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The One Question You Must Ask If You Want to Motivate Your Team

Many leaders focus on their staff or their surroundings. They’re missing the biggest issue of all.

When you think about energizing your staff, if you're like most leaders, you focus on the people, or maybe their surroundings.

But if you want to lead an energized, motivated team, the first place you want to focus is on yourself. More specifically, focus on your motivations. Ask yourself one question: “Why do I want to lead?”

There are typically five reasons people choose to lead a team. I call them the Five Ps. They are:

  1. Power
  2. Prestige/Pride
  3. Pennies / Purse
  4. People
  5. Purpose

Let’s take a look at the first three of these reasons people choose to lead a team:

  • Power -- you want the ability to tell people what to do.
  • Prestige or Pride -- you gain a sense of satisfaction from the title.
  • Purse -- you want the increased pay that often comes along with the role.

Many leaders who turn into bad bosses take on their leadership roles for one or more of these three reasons. Maybe they like having power and want the money that comes with it. Or perhaps their sense of well-being is wrapped up in having what they see as an important title.

The problem with trying to lead from these motivations is that they are not aligned with what it takes to succeed as a leader.

Leaders accomplish results with a team. Relationships and results: those are the critical motivators for successful leadership. Those are the motivations in People and Purpose.

  • People -- you want to serve the team or organization.
  • Purpose -- you want to achieve a specific mission.

The Critical Question

If you want an energized, motivated team, begin by examining your own motivations. Be honest with yourself: Do you choose to lead in order to serve your team and accomplish meaningful results?

If you find that power, prestige, and the pull of the purse are your motivators, you will have trouble. People instinctively know when you don’t care about them or don’t care about the mission.

The good news is that no matter why you started leading, it’s never too late to choose people and purpose. You can begin by filtering your decisions through two questions:

  • How will this serve the team?
  • How will this help us achieve results?

If the answer to either question is ever “it won’t,” then don’t do it.

I live in the real world and I don’t expect you, me or anyone else to not care at all about money, roles, and power. It’s part of who we are. You just want to make sure that you’re honest with yourself and put people and purpose at the top of your leadership motivations.

The more you prioritize people and purpose, the more automatic they will become, and the more energy and motivation you will see in your team.

David M. Dye is founder and president of Trailblaze Inc., a Denver-based leadership coaching, consulting and training business. His next book, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul, will be available in spring 2016. For more information visit or 

(Image via Fisher Photostudio/