Can We Really Motivate Others?

by Oct 30, 2018

Managers often ask, “How can I motivate my sales team and other team members?” Many language experts say we can’t really motivate other people; we can only motivate ourselves.

Is this really true? Well, the dictionary describes motivate as “to provide with a motive; impel.” It defines inspire as “to influence, move or guide by extraordinary inspiration; to exert an animating, action-oriented or exalting influence on; to spur on.”

It seems like inspire is indeed the more accurate word to use about encouraging others to perform at an optimum level. So how can we inspire our team members?

Address the Cause of Poor Performance

Psychology tells us that the three-part “expectancy-value theory” has a big impact on people’s performance. This theory says the level at which we perform is based on three factors:

  1. Our expectations about our own abilities (efficacy)
  2. Our expectations about our environment (outcome)
  3. How much we value the task at hand (value)

We can get to the root cause of many performance issues by figuring out which factor is leading to poor performance. For example, if you think a team member’s poor performance is the result of low confidence — there will be no expectation to succeed — try to identify the source of this lack of confidence, and address it. Training will help. Also, as a manager, look for opportunities to catch your team members doing things correctly and praise them.

When team members’ poor performance is related to expectations about the environment, dig deeper to find out why. Speak with them in private to learn about their concerns. When team members don’t value their work, they may not be in the ideal positions to make use of there unique skill sets.

This discovery process will take some sleuthing on your part as the manager. The great news is that once you discover the underlying issue, you can fix it. The other great news is that simply by asking your team members what’s important to them and what would make their work lives better, they will see that you care about them. That alone will inspire them to perform optimally!

One Word That Can Inspire Your Entire Team

The expectancy-value theory can help you identify and remedy specific performance issues. But here is a way to create inspiration and motivation in your entire organization.

We hear a lot about the power of teamwork and how many Millennials enjoy working on teams. Research has shown that teams do often produce better results than individuals.

Recent research shows that teamwork has the greatest potential source of connection and belonging in the workplace. Two Stanford University researchers have discovered that managers and leaders can inspire and motivate team members by making them feel like they are working on teams, even if they aren’t officially. How do you do that? By using the word “together.”

The researchers concluded, “The word ‘together’ is a powerful social cue to the brain. In and of itself, it seems to serve as a kind of relatedness reward, signaling that you belong, that you are connected and that there are people you can trust working with you toward the same goal.”

They suggest using the word “together” at every opportunity possible. Say it when you are meeting with your team members one-on-one. Include it in your presentations and other communications. Encourage your other managers to use the word “together,” too.

RedRock Leadership’s Training Will Teach You to Motivate Your Team

Leading teams effectively is just one of many topics we cover in our RedRock Leadership management training and coaching programs. We also offer behavioral assessments that can help you learn more about your team members.

Learn more at

Jeff Ruby

Jeff Ruby

Founder & CEO of RedRock Leadership

During the course of his professional career, he has worked in organizations ranging in size from a sole practitioner to Fortune 500. Included in his experience are roles in starting and selling companies, sales and sales management, training and development and executive coaching.

RedRock Leadership is a sales training and leadership development company committed to growing companies by growing individuals through on-going training infused with the competencies of emotional intelligence.