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Unlocking the motivations of junior team members to help them excel

Updated: May 3

“It’s important to note that good coaches are measured year by year by their success on the field of play, and great coaches can be measured by even more.”

I read this tribute to a rowing coach who tragically died far too young. But her legacy was a generation of inspired athletes and coaches that had worked with her, which will live on. This sentence is a fantastic way of summarising how great leaders, managers or senior colleagues can do more than just manage.

But how? You can start by considering how the people you manage are motivated.

Do under-30s want beanbags in the office, and to work for a company with sustainability at its core? Does anxiety about climate change impact workplace goals of young people? Or do places like London financial institutions still attract a Harry Enfield-style Loadsa Money applicant?

I read an interview with a British flyweight boxer, who competed for Team GB at the 2012 Olympic Games. He once commented: ‘To be honest, I don’t really like boxing. If I did like it, can you imagine how good I would be? I want to make money in life, so that is why I fight. At least I am honest. I’ve got a chance [to make money] because I will be fighting for a world title. Who likes getting punched in the face? I don’t. I just like the cheques.” Yet psychology discovered a loooong time ago that humans aren’t motivated just by money. They are also driven by the prospect of attaining their goals – and it’s the goals bit that varies so wildly.

How can you manage a diverse workforce – diverse in all ways, including age and motivation?

I think we’re all on a spectrum. Much is written about how Gen Z is different to previous generations in their expectations of the workplace, but we need to be more specific than deciding that everyone born before and after a particular year can be painted with the same brush. Get to the granular level.

Here are some questions you can ask to encourage the team you manage to recognise their motivation:

  • Think at both a macro level (what do I want to achieve in the world?) and at a micro level (is the quality of the coffee in the on-site café important to me?).

  • Be clear with yourself. What are your values?

  • Are you living and working according to your values? You wouldn’t start a romantic relationship with someone who doesn’t share your values. Have you had the same consideration towards your employer?

  • Who are the people you can have open and honest coaching conversations with?

Enabling your team to better understand themselves is a great way to enable them to perform at their best.


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