Motivation is a key factor in many situations from raising children to building trust during political campaigns, and even when training athletes.

Similarly, motivation is also important within work environments between managers and their teams.

As the team leader, you should be aware of your team members’ personality and needs. If you aren’t in tune with your team, it’s easy for individuals to feel isolated or misunderstood, which can lead to disengagement and lack of motivation toward their work.

There are many motivation tactics that leaders can use to illicit the best responses, whether that be intrinsic or extrinsic, for each individual on their team, but we have curated a simple list of 5 motivation theories that every manager should consider for their teams.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Represented as a pyramid, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has five tiers that represent human needs that lead to a fulfilled life. The idea is that each need, starting from the bottom, the most basic needs such as sleep and shelter, should be satisfied before focusing on the “higher needs”, such as self-esteem and status.

You can apply Maslow’s theory to your team in order to create a fulfilling team environment for every member. 

One of the ways that you, as the team lead, can utilize Maslow’s motivation theory is to fulfill the physiological need of Maslow’s pyramid, or the bottom of the pyramid. Make sure that your team isn’t sacrificing sleep, which is the foundation of Maslow’s bottom tier.

Yes, overtime is needed in most work environments, and you may need your team to be “on” during more times than others.  However, encourage your team to have a healthy work-life balance so that they are not sacrificing the basic necessity of a good night’s rest just to meet deadlines.

Have more meetings during the week if you must to check in with everyone’s workload. Consistently ask your team members if they need additional help so that they aren’t working way after their scheduled hours.

Without good sleep, the quality of your team’s work won’t be great after a while, so promoting a good foundation of basic self-care will be beneficial to your business in the long run. 

Hertzberg’s Two Factor Theory

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Model argues that certain features of a workplace determine job satisfaction and dissatisfaction.  It’s also known as motivation-hygiene theory.

Motivating factors influence job satisfaction because they are based on an individual’s need for personal growth. These factors are achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, and advancement.

Hygiene factors is defined as what could make individuals unhappy with their job. These factors include company policy, supervision, salary, interpersonal relationships, and working conditions.

Basically, when the two factors of Hertzberg theory are positive or high, then the workplace is closest to “ideal”.

As a leader or manager, you can apply this motivation theory in a number of ways. First, make sure workers have an environment where they can come to work motivated and happy with what they are doing.

Having monthly meetings with other senior managers to see what you all can do to improve the work environment, or “hygiene” in this case, for your teams. Invest into taking leadership courses, as well.

Also, have meetings with your teams and make sure to schedule time to ask individuals for any questions or concerns that they have about the work itself, and what you, as a manager can do to improve it. Promote frequent opportunities for advancement and recognition of hard work.

McClelland’s Theory of Needs

McClelland’s motivation theory states that every person has one of three main driving motivators: the needs for achievement, affiliation, or power. 

McClelland argues that these motivators are learned, and not something that we are born with. People tend to have one of three of these factors that dominate our behavior, which we develop from our culture or experiences.

When it comes to your team, you can use McClelland’s motivation theory to identify how each of your team members act within their roles so you can better understand how they work within a group environment. 

For example, you may have a team member who always takes the lead on a project. They are outspoken during meetings and aren’t shy about delegating responsibilities to others or asking for help. This team member is likely driven by the Power aspect of this motivation theory.

Or, you may have another team member who is more reserved. They don’t speak during meetings or needs coaxing when it comes to asking for help with their workload. They tend to have opinions that sway with whatever the group is doing.  This team member is likely driven by the Affiliation aspect of this theory.

Identifying your team’s traits accordion to McClelland’s motivational theory will help with your approach on what task to give them and what roles they will work the best in with certain projects.

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y (And Theory Z)

Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y is used to explain employee motivation and its implications for management. 

According to McGregor, Theory X are intrinsically motivated, meaning satisfaction comes with what satisfies them, not everyone else, and is usually on their terms. external rewards like gifts or bonuses are not important.

There may need to be rules set in place to keep them on track or guidelines enforced for employees like Theory X to keep them focused. They are guided by projects that speak to them and don’t need any external validation. Leadership could work with this personality type to have them work on projects that speaks to their own personal interest or strengths in order to get the best results out of their work.

Theory Y employees will do well with motivation from their workplace and work best when they have external validation. For example, Companies should be sure to provide courses or new training opportunities for these employees to keep their mind moving and in a way for them to show off their need to please.

Allow your Theory Y employees the opportunity to go to fairs or networking opportunities within their field. Theory Y employees will enjoy management implementing monthly rewards for team members who generated the most amount of sales or employees who worked the hardest. Rewards can be notebooks, gift cards, bottles of wine, etc.

A third theory, Theory Z, was developed by Dr. William Ouchi in response to McClelland’s motivation theories.

Ouchi’s theory focuses on increasing employee loyalty to the company by providing safe and open work environment that will encourage employees to stay longer.

Essentially, it prioritizes social interaction, which in turn motivates employees.

Locke’s Goal-Setting Motivation Theory

Locke and Latham’s goal-setting motivation theory looks at goals as key determinants of behavior. This theory stresses the importance of goal specificity, difficulty, and acceptance and provides guidelines on how to incorporate them into management in order for them to be attained.

Setting challenging but attainable goals is one of the main attributes to Locke’s theory, and can also be seen in the practice of setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attaintable, Realistic and Timely). Too easy or too difficult or unrealistic goals will not motivate us.

Another attribute is to make goals that are specific and measurable. Specificity provides focus and help us measure the progress toward the goal.

More than anything, goal commitment should be obtained. If we don’t commit to the goals, then we will not put adequate effort and time toward reaching them, regardless of how specific or challenging they are.

In a work environment, the best way to implement’s Locke’s theory is to set frequent goals with your team.

The first step to this motivational theory is to identify what the goal should be. The goal should be set by you and your team member(s) so that you are all on the same page during and after the meeting. Next, set a meeting to discuss the goal. A meeting goal is what you and your employee(s) want to get out of your scheduled talk.

After the meeting is over, summarize what was talked about in the meeting, how to reach the goal moving forward, and work toward it. Reconvene during the next meeting and check in on how the goal is going and if any changes need to be made. 

Setting goals (ideally SMART goals), and thus steps to achieve these goals, with each member of your team will guarantee that you are all striving toward not only presenting the best work for your business and clients, but goals also keep your team organized.

Which motivation theories should you use?

Keep in mind that very individual and company are different, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ theory to implement within your team.

Try one or each of the 5 motivation theories above and see which one works out for you! Take your team and their style of work into account, include some emotional intelligence in the decision, and go from there.