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How NOT to Motivate Your Team


How NOT to Motivate Your Team

I was driving down the road, going the speed limit when suddenly the car behind me came up inches from my bumper. Shocked by their aggressiveness, there was a millisecond to weigh a few choices. 

I could speed up. After all, that’s what they wanted me to do. 

I was tempted to slow down. How dare they tailgate me to get me to move faster?

The shoulder was there for me. I could move off to the side and out of the flow.

Not only were they bearing down on me, but they also looked aggressive in my rear view mirror. Angry that I was following the law and driving along without a care in the world in our little town, they were not quite as patient. 

By the time we approached the roundabout, they had added incessant honking to their overbearing driving. 

I was doing what I needed to be doing! Driving and going the speed limit. They were jerks. 

Last year I got a speeding ticket for going nearly 50 kph in a 40 kph zone and paid a lot of money as a result. (By the way, that’s like going 30 mph on a road that’s 25) This was a 70 kph zone, and I wasn’t about to go 75 since the next ticket would cost me more than money. 

The closer they got to my bumper the more frustrated I got.

Every time the horn beeped my blood pressure escalated a bit too. 

Nothing they did made me want to speed up. 

I felt angry, frustrated, accosted and tempted to start throwing around some choice profanity. 

Finally, I turned on my turn signal to head down the road to my home, and they sped around me, screamed out the window, and threw in another long honk for good measure. 


Last night my daughter was in her room doing her homework. She has a big English essay due this week plus a science test. 

I walked into her room and demanded to know if she was studying or messing around. 

Fifteen minutes later I was back to check up on her. 

When she was taking a break and texting with a friend, I spit fire at her asking if her English essay was already done or if she was just into making bad choices. 


When I worked for a large company a few years ago, my boss gave a big action item to my peer, another VP. This person delegated it to one of his Directors. 

Instead of giving them a week to do their research and get it done well, the big boss started asking for progress updates within a day. She wanted to know what could be a higher priority? What taking so long?

Hello. Another turkey face of a jerk. 

Want to Motivate Your Team? Here’s What You Need to Know

  1. Pestering does not make people change their behavior, but it does change the way that they see you. 
  2. Aggressiveness is not leadership on the road, with your kids or at the office. 
  3. When people are doing what they need to be doing, let them keep on doing it. 
  4. Your good intentions and high stress aren’t always a powerful combination. 
  5. Ask, “How can I help?” then back off. You’ve opened the door, and people will walk through it. 
  6. Your agenda doesn’t always beat out someone else’s. 
  7. A little trust goes a long way. 
  8. Agree on the speed up front. [The driver behind me and the big boss didn’t do this one at all. Ok, neither did I when I pushed and poked my daughter instead of asking about her deadline and her plan for the road ahead.]
  9. Your craziness can backfire and make people slow down instead of speed up. (Yup, when the honking started, I tensed and tapped the break)
  10. People need to learn to get things done without someone holding their hand (or pushing their backs). 

Related: 25 High Impact Ways to Edit Your Leadership

Last but not least: Motivation comes from within. You can push, shove and honk all you want but proving you can make things happen is not the same as motivating your team.

Nobody likes working for a jerk who pushes them for more, better, faster NOW!

You can’t motivate your team by forcing them to do what you want them to do. Things may get done, but on the flip side, people may walk out the door once the work’s complete. There is a better way…

Take an honest look at your behaviors. Are you a jerk too? If so, it’s not too late to make a change. 

If you’d like support as you figure out how to bring out the best in your team, let’s talk.

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