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Motivating Agile Teams

What if I told you that teams cannot be motivated by anyone?. Teams need to motivate themselves. Agile leaders are responsible for setting an environment that helps teams be highly motivated and joyful.

Leaders need to move away from the proverbial carrot and stick and focus more on helping teams become intrinsically motivated.

In his book "Drive" Daniel Pink [1] proposes three intrinsic motivators:

  • Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives.

  • Mastery: Get better & better at something that matters.

  • Purpose: To work on the service of something larger than ourselves.

But what can we do as leaders to provide this kind of environment for our teams? There are several things that we could do. In no particular order:

Walking the talk: Be a role model. In the words of Simon Sinek, "What we do is a reflection of what we believe" [2]. Being congruent with our organization's values and principles sends a powerful message to our teams.

Being mindful of challenges: Be present and empathetic with your teams. Be there for them and support them to overcome those tough challenges.

Provide meaningful and valuable work: Maximize a team's sense of purpose by providing teams meaningful problems to solve. The more significant impact the teams' solutions have on society, the organization, and other teams or colleagues, the more motivated they will be.

Ensuring the team has the skills they need: Teams need to include a broad range of skills that allow them to solve, collectively, the problems they face. Help teams identify knowledge gaps and provide the training or expertise they need.

Provide a safe environment: Trust the teams and respect their decisions. Foster an environment that supports healthy conflict. Create a space that allows innovation and creativity to flow.

Promote healthy teams: There is so much to unpack here. Consider the diversity of culture and thought. Support teams to self-organize and self-manage. Provide space for the teams to explore the collective dimension of reflective practice.

For an example of how organizational culture can evolve to support motivated, high-performance teams, read about Menlo Innovations' culture [3].

At Menlo Innovations, they pride themselves on being all about Joy. Their culture relies on the following pillars:

  • A powerful organizational vision and an ambitious purpose.

  • A work environment that promotes collaboration and cross-pollination

  • Removing fear because fear kills joy.

  • Promoting teamwork by reducing silos and encouraging pair work, at a minimum, in every possible situation.

How do you keep your teams motivated and your organizational culture healthy?


[1] Daniel Pink, Motivation TED Talk.

[2] Simon Sinek, Start with Why TED Talk.

[3] Menlo Innovations.

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