Your team members are dragging their feet completing their tasks and failing to proactively address problems. Your first instinct is probably to ask, “How can I motivate my team?” But that’s the wrong question, says leadership consultant Claire Lew in a recent posting of Know Your Team blog. Instead, you should ask yourself, “How can I create an environment for my team members to motivate themselves?”

Among the author’s tips for helping your employees nurture their intrinsic motivation:

Get to know your team. To understand what motivates your team members, you first need to get to know them as individuals. During your next one-on-one meeting, ask questions such as:

  • When has been a time when you’ve felt most motivated in the work that you were doing? Why? What project was it? Who were you working with?
  • What would you want to say is true about your life five years from now for it to feel meaningful?

Individualize everything. We often unintentionally project our own preferences onto others, but motivation is personal. You need to specifically align projects, goals and incentives with what motivates each team member.

Create choice. Your team members will feel more committed to their tasks if they are allowed to make meaningful choices, such as how to approach a project or even being allowed to determine their own goals.

Stop surveillance. Peeking over your employees’ shoulders and keeping track of their time can have a negative impact on their intrinsic motivation, as can setting arbitrary deadlines simply to create a sense of urgency.

See the full blog posting: “How to motivate employees? Don’t.