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Episode Transcript

As an engineer, I know you work with teams a lot. Engineering work lends itself well to teams. So there are a lot of benefits to using them. If you’re a team leader, you’re definitely concerned with motivating and inspiring people. 

And even if you’re not the appointed leader, you still have a role in motivation. Let’s talk about that today. And I want to share with you some characteristics that you already have that will help you in that role.

You’re always a little anxious about keeping your team engaged and motivated to work. An unmotivated team is not only ineffective, it’s no fun to be with. And declining motivation is contagious. So it’s a constant battle to find ways to inspire.

But it turns out that, as a woman engineer, you have some tendencies that naturally spark motivation in people. That serve you well in inspiring your team.

We’ll get to that in a bit. But first let me start with a little background on what motivates people. And some key motivators for different kinds of teams.

6 Team Motivation Essentials

You can get creative and find lots of ways to motivate people. But I think you’ll agree that there are some basic ones that are essential. Here are 6 essential ways to motivate your team:

  1. Team members need to understand the why behind what they’re doing. They need to know the purpose and vision so they have an appreciation for the project. 
  1. positive working environment is critical for people to be excited about working on your team. In person or virtual, the work environment should be inviting and foster a positive culture.
  1. Practicing inclusion and respect results in more engaged team members. When they know their ideas and opinions are welcome, expected, and heard, members will be eager to contribute
  1. A sense of ownership and pride in the outcome motivates your team members to see the project through and do their best work.
  1. Offering challenge and growth motivates members because they love learning new things. It also enhances synergy and bonding for more satisfying team dynamics.
  1. Generous support and appreciation is vital for individual and team morale. A few genuine words of acknowledgement can make a huge difference in motivation.

Different Schemes for Different Teams 

These essentials apply to pretty much every team. But I find that there are certain types of teams that require particular motivation approaches. I have a few examples from my own experience.

Early in my career I managed one of our first programs with integrated product teams. The key to success with these teams is taking the time up front to teach the mission, goals and objectives. 

And getting everyone’s buy-in before you even get started on the project. The investment of that precious time is worth it.

In another program I managed cross-functional teams. With people from industry, government and universities. 

The key for these teams is taking care to understand where each member is coming from. What their organizations’ goals are. Their boundaries, restrictions, and expectations. This increases your chances of success enormously.

By the way, you’ll be able to learn more about working with cross-functional teams coming up in Episode 62.

Later I managed a recruiting team with “volunteer” members. Meaning they weren’t required to participate, but they wanted to recruit for us at their alma maters. It was an extra duty that they found time to do because it was meaningful to them. 

And that’s the motivation: appealing to their loyalty. Other volunteer teams, like committees from professional societies, work the same way. 

I’ve also been on many short-mission teams – like award selection committees – that only exist for a day or a week. Members on award teams are motivated by the opportunity to serve, to maintain the prestige of the award and the integrity of the selection. 

You also get to learn how the system works – just in case you’re nominated for that award someday.

Women Engineers are Natural Team Motivators

Now back to my point about your natural inclination to inspire your team. Good news. As a woman engineer, you have leadership tendencies that are inherently motivating and inspiring to your team. Here are 5 excellent examples:

  1. Women tend to motivate by nurturing changes in attitudes and beliefs and aligning people with meaning and purpose. This kind of transformation improves team engagement, performance and productivity.
  1. Women tend to have a less self-centered style of leadership. They foster their teams’ wellbeing and unlock their members’ potential. 
  1. Women tend to establish an emotional connection with their teams, providing the validation, appreciation and empathy that their members need. 
  1. Women are good at elevating others. They tend to coach and mentor to help people grow. They’re less transactional and more strategic in their relationships, enabling members to realize their potential and leverage team cooperation.
  1. Women lead teams with humility. They tend to acknowledge their mistakes, learn from experience, take in others’ perspectives, and are willing to change and improve. All traits that are motivating for team members.

Be aware of these qualities and use them to your advantage. Some will seem easy to you. And some you’ll need to work at. All make you a true inspiration to your team.

Remember to get a copy of my guide “4 Steps to Commanding Greater Influence and Impact as a Woman Engineer.” It’ll enhance your impact as a team leader. And it’s free.

And remember to tune in next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast when we’ll discuss working with cross-functional teams.