What Strategies Would You Use to Motivate Your Team?

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Employers are typically interested in assessing how well co-workers and clients would respond to you if you were hired, and how you would interact with them. Accordingly, you should prepare for questions like, "What strategies would you use to motivate your team?" 

Your response offers interviewers a glimpse into your leadership and interpersonal style. Expect this question if you are interviewing for a role that calls for supervising staff, leading teams of co-workers, or managing projects.

Teachers, who need to motivate students, should have a response prepared. As well, you may encounter this type of questioning while interviewing for jobs in sales and public relations, where you need to motivate customers and clients. 

How to Respond to Interview Questions About Motivating Others

This is a situational interview question, and there is no wrong or right answer. One strategy for your response is to share an anecdote to demonstrate the motivational techniques you have used in the past. Describe the situation, your action, and the results. (This is a modified version of the STAR interview response technique.) Here's an example of how a response framed as situation-action-result can look: 

Situation: When I was at ABC company, we had a round of layoffs in the middle of an already understaffed project. The 5-person team I led was demoralized, and also needed to absorb the additional work from the departed staff.

 

Action: I took everyone on the team out for coffee individually. These one-on-one meetings were an opportunity to vent, but also created space for employees to share pain points. I shared all the potential roadblocks in a follow-up team meeting, and we brainstormed solutions together, including adjusting the timeline slightly.

 

Results: In the end, the project launched just a week behind the original schedule, and without any other issues. Because the team felt that their frustrations were acknowledged, there was no simmering resentment holding people back. Instead, the team felt enthusiastic and unified in a common goal. 

What to Focus on in Your Response

In your answer, it's also helpful to highlight that you understand motivational approaches should be tailored by personality type. You can mention that you would take the time to get to know your clients or team members, and assess their needs and preferences. As well, it's helpful to differentiate how you might approach staff who perform well, versus the office underperformers.

Demonstrate your awareness of some of the common factors that help increase motivation at work, such as bonuses, team spirit, and recognition. Of course, you will also want to make it clear that you cannot always control these factors. Salaries and bonuses, for instance, are often outside of a manager or team-member's control. 

Motivation Strategies for Sales, Marketing, and PR Jobs

If you are interviewing for a position in sales, public relations, marketing, or fundraising, where you need to convince customers to participate in some way, you should share how you learn about the needs and preferences of your customers or constituencies.

Then you can mention how you emphasize the benefits of your products or services in light of those wants and needs, in order to prompt the desired response from your customers.

Examples of the Best Answers

Here are some example statements to consider as you prepare your answer.

  • On motivating others by recognizing their achievements: I believe that recognizing positive aspects of employee performance is critical to motivating most workers. For example, I manage a staff of five employees, and I noticed that one of the workers was somewhat introverted and tended to stay in the background. He performed adequately but was reluctant to contribute at meetings, and I thought he could be more productive if optimally motivated. I started a daily ritual of checking in with him and monitoring his output. I provided positive feedback regarding his daily achievements. I discovered that the quality and quantity of his output increased as I interacted with him more frequently. I was able to call upon him at meetings since I understood the details of his work better and ask him to share some of his successful strategies with colleagues.
     
  • On motivating others by giving consistent feedback: I believe that regular and concrete feedback is important when dealing with a worker who is not performing up to her potential. I heard complaints from a few of my restaurant customers that one of my bartenders was not as cheerful and attentive as they would have liked. I started asking her customers as they were leaving about the quality of service and informed her as soon as possible after they left about what I had learned. I let her know which behaviors were problematic and complimented her when the customer was satisfied. After a few shifts, I observed a transformation in her attitude and began to receive consistently positive feedback from her customers.
     
  • On motivating others by establishing a context for their work: I believe that staff are more highly motivated when they understand the impact of a project and their role. I also think that they are more likely to be motivated if they have input regarding how to accomplish group or departmental goals. When I launched a fundraising campaign for a new library, I called a meeting and clearly explained the purpose of the drive and how it would benefit the college. Then I asked the group to share their insights regarding the best process for achieving our goal. After brainstorming some strategies for getting the best results, I drew consensus around a plan and designated responsibilities for each team member. The group was more invested in this campaign than in some past efforts, and we reached our goal ahead of schedule.
     
  • On motivating others in sales: As you can see from my resume, I have sold fundraising software in the past. My approach to motivating customers was to spend time uncovering the problems and challenges that confronted their development staff. Then I would pitch features of my product that would help them to meet those challenges. For example, I met with one museum development officer and found that they had no systematic way to identify particular donors based on their artistic interests. Staff relied on handwritten notes or memory. I showed her how our prospect files could be coded by different types of art and lists of past and potential donors could be generated.  She decided to purchase a lease once she saw how the system could help her staff to focus their fundraising efforts on prospects with an interest in upcoming exhibits.

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