by Paul Matthews

Motivational team meetings

If you run regular meetings for your team, and you should, you would want them to leave those meetings looking forward to getting on with the work to be done.

How do you do that?

First of all, make sure your meeting runs well, so use the topic on Meetings to get the meeting itself working.

Then you need to consider the differences between influencing the motivation level of an individual and influencing the same individual as part of a group or team.

Group versus individual

When you seek to influence the motivation of an individual, you get much better success if you get to know if they are Towards or away, Internal or external, and what their relevant Values and beliefs are. Knowing this information will help you shape your intervention so it is more effective.

Given that you are bound to have a mixture of people in a group, you need to appeal to as many personality types as you can when addressing the group. Appeal to both the towards and away people by saying something like ‘We don’t want to get caught as the last of the teams to finish the work we have been assigned on the XYZ project, so let’s put some extra effort into it this month so we can finish it off and show the other teams just how it should done.’

If you are seeking to appeal to people’s values, you need to choose several likely values and speak to each of them. This can take some prior planning.

An interesting thing happens when you do this: people filter out the portion of what you said that does not easily fit into their mental framework. If you offer different ways of saying something, they will keep the ones that work for them and ‘lose’ the ones that would, for them, have required some mental translation.

The greater the loyalty of a group toward the group, the greater is the motivation among the members to achieve the goals of the group, and the greater the probability that the group will achieve its goals.

Rensis Likert

This is why someone who listens to an impassioned speech about something that does not hit their hot buttons can come away unmoved, while another person can be totally fired up.

Motivational things you can do in meetings

Below are some suggestions for ensuring that your team leave the meeting feeling enthusiastic and motivated.

Public motivational feedback

A meeting is a great place to recognise someone with some feedback to let them, and the others present, know what behaviours are valued.

Be careful, though. Some people do not like being the centre of attention, so be sure you know this in advance and don’t embarrass someone by putting them in the spotlight.

Reward announcements

Use a meeting as a place to hand out any rewards or awards gained by people since the last team meeting.


A team of IT engineers had an award they had themselves created. Each month, they gave a wooden spoon to the member of their team who had made the biggest mistake on the company IT system.

A new team manager thought that although this was done in a good natured way, it did not reward desired behaviour. He talked it through with them and they agreed to change the award to be for the person who had learnt the most. One of the engineers brought in a tacky straw donkey souvenir which became the award.

The award often went to the person who would have received the spoon, but now it was for a desired behaviour.

Remind people of achievements

Very often, in the mass of things that are demanding our attention, we can forget just how much we have actually achieved. At regular meetings, remind people of the good things that have happened and how much progress has really been made.

Don’t rely on memory to do this. During the period between meetings, note down things that you feel it would be useful to remind people about at a future meeting.

Get the team out of the panic zone

You will see a graph under Causes of procrastination that shows the panic zone and what to do about it. There is also more on this in the Delegation topic. If the team members are feeling a bit overwhelmed with the work load, they are in the panic zone, which will lead to a lack of motivation, which in turn only tends to make things worse.

As a manager, one of your jobs is to keep people in the stretch and comfort zones, as this is where their motivational levels will be highest.

Share your vision

Make sure that your team can see the path ahead. People will not be motivated if they cannot see the road ahead, because they cannot assess consequences and thus will err on the side of caution.

In addition, if they don’t know where they are going or what outcomes are being sought, they cannot make effective decisions and so will need micro-managing.


When you share your vision of what is coming, couch it in terms that appeal to the values of the people in your team. You should know them well enough to know what those values are.

Seek input

This is especially important where change is concerned. People do not like change being imposed upon them and will seldom be motivated in these circumstances. The more perception of control over the future they have, the more they will be able to anticipate the consequences turning out OK. Remember, motivation is based on perceived consequences, so if they feel they have no control, they will fear the worst.

Seek input from your team on how things can be done. The outcomes may be dictated from higher up and therefore outside your control, but the method used to achieve them, if decided on by the team, can make a big difference in motivation. A sense of control will lead to much better engagement.

Have some laughs

A sense of fun is essential too... have fun!

People would far rather enjoy their work than not, so seek to make it enjoyable. This includes your meetings. Having fun and enjoying things is a great motivator.

Keep changing things

Regular meetings can get boring, predictable and feel to people like you are just going through the motions. Seek to do something different at every one.


A manager brought a chocolate cake to his team meeting. He had made it himself at the weekend.

As one of his team later said ‘It wasn’t much of a cake, but he made it for us in his spare time. That really counts for something, and I will remember that cake for a long time.’

  • Use a different location.
  • Get a funny toy for the middle of the table.
  • Change the format.
  • Change the seating.
  • Change the time.
  • Get a guest speaker to do a ten-minute slot.
  • Get a different team member to chair the meeting each time.

Draw out enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is infectious, so if any member of the team is really enthusiastic about something, draw them out on it, even if it is not work related!

Share information

As a manager, you will have access to more information than those on your team. Where you can, share this in a way that allows them to have more certainty about the future. A sense of uncertainty will erode motivation.

Prepare for meetings

You need to prepare for most of the above motivational things that you can do in meetings. Not word for word, but you need to have thought it through with each of your team members in mind.

If you really want to do it well, practise. Run scenarios in your mind and imagine talking to your team. As you say something, note how individuals react. Then say it again a different way and notice what changes. Keep trying different approaches in your mind until you feel that you have it right and that it will go well.

Other meetings

Much of the above applies to any other meeting you might be chairing. The important thing to remember is that in most groups, particularly in large ones, you will get people from all parts of the motivational spectrum.

You will also be unlikely to know the individuals well enough to know about their values and beliefs, though in some cases you may get clues from what has brought the group together. If it’s a special interest group that has formed to promote recycling within the company, for example, you can be sure that environmental issues are high on their values lists.