In my last blog, Motivating Your Team Is Important As Ever, we explored the importance of understanding what motivates your people.  I encouraged you use the six professional motivators to ask your people to prioritize their motivators – both individually and as a team.  In this blog, we’ll explore actions and ideas to consider for appealing to each motivator within your organization.

Acknowledgement and Respect

When you appeal to this motivator, you encourage all people connected with your organization, especially partners, owners and clients, to treat your people with dignity and honor.  It is doubly important during these uncertain times to take the time to express your appreciation for your people and acknowledge them for being valuable contributors on your team. Some potential actions you can take to show your people acknowledgement and respect include:

  • Sending personal appreciation emails or hand-written notes to people for a job well done or in honor of their birthday or anniversary with your firm.
  • Stopping by someone’s cubicle or office to tell them what a great job they did on a project.
  • Sending group communications acknowledging team accomplishments or singling out a team member for an achievement.
  • “Catching” your people in the act of doing something good and thanking them for it.
  • Implementing a “wow” note program where anyone can submit someone’s name and accomplishment for acknowledgement and then reading “wow” notes at firm-wide meetings.
  • Providing your team members constructive, honest feedback about their areas for improvement, showing your interest in helping them grow.

Camaraderie and Fun

In this area of motivation, you’ll promote enjoyment in the workplace and on client projects.  Some ideas for ensuring camaraderie and fun include:

  • Appointing a Director of Fun – This person would form a Fun Committee, develop a calendar of fun activities and gain approval for their plan and budget from the owner or leader group.
  • Investing in team socials and events and allowing them to be scheduled to overlap portions of the work day when possible to maximize attendance – and they don’t have to be expensive. Consider potlucks, a team picnic or other “less formal” activities to help manage costs.
  • Sponsoring facilitated fun events including scavenger hunts, celebrating Halloween or having other “theme” dress days, holding contests around problem solving and brainteasers, or hosting brown-bag social lunches once per month to encourage all team members to eat together.
  • Interacting directly with your team members and showing a genuine interest in knowing about them –their interests, dreams and background.
  • Opening yourself up to them – but only if they ask, so it isn’t all about you!


As I said in the last blog, compensation is only one of the Six and surprisingly isn’t always the most important one!  In this economy, when most firms are cutting back on labor costs and may be reducing or at least maintaining salary levels, you should be open with your team members about your financial projections while focusing on programs in the other areas.  Commit to revisit compensation as your financial outlook improves, and in the meantime, consider the following ideas:

  • Share your firm’s financial performance so your team members understand the overall implications of any cost-cutting measures, including pay cuts the owners or partners are taking, and so that they can help generate ideas for other ways to reduce costs.
  • Share your sales pipeline and wins with your team for new client opportunities or additional service opportunities for existing clients.  Pay a “lead referral” fee for team members who refer a new client to your firm.
  • Identify ways to pay top performers when they exceed their goals and the firm hits your projected revenue goals when possible.

Flexibility and Time Off

Flexibility and time off programs empower your people to schedule their own time, choose their work hours and days, work from home, take time off for personal activities and earn time off and they can be a means for you to cut costs, too. Some flexible considerations are:

  • Taking Friday afternoons or full days off in summer months or slower periods to compensate for heavier busy season schedules.
  • Ensuring paperless technologies, remote access and “smart” phones are in place to enable your team members to work from anywhere, at anytime.
  • Ensuring team members take all of their time earned each year or can select time off as a form of “compensation” instead of a monetary bonus during these tight times.
  • Holding more team meetings via telephone to allow people to attend from anywhere and save time and gas from commuting.

Increased Responsibility and Challenge

When appealing to this motivator, you’ll provide your people with expanded duties and responsibilities and increase the complexity and importance of their work.   Consider:

  • Inviting more junior people to participate in your firm’s strategic planning process – especially in the “input” process where you’re measuring your firm’s current state and identifying areas for improvement and market opportunities.
  • Allowing your supervisors and managers to participate in conflict and performance management meetings to see your techniques in action.
  • Delegating assignments based upon their potential to provide challenge and growth.
  • Clearly outlining and communicating the steps team members can take to grow within the firm.
  • Including your staff members in the interviewing and hiring processes.
  • Encouraging team members to act as mentors for new staff or those junior to them
  • Rotating responsibility for group communications processes – meeting agenda preparation, meeting facilitation, meeting recapping, internal e-mail communications, etc.
  • Challenging your people – they will step up!

Personal and Professional Development

It’s critical for you to continue to invest in developing your people, even in tough economic times.  You’ll benefit in the long run by having strong leaders who can step up to new roles faster and fill in the gaps when it’s time to succession plan for your retiring partners. Some areas to focus on include:

  • Defining all your team members’ roles and responsibilities to help them establish a career path and let every person know their “part in the play” within your team. This helps in succession planning, too, by identifying who can take responsibilities from those who are retiring.
  • Involving your people in problem solving – especially during these tough times - and sharing your view of what works and doesn’t work about their ideas.
  • Developing an environment that challenges the status quo and laying strict ground rules to foster a safe haven for raising concerns and suggesting solutions.
  • Investing in three types of education for your people – technical (enhancing their audit, tax or technology skills), soft skills (enhancing leadership behaviors, sales and marketing, and management skills), and business model education (teaching your people about the mechanics of running your firm including key indicators like realization, rate per hour, and utilization, budgeting, and billing and collections).

Don’t be overwhelmed by all of these ideas; instead, follow the advice of my prior blog on this subject and identify your top two or three “corporate” motivators first.  Then, focus your firm-wide energies on those motivators that are of most importance to your entire group.  From there, involve your key leaders in a meeting and pick ONE of your top firm-wide motivators and commit to only implement 3 ideas in that one area to start.  The results will be so positive that you’ll gladly take on more of these ideas as you gain momentum. 

Posts and comment and let me know what motivational programs you’re implementing to motivate your team!  And, while you’re at it, please take a poll and share your number one professional motivator.  We’d love to hear from you!


Tamera Loerzel