Morale and Motivation

Individual morale issues can sometimes be hard to spot. Asking the right questions in your 1-on-1 meetings can keep you informed so you're better prepared.

Mountain Top View

Building a high-performing team isn’t easy. You need to ensure your stakeholders and upper management stay informed, deadlines don’t slip, and your team delivers high-quality work. With all of that going on, it can be easy to lose track of how your team is feeling. Lose track for too long and you could find yourself in a situation where low morale is putting a strain on the motivation of your entire team.

Morale feeds motivation

Happy and engaged team members elevate and motivate others and enable your team to deliver their best work. Higher motivation leads to higher productivity, but if morale takes a hit, it can pull others on the team down, causing distractions and inefficiencies, and impacting results.

Because low morale can spread, it can cause a broad range of different issues for your team. It’s important to focus on those struggling with morale and work directly with them to identify the root causes. In order to improve the morale of your team, it’s essential to understand what factors affect your team’s morale.

Morale is an individual concept

It's often easy to identify macro events that impact team morale. For example, things like reorgs, mergers, and layoffs broadly affect the whole team, and leaders often see these things coming and have time to prepare.

The things impacting individual morale are often much harder to prepare for. Each person on your team likely has different factors that affect their morale. Think about where each person is at in their career, and what is their role. What are their aspirations? What is important to them about their job? Considering how all of these factors come into play, it's easy to see how hard it can be to understand individual morale.

Keep a morale focus in your 1-on-1 meetings

You might not realize it, but simply showing up to a 1-on-1 meeting creates a positive attitude toward your relationship with that employee. By prioritizing their meeting and making time for them, you signal that you genuinely care about how they are feeling and are there to support them.

What’s more, your 1-on-1 meetings provide an opportunity to build trust, provide feedback, and focus on the personal development of that individual. As you engage in these activities, seek to better understand what affects the morale of this person.

It’s not hard to impact workplace morale with your 1-on-1 meetings, but it does take some intentional effort. Start by asking the right questions (more on that in a moment).

Listen more than you speak. Awkward silence is okay. Give the other person time to process the questions you’re asking, and don’t rush them to tell you what they think you want to hear.

Unpack the details of what the other person is telling you. Is there is one task they mentioned that demotivates them? Don’t assume it’s just that task. Ask clarifying questions to understand what it is about that task that is demotivating. Look for root causes. As patterns emerge, use what you've learned to make adjustments.

Questions to start the conversation.

Look for ways to work these questions into the conversation with the people on your team. Of course, their role in the organization will also affect the questions you should ask, so be thoughtful about how you approach the subject.

#1

What is your favorite part of your job? What is your least favorite?

With this question, look for excitement in their answers or perhaps an extrinsic motivation in the favorite parts of their job. For the parts of their job they don’t like, look for directness and clear answers. If they try to sugarcoat things, dig deeper.

#2

When are you at your highest levels of focus and motivation?

What part of their role brings them the most energy? It may not be as obvious for everyone, so sometimes examples are helpful. An exercise that help is to take two parts of that person's role and ask them which one brings them more energy. Take that answer and ask the same question for another part of their role. After a few iterations, you'll have a good idea of what brings them the most motivation.

#3

What part of your work slows you down or creates frustration?

Often you will get responses related to an inefficient process, which is fine, but this question is driving at what specifically slows them down.

#4

What parts of the day do you have to most and least energy and focus?

For some, talking about energy levels make it easy for them to see the positive work that results from high energy and the negative impact low energy can have on their results.

#5

What are you learning from your current team or project?

The reward of growth is something many are looking for in the role. For those folks, learning is the key, so ensuring they are continuing to learn will keep them motivated.

You've got this!

Armed with these questions, genuine curiosity, and empathy, you’ll be able to effectively leverage your 1-on-1 meetings to understand the individual morale of the folks on your team and be prepared to improve the working environment for your team and the entire business.

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