with.

This post is about when, why and how to implement these 2 strategies to motivate your team.

The first two critical points

Individualization is key. Every person is different, so to achieve the best results, you must always implement a personalized strategy for every person in your team.

The only way you can implement an individualized strategy is, of course, getting to know each and all of your team mates.

Your success as a leader is directly correlated to how well you know the people you work with.

The better you know your team, the easier it will be to develop its potential and achieve results.

The carrot (or the positive reward) strategy

This first strategy consists is inspired in what coaches do with hard-working athletes, that are naturally driven and passionate.

It consists of praising the athlete when it trains well, while modifying the training to give them necessary treats, in order to avoid burnout (working to hard eventually leads to poor performance and higher injury risk).

The equivalent in a company for these athletes are, of course, the A-players (and a few B-players).

If most of your team is composed mostly by A-players, go ahead and start with this strategy as the baseline.

As soon as you stablish the positive reward (of your choice) and everyone is aware of it, start observing for negative responses from your team mates (count indifference as a negative too).

Scenario A

If you only see a few negative responses, and most people respond well to the positive reward strategy

What you should do next is talk with the people that responded negatively, to better understand how they feel and think about it.

Depending on what you hear from them, adjust the strategy individually for each of the non-respondents, either by changing the reward, or by going directly to a negative reward strategy.

Scenario B

Most people don’t give a shit about the positive reward, but a small number of your team mates respond well.

In this case, first evaluate if it’s your fault by choosing a bullshit reward most people don’t care about, by (once again) talking to everyone in the team.

If the problem is the reward, change it and start again. Just don’t f*ck it again.

If you find another reason for the majority of negative responses (most probably laziness is to blame), then you must immediately change to a negative reward strategy.

Just make sure to keep the positive reward for the few that responded well in the first place.

The stick (or the negative reward) strategy

The other side of the coin is obviously the opposite from the previous strategy.

Coaches use this strategy with athletes that have less drive or that tend to slack sometimes.

It consists of criticizing the athlete’s mistakes, expose their poor performance in front of other team mates, and threat them with punishment (like doing extra work or not playing a game).

Most companies go straight to this strategy for default (and most of them don’t even think there are alternatives either).

The reason behind this is that it usually works fine with most people (B and C-players).

This is the biggest mistake a company could make if they want to attract, and especially, retain top talent.

In other words, there’s no way A-players will stay or perform anywhere near their best with this strategy.

Since this strategy is so common and implemented everywhere, there’s no need to go further.

The influence of the startup culture

Fortunately, with every new successful startup that replaces old incumbents, the work culture and team strategies are slowly changing for the better.

Startup founders have learned that having a positive work environment and happy employees is a superior long term strategy.

It leads to more satisfaction and better work-life balance for employees, and improved productivity and happier customers for the company.

It will take some time to change the work dynamics of most companies, but we’ll eventually get there.

The need of improving results (more profits), competition (startups), and social pressure (better informed customers), will force them to change or disappear.

Whatever your strategy is, always remember this

It doesn’t matter if you have to do a funny ‘performance’, pay for a very expensive vacation or fire someone on the spot, whatever you said you will do, you have to honor your word. Always.

Just fail once to deliver what you promised, and you’re guarantee to lose the respect from the whole team.

Once you lose your credibility from your team mates, you’re no longer fit to continue leading them, which leaves you with maybe two options: change of role/department, or leave the company.

So remember to always think twice before you communicate with your team.

As a team leader, you can’t blame others for your mistakes.


  • Get to know your team, listen to them.
  • Adapt the strategy to your team characteristics.
  • Individualization is key, so is communication.
  • Happy employees translate to happy customers.
  • Always keep your word, no matter what.


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Adrià Hernández