5 Tips To Get Your Team To Step Up

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Tired of having no free time for your family, friends and hobbies? Does managing your team feel like you are dragging a cart (and its horse) up a hill? Look no further.

What if the key to trying to get your team to be more proactive lied in children’s games? Wouldn’t that make managing a team much easier, lighthearted and fun?

Interested? Then you need to read this.

Here are five ways to motivate your team into action:

1. Playing Puzzle

Asking your team to help you out on a new project without explaining to them why doing it is important (for them, for your department, for your company) is like asking someone to put together a puzzle without showing them the picture of what it should look like when it’s finished.

Think about it. Would you REALLY want to dedicate the next 960 hours of your life (the equivalent of 6 months of work) implementing your boss’s next big shiny plan when you don’t understand how it fits into the overall business strategy?

You will do it, yes. You will try hard, maybe. Will you be 100% committed to making it work?


As the team leader you will have a sense of the bigger picture and a good understanding of why something needs to happen. You probably have a good grasp of the vision (or maybe you are the visionary that had the idea in the first place), and therefore it makes absolute sense to you.

But for your team members to really buy into that new strategy, you need to make sure that everyone understands three things: why it is important for the organisation, how it will impact the team (more sales, leaner processes, etc.), and what is in it for them as individuals.

Next time that you’re presenting a new project to your team, think of the puzzle.

2. The Smurfs’ Village

My favourite. Not just because there’s Smurfette!

Have you noticed that they all have very different personalities and roles? They all have distinctive characteristics based on their skills.

Here’s a secret. If you really want to leverage your team members’ talents, think of yourselves as… er… smurfs.

I use smurfs when I’m facilitating team coaching sessions for my clients. Crazy, I know, but it is very effective.

And here’s why: when you have been working in the same team for a while you tend to forget what the other people are good at. You get into a routine and don’t take the time to think about what each person excels or is an expert in.

The question is: “What are his/her unique skills and how can they be of most use to the whole group?”

Picturing each other as smurfs helps everyone visualise their colleagues’ strengths and capitalise on all the untapped talent. And it will also make one of your team meetings a bit more entertaining, don’t you think?

Imagine yourself walking into your next team meeting saying: “Good morning all. Thanks for coming to today’s meeting. Agenda point number one: the Smurfs!”.

3. The Domino Effect

Remember lining up your dominoes and then knocking the first one down to let it fall? It pushed the next one off balance and whole line of dominoes ended up falling.

When someone in a team fails to reach an objective, this has a domino effect on the whole team.

People come up with the most convoluted explanations to show that they are not the weakest link in their team. You did your best but your colleague just failed to reach his goals…

Too late. You are the next domino in the line. Someone in your company will always remember that you were part of the team that went 50k euros over budget, failed to meet the sales targets or lost that Fortune 100 client.

Install the “if one of us fails, we all fail” mentality in your team. At the end of the day we all want to succeed in whatever we are doing, right? So let’s help each other get there and not lose anyone along the way.

4. La Piñata

We have email, we have fax, we have Skype, Facebook, Twitter, conference calls, instant messenger, etc. but for most teams communicating in an effective way is still a problem.


Simply because we have a growing tendency to communicate via email rather than go and see our colleague sitting in the office next door. Or we just forget to pick up the phone for a quick live conversation if we work in different sites.

Have you ever played piñata? It is a very popular game in Mexico and Central America. The Free Online Dictionary describes the game as follows: “papier-mâché figure filled with toys, candy, etc., and suspended from above, especially during Christmas or birthday festivities, so that children, who are blindfolded, may break it or knock it down with sticks and release the contents”.

The other children at the party give the blindfolded child instructions as to where he needs to go with the stick to knock down the piñata.

Hint: they don’t send email or a text message.

People have different communications styles: some are direct and others are indirect. Some people like to chit chat and others can’t handle getting into personal information territory.

As the team manager, you’ll create opportunities for your team members to gain awareness about other people’s preferred ways of interacting. And you will encourage more open and direct communication amongst your team members.

5. Showing The Red Card

OK, this might belong more in a sports section, but football (soccer) is still a game.

When a player breaks the rules of the game, the referee pulls up a red card.

How is this relevant to creating collective responsibility in teams?

Well, it is about establishing a set of agreements within the team so that when something goes wrong, people feel that they can blow the whistle. And it is OK to do so.

This technique encourages people to speak up instead of venting out their dissatisfaction around the rest of the office. It also prevents problems from escalating and getting out of hand.

You need to create a safe space for everyone in the team to hold each other accountable. It is about acknowledging that something has gone wrong or someone has gone off-track and rectifying. And it involves being respectful, providing constructive feedback and trusting one another.

To Sum Up

Collective responsibility is closely linked to motivation, camaraderie, self-discipline and alignment.

In the context of today’s tough economic climate, not all companies have the luxury of investing in team development programmes.

However, the tips that I’ve listed in this post will help you to significantly improve your team’s dynamics. There’s something about working with children’s games in an office environment that brings up the playfulness in us, sparks creativity, and breaks down barriers.

Let me know how you get on with the Smurfs.

- Laura

Related posts

This post is a follow-up to another one I published last month in which I talked about the danger for team leaders of falling into the trap of to-do lists, and argued that they might be better off adding value to their organisations at a more strategic level. Here it is:

Is Creating a Happy Team Making You Unhappy?

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