Motivation: the extra player you didn’t know your team has

Why is motivation so important? How to keep your team motivated?

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by Luciano La Frazia



After being part of some software development teams, I noticed that in some of them velocity and productivity was substantially better. I experienced first-hand how motivation plays a key role in personal and team performance, which led me to do some research and I came across several interesting posts on the topic.

This post focuses on defining what motivation is and identifying which elements affect it. It also presents some techniques and activities that, in my own experience, helped keep the team’s morale up.

So, why is team motivation so important?

There are many reasons why motivation comes to my attention and I believe that as individuals we should take care of it as much as the team as a whole.

  • Everyone’s involvement and commitment has a major impact around a team’s productivity.

  • Empowers problem solving and conflict resolution skills, which means that the team will always look for agreement if any issue arises.

  • Highly motivated teams contribute to create a healthy work environment and nurtures company culture. It also generates positive attraction, which is an incredible tool to make your team grow.

  • Highly motivated teams foster a safe space in which every member is encouraged to go outside their comfort zone, this could mean applying for a new role, prepare and present new ideas to the team leader or anything that cultivates innovation.

However, there can be many internal and external elements that can affect both individual and team motivation:

  • Lack of clear objectives. I don’t know why I am doing my work for.

  • Monotony in our daily work which would probably lead to boredom.

  • Daily stress and work overload. Starting my daily work could be a burden.

  • No professional / career development. Getting stuck in our careers is something that probably no one wants to go through.

  • Bad relationship between co-workers.

  • Not enough communication.

  • Poor or lack of recognition.

The main key to handle these factors is creating an environment where the team’s energy, ideas, gifts and talents can thrive.

How can we build a safe space to motivate ourselves?

Even though there is not a silver-bullet solution, one possible team approach is to focus on keeping motivation up, facing hard moments together and creating a place where diversity encourages everyone to work cooperatively.

  • Daily Meetings. To detect problems or concerns. The meaning of these meetings is to jump into the day knowing everybody’s statuses so all members are on the same page. Apart from this, whenever possible, we should take time to share personal things and get to know each other before the meeting starts. By doing this, we’re creating a trustworthy environment, allowing to generate confidence and empathy inside the team, and building solid foundations to face rough moments (in case these come up).

  • Constant Feedback. On our daily basis, there are a lot of tasks which don’t have so much impact on the client therefore, we get no feedback. This shouldn’t be the same for the team. Sharing our progress and socializing our ideas, both with clients, managers and peers stimulates critical thinking and helps to create a space of introspection allowing to find a better solution.

  • Set Mini Goals. Feeling we are moving forward with our tasks and goals is another sign of motivation. It’s easy to fall into big ambitious goals but it will probably imply feelings of frustration. That’s why we should follow baby steps and take time to organize in terms of how the team will attack every single goal. We should be able to answer What can you do today and get it done by the end of the day?. Back to point 1, as team members, we should intervene when we think that a team mate is getting into a big task and help minimize its complexity.

  • Light Talks. It’s not easy to present an idea for others and get their point of view. Making 30 minutes meetings where one member presents an idea and the rest listen could improve the interaction and the relationship between team members. These meetings could also be KTT (Knowledge Transfer Talks), where the speaker talks about something like a new technology or goes deeper into some solved issue about the current project. On the other side, participants learn something new or get some clarifications about the speaker’s work.

  • Team First. This point is also related to our first point, since we are all in sync we should make our team commitment even bigger. A single member problem is a team problem. This means that as one person achievement is a team achievement the same is for single problems or issues. It’s always better to face a problem as a group where each member can propose different ways for a solution.

  • Team Decision. All team members should be involved in making important decisions, otherwise it’s possible that the one that is being left aside feels less important than the rest. Even if they don’t add value to the decision-making process, they learn from the rational and good judgement skills of others.

  • Build Real Trustworthy Relationships. It’s of great value to show honesty and genuine interest about team wellness.

  • Context Switch. Even though within a team we are all peers, each member has a role, like being the link between the team and the client. Sometimes it’s challenging and also motivating to alternate these responsibilities in order to give each member the chance of having different experiences inside the same project.


As a recap of what has been presented in this article, motivation is an important factor that has a direct impact on team members, project and organizations success.

  • There are some highlight points to summarize this post:

  • Keeping motivation up isn’t a single person’s responsibility, but rather belongs to the entire team.

  • It is important to detect low motivation levels because it can put the project at a big risk.

  • Try different approach techniques around team motivation. It is essential to keep in mind that every team member has their own interests and perspectives.

  • Conflict resolution and low rate of employee turnover are benefits of motivated teams.

  • Create an environment in which all team members feel comfortable. This achievement will improve communication and generate more confidence within the team.

There are many other motivating techniques that can be considered, like this one, but as team members we must remember that motivation starts from us.

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