Motivating Your Team in a Tough Market

When the market tightens, the media spews doom and gloom and Consultants become discouraged, it may be a good time to try new strategies for motivating your team.

Traditionally, most sales teams and sport teams focus on causes of failure and try to improve weaknesses. As Sales Managers, Coaches and Trainers, we identify skill gaps and try to address them. We focus on what they are not doing well.

Well, there’s a new strategy in town! A strength-based approach to enhance motivation and teamwork. It turned the Sri Lankan Cricket Team into a world-series winning team by applying these two new processes prior to their April – July 2006 tour of England. And I thought you might like to know about it, as I think it’s exactly the right approach to use with sales teams in a tight market.

Appreciative Enquiry and Open Space Technology.

It’s all about moving from a team with a champion or two, to a champion team focused and motivated to soar. I attended a session with Dr Sandy Gordon FAPS, now based at UWA, Perth Australia who was the Sri Lankan team’s sport’s psychologist at the time. And it occurred to me that this would be a great approach for a sales team, bruised and battered by the economy.

The Appreciative Inquiry Process

AI is a positive, strengths-based operational approach to learning and development that seems to enhance and refocus Team Work. The AI Process asks questions as a group:

“What are we doing right?”

“When we are at our best, what are we doing well?’

“When we are at our best, what is our behaviour?”

“How do we make what’s working, happen more often?’

AI makes some assumptions from which this model operates:

– In every group something works

– What people focus on becomes their reality

– Reality is created in the moment and there are several realities

– The act of asking questions of a group influences the individual in some way

– People are more confident and comfortable in their journey to the future when they carry forward parts of the past

– If people carry parts of the past forward, those parts should be what is best about the past

– It is important to value differences

– The language people use creates their reality

Ultimately, it puts the attention on their goals by paying attention to the right things at the right times. It also helps identify what is out of your control but keeps your focus on the team vision.

So, how did they apply AI to the Sri Lankan team? And how can you use this for your sales team? AI took a five step process:

1) Discovery

Identifying the ‘best of what has been or what is’ and supporting their belief in a positive future

2) Dream

Creating a clear results-oriented vision in relation to the discovered potential and encouraging them to conceive images of possibilities.

3) Design

Creating possibility propositions of the newly express dream or vision and bringing the dream into focus

4) Destiny

Strengthening the affirmative capability of them and helping them recognise the dream in the present.

5) ‘Naming the Elephant’ in the room

Bringing ‘undiscussables’ into the open and having the ‘difficult conversations’. Let’s face it, every time you try to motivate your team, there will be ‘yes buts,’ as a barrier in their minds. Ask them if there’s any problems, the whole team will shake their heads, “No, can’t see any problems.” But guess what, the first thing they will talk about when out of the room are the very things you wanted them to talk about in the room.

This gives people an escape clause, a back door if you like. If they are not doing well because they are being annoyed by your DealMaker, frustrated at the lack of leads, have bought into the media story of the economy and no training will remove these perceived barriers.

But holding a confidential ‘Naming the Elephants’ facilitated by a professional, you will be able to name these Elephants. Naming the Elephant allows for identifying barriers and distractions, innovation and taking action. It allows the team to learn from each other, and teaches them not to attack or blame.

The rules are simple;

– Expect and respect different points of view

– Avoid trying to identify who wrote what

– Avoid naming names – if the ‘Elephant’ is a person, only describe his behaviour and its impact on the team.

Open Space Technology

As an Open Space Facilitator, I have seen the impact this new form of meeting has on the motivation, energy and passion of the participants. Open Space Technology is a meeting methodology which helps individuals and groups become more effective in work environments that are rapidly and constantly changing.

Open Space Technology releases the knowledge, experience and innovation in the organization which is not captured through less open processes, and applies them to specific complex issues.

Open Space works best when the work to be done is complex, the people and ideas involved are diverse, the passion for resolution (and potential for conflict) are high, and the time to get it done was yesterday.

What Will Happen?

We never know exactly what will happen when we open the space for people, but we can guarantee these results when any group gets into Open Space:

  1. All of the issues that are most important to the participants will be raised.
  2. All of the issues raised will be addressed by those participants most qualified and capable of getting something done on each of them.
  3. In a time as short as one or two days, all of the most important ideas, discussion, recommendations, conclusions, questions for further study and plans for immediate action will be documented in one comprehensive report.
  4. After an event, all of these results can be made available to an entire organization within days of the event, so the conversation can invite every stakeholder into implementation, right now.
  5. And results like these can be planned and implemented faster than any other kind of so-called “large group intervention”. It is literally possible to accomplish in days and weeks what some other approaches take months and years to do.

When the economy changes, what were once predictable cycles seem to extend well beyond what we have experienced before, you need new tools and new strategies to keep your team focused and motivated.

The end result for the Sri Lankan team? They said the meetings they held were the ‘best team meetings ever’. Sri Lanka subsequently drew the three Test series 1 – 1 and white washed England 5 – 0 in One Day Internationals, their best overseas tour performance in 25 years.

Unfortunately, a change of Management decided that these processes were a bit too non-traditional and went back to more familiar strategies.

What could these concepts do for your team? Do you have the courage to try something new?

One thought on “Motivating Your Team in a Tough Market

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