In 2010, Harvard Business School published the results of an extensive survey that asked: What really motivates workers?
The HBS team, including Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, tracked the daily activities, emotions, and motivation levels of hundreds of employees across different industries.
So, what did they find? Making progress is a key motivator for individuals.
Amabile and Kramer, authors of The Progress Principle, note that:
“A close analysis of nearly 12,000 diary entries, together with the writers’ daily ratings of their motivation and emotions, shows that making progress in one’s work— even incremental progress—is more frequently associated with positive emotions and high motivation than any other workday event.”
The biggest takeaway was that negative events have a stronger effect on workers’ motivation than positive ones. And the most-cited negative event was a setback to progress.
Leaders—even virtual leaders—have a lot of influence over the progress of their team. The authors offer this advice to avoid impeding the progress of your team:
- Don’t change goals autocratically.
- Don’t hold up resources.
- Do be decisive.
- Do “cultivate a culture of helpfulness.”
Cultivating this culture of helpfulness is what collaboration, virtual or otherwise, is all about. To support the productivity of your virtual team—to encourage their feeling of progress—you must help team members feel connected to one another and the team as a whole. But they must also be connected to information and tools to be productive.
Below are our tips to foster a sense of progress that drives productive collaboration.
Establish communication standards.
Communication standards help answer the “who needs to know what and when” question, and clarify what each team member needs and expects regarding communication.
Cooperate on problem-solving.
Working as a team to solve problems without placing blame will reinforce and encourage collaboration.
While you may see your screen a lot more often than you actually see your virtual team, it’s important to stay connected with your team consistently to support a collaborative culture.
Virtual team members can’t stop by your office and command your attention as they might in a traditional setting, which makes it even more important for you to be available when your team needs you. Being available is key to your team members’ sense of making progress.
Work well with others.
You’re also part of the team. So, ask for help when you need it, while remaining mindful of other people’s deadlines and time zones.
Use technology well.
Your job is to make sure your team has the technology to both stay connected and work productively, and that they know how and when to use it. Using the “right” technology ensures progress and empowers collaboration.
Think beyond work.
Your interactions with your team don’t have to be all about work; social interaction among team members can enhance a spirit of helpfulness and collaboration.
Focusing on the people of your team and encouraging them to work together is as important as leveraging technology to make sure the work can get done. If you have a shared goal and a culture of helpfulness, it will be easier to drive performance on the team.
Remember: One of your primary goals as a virtual leader is to motivate your team through progress and collaboration.
The next step for you as a virtual leader is to set clear expectations focused on results. We’ll cover this in our final blog in this series.