How to Demotivate a Team in 5 Easy Steps!


My, your pom poms are so fluffy!

Team goals and motivation are interesting topics. Individually, goals can be a performance metric but as a team, goals can help solidify the direction you go in. Team goals create a sense of community and help the team come together to accomplish something bigger than the individual could do on their own.

My team recently had new goals introduced. Sales goals. (Yikes!) At my company, we recently went from a team of seven, who essentially took orders and offered support, to a team of three with specific growth goals. Support was moved to a different team. It was now our job to invest in our clients and understand the growth potentials. Gone were the days of building relationships and just being friends with our clients.

Well, not gone. That is still an expectation. But now, we’ve got the added expectation that we’ll understand their business, understand their pain points and understand how we can help them succeed and expand by using our product.

It’s an exciting time for sure and there is a steep learning curve in the process. At this point, the team is fired up to hit a goal. We finally have something to shoot for and we’re scrambling to figure out how to aim and fire consistently. We were 5% away from making our goal at the beginning of the last week in January… so of course that seemed like the best time to work on team demotivation. If you’re ever in the position to coach a new team on their goals, I’d recommend these 5 steps to ruin your chances of achieving them:

  1. Remind the team that these goals are the lowest we could go, the bare minimum, almost embarrassingly low goals.
  2. Wonder aloud if this is the right team to get the job done… ponder bringing in fresh blood – all in front of them so they know you have doubts.
  3. Remind them if they don’t make their goals, they don’t get any commission for the work they’ve done.
  4. Ask if they’ve been getting on Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter to socially engage with their clients or if they’re just hiding behind email.
  5. When they repeat where they are at now (95%) and then speculate where they plan to land (100%), remain stoic and say, “Ok. I guess that’s…ok. That’s good.”

I wish I could say that the top 5 tips were a joke, but these were real things I heard. I ignored them. I kept them to myself (until now) and I made sure that they didn’t leave the office they were uttered in. Our team hit 140% of our goal. The last 45% in the last week of the month.

When you’ve got a new team (or an experienced team learning a new role, job, skill set, etc.), it’s important to set realistic goals. These goals might not be where you want to be at first but you have to allow a little time to  grow and learn and develop. Expecting record sales from a brand new sales team is ridiculous. Ideally, you would set the bar low enough to not be impossible, but high enough to build up confidence. And then cheer that team on every step of the way.

Kris Plachy, writes on the “right way to be a leader” and  suggests, 

In order to be successful, leaders must :
1.) employ a vision for their team or organization,
2.) they must establish clear performance criteria for their team and
3.) they must coach and manage their team to be accountable to achieving the goals of the organization.

As a leader, your job isn’t to low ball your goals but if you’re going to accomplish great things, your job is not to demotivate your team either. If our team hadn’t hit our January numbers, I still would’ve been proud of what we accomplished although disappointed in missing an important metric. We didn’t have any ramp up time. We had never built up a pipeline before. We made our January goal by scraping along. We put in 200% effort into that new goal and it paid off. We set ourselves up for success in future goals as well.

A team on a mission is a very powerful thing. When everyone is aligned to the same vision and working on the same goals, there is so much positive momentum. When your team is first starting off that momentum might be a little slow. Your goals might be a little low. But under no circumstances should you minimize the team or their accomplishments.

If you want your team to achieve great things, you have to promote greatness. You have to build people up and celebrate the successes. It doesn’t mean you have to settle for mediocre, but it may mean you have to celebrate the baby steps that move you along to bigger and better things.

Cropped image by Flickr user clotho98.

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