Human nature can be very challenging for all of us! There are known behaviors that impact a senior leader and his or her team and they are often operating without their knowledge. For many people they view their goals quite differently when they are first established versus when they have been working on them for some time. When leaders understand these dynamics they greatly improve the odds of accomplishing their goals. That’s human nature.

Motivation is an excellent barometer of how your team feels about its goals. Low motivation typically means low confidence in achieving a goal and vice versa. High motivation equals high confidence that the goal will be achieved. Understanding what drives motivation up or down is the key to increasing a team’s confidence.

Advancing a team is a basic leadership task. However, team members’ perception of their chances of success and their willingness to exert a continuous positive energy changes as they get closer to reaching their goal. Researchers such as Olya Bullard at the University of Winnipeg has identified the two most common ways senior leaders try to motivate their teams:

Motivation #1:Promotion focusing on rewards.

Motivation #2:Prevention focusing on punishment.

As people pass the halfway mark toward their goal, something happens that can cause any team to stall in its efforts. That’s because they stop focusing on how much they’ve achieved and start focusing on how much further they need to go. That’s when prevention is typically introduced by the senior leader in an attempt to continue the team’s motivation. But this typically reinforces the opposite reaction with team members because it simply confirms to them just how far away they are from achieving the goal.

Unfortunately, many senior leaders grow weary along with their teams and fall prey to the same misunderstanding as their teams! After all, they’re people too subject to human nature’s negative perceptions.

It’s at this critical point that the senior leader needs to sense when this is happening and reassure the team with how far they have come, that everyone needs to realize that anything important takes time to develop so everyone should be okay with their current success. In other words, don’t get discouraged. Keep going. We’ll all get there together!