The Head Coach’s Job: How to Motivate the 5 Types of Players on Your Team

Team Motivation

In the run-up to this year’s World Cup, certain players got plenty of attention. Would Lionel Messi of Argentina wow the world again? How would injuries affect Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo’s play? Would Neymar, a rising one-name-only star, propel Brazil to victory on its home turf?

To be sure, superstars make the headlines. But as anyone who’s watched the World Cup knows, every player on the squad matters because they all bring something different and serve a unique role. On winning teams, the coach knows how to motivate each player to do his or her part.

Likewise, the best managers know which roles each person will excel in, and they adjust their management style to be most effective in motivating employees. Here are five types of players you’ll find in most offices and advice for bringing out the best in each one:

1. The captain

  • Key characteristics: A trusted role model in the office, this employee may have the title of team or project lead. She’s the first person coworkers go to when they need direction or support, and you can count on her to boost the team’s morale and inspire others. 
  • How to motivate this employee: As the coach, it’s your job to remove or minimize barriers that keep the captain from leading the team. She’s at her best when you give her breathing room to make decisions, so make sure you’re not micromanaging. Also, the captain thrives when you encourage her to take on more responsibility. Give her the task of launching or driving a project forward. Put her in charge of determining how each employee will contribute to the assignment.

2. The referee

  • Key characteristics: This team member is strict about following company rules and also helps promote fairness and mutual respect in the workplace. He’s known by his coworkers as an impartial judge who’s perceptive and intuitive and always keeps his emotions out of business decisions.
  • How to motivate this employee: The referee can help you communicate the team’s values and mission and will ensure that policies and procedures are established and adhered to. Make sure he’s involved in setting goals and establishing best practices. The referee is most inspired when his manager lives the company values, so make sure you’re reflecting that vision yourself.

3. The experienced professional

  • Key characteristics: This employee has been with your company for a long time and has gained invaluable experience and skills over the years. She’s good at her job and happy to share her expertise with newer members of the staff. Many of her coworkers go to her first when they have questions about an assignment or want to learn more about the company culture.
  • How to motivate this employee: Recognize the experienced professional’s knowledge by giving her opportunities to mentor less experienced members of your team, or by placing her on cross-departmental project teams. But make sure you’re also giving her new challenges so she can continue to grow.

4. The star player

  • Key characteristics: Consistently your top performer, this employee pushes your team to ever-greater heights. He thrives under pressure and likes to test himself with new and difficult tasks. When you give him an important assignment, you can be sure he’ll deliver top-quality work.
  • How to motivate this employee: A star player is always in demand, so make sure you’re providing him with ample opportunities to challenge himself and grow as a professional, or he may be successfully recruited by another team. Also be clear with him about his next step with your company; star players are motivated by the possibility of advancement. And reward his hard work whenever it’s merited.

5. The new recruit

  • Key characteristics: The most recent addition to your team, this employee is eager to make an impact. She brings a fresh perspective and encourages others to rethink existing strategies and procedures.
  • How to motivate this employee: Tap into the new recruit’s potential by following an onboarding plan that clearly communicates your expectations and outlines how her position fits into the company’s greater business objectives. Set her up with a mentor who can help her learn the ropes and develop new skills.

As leader, facilitator and decision-maker, the manager is perhaps the most important part of any dream team. By motivating employees individually and ensuring that everyone has a role to play in reaching the group’s goals, he can create a team that is greater than the sum of its parts.

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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