4 Ways to Motivate Your Team To Meet a ‘Group of Death’-Type Challenge

Soccer fans across America groaned last December when they learned about the U.S. team’s draw in this year’s World Cup. In the opening round of the tournament, the U.S. will face No. 2 Germany and No. 4 Portugal, both traditional soccer powerhouses, along with Ghana, the team that knocked the U.S. out of the two previous World Cup tournaments.

Experts quickly dubbed the draw a “group of death” for its level of difficulty; only two of the four teams will move on to the next round. That means the U.S. will likely have to defeat at least two experienced, talented and highly competitive teams to advance in the tournament.

Sounds impossible, right? Maybe not. As U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said, “It couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger, but that is what the World Cup is all about. We are looking forward to the challenge … If you want to get into the top 10 or 12 teams in the world, you have to beat these guys.

It’s a pitch-perfect response from a leader whose team is facing a formidable challenge, and it illustrates one of the best practices for managers guiding their employees through a difficult task: Keep your worries to yourself. If you panic, there’s a good chance your team will, too. Stay positive, though, and you could give your staff just the boost they need.

Here are four more strategies for providing employee motivation when your workers are facing a group of death-type challenge:

1. Clearly communicate the strategy. No doubt, Klinsmann has developed a detailed strategy for emerging from the group of death, and every player on his team knows his role. Likewise, when you have a stretch goal at work, you must create a plan for reaching it, and your employees should fully understand the steps they each need to take. Any confusion in this area can lead to duplication of effort or wasted time on unnecessary tasks. And to handle a challenging assignment well, a team must be as efficient as possible.

2. Keep employee motivation going. Appeal to your workers’ sense of pride and competitiveness, rather than their fear of failing. Remind them of the feeling of accomplishment they’ll have when they achieve the objective, and they’ll be more likely to put in the hard work — and take any necessary risks — that will help them reach the goal. 

Also, remember that your actions can speak as loud as your words, so roll up your sleeves and help out when you can. Employees appreciate it when they see that their managers are willing to put in the hard work, too.

3. Be more accessible than usual. When your employees are working toward a particularly high sales number or a super-tight deadline, they’re bound to have difficult days, when the objective seems unreachable and they feel like giving up. Make sure you’re available to help them get through roadblocks and give pep talks when necessary. 

4. Recognize hard work and milestones. Ongoing recognition is key to keeping employee motivation high during a tough time. So don’t wait until you’ve reached the end goal to celebrate. Whenever your workers reach a significant step in the process, praise them by sending an appreciative email or handing out small rewards, like gift cards. Organizing a group lunch or team event is a good way to recognize everyone’s contributions and build camaraderie. The point is you don’t need something as grand as the World Cup trophy to make a positive impression.

An ambitious goal can bring out the best in all of your employees. Coach them through one, and you’ll build their confidence so that the next time they’re facing a group of death-type challenge, they’ll approach the task with enthusiasm and energy. They may not be aiming for a World Cup trophy, but they’ll still feel like champions.

For more on building and motivating a winning team, download a free copy of our newest resource guide, Creating and Managing the Dream Team.

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