How Good are Your Motivation Skills?

Discover Key Factors for Building a Motivated Team

How good are you at motivating others?

Motivate your team for real success!

© iStockphoto

Managers everywhere want teams that are effective, focused and committed to organizational goals.

With a team like this, just think of the performance and results you could deliver!

Teams only perform like this if their managers are motivating them effectively.

This is why you need to be able to motivate your team if you want to create a productive work environment. By combining good motivational practices with meaningful work, the setting of performance goals, and use of an effective reward system, you can establish the kind of atmosphere and culture that you need to excel.

The better you are able to link these factors together, the higher the motivation levels of your team are likely to be. That's a win-win for you, them, and the organization.

The interactive motivational skills quiz in this article helps you identify the aspects of team motivation that you can improve. From there you will be directed to specific tools that will help you improve your motivation skills.

Take the test and apply the things you learn from it. You could well see the performance of your team soar!

How Good Are Your Motivation Skills?

Take the online test below, and click the "Calculate my total" button at the foot of the test the assess your motivation skills.


For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the "wrong direction." When you are finished, please click the "Calculate My Total" button at the bottom of the test.

Your last quiz results are shown.

You last completed this quiz on , at .

15 Statements to Answer

Not at All Rarely Sometimes Often Very Often
1 When faced with a performance problem, I take care to establish whether it is caused by lack of resource, lack of motivation, or lack of skills.
2 I establish clear performance standards and expectations.
3 The rewards and discipline I use are clearly linked to performance and defined behavioral objectives.
4 I structure work so that is interesting and challenging, and allows for appropriate autonomy.
5 When I give a reward I make sure it is one that the recipient values.
6 I am consistent in the way that I discipline people for sub-standard performance.
7 When I see good work, I praise it immediately.
8 I make sure people have the tools, resources and training to achieve the results I expect.
9 I try to understand what motivates each individual member of my team.
10 I make a major effort to ensure that I offer competitive wages and other forms of compensation.
11 In order to be fair, I use the same rewards for everyone when recognizing good performance.
12 I help people establish performance goals that are challenging and specific, and that are linked to organizational objectives.
13 I make sure I know what is going on in the real work environment before taking any remedial or disciplinary action.
14 I encourage people to set their goals high, and make their achievement measurements challenge them fairly.
15 I try to combine and rotate job assignments so that people can learn and use a variety of skills.
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
15-34 Oh dear! The good news is that you've got a great opportunity to improve the way you motivate others, and your and your team's long term success! However, to do this, you've got to fundamentally improve your motivation skills. Start below!
35-52 You're good at some aspects of motivating others, but there's room for improvement elsewhere. Focus on the serious issues below, and you'll most likely find that your team's performance will increase.
53-75 You're probably motivating your team very effectively! Still, check the sections below to see if there's anything you can tweak to make this even better.

As you answered the questions, you probably had some insight into areas where the motivational practices you use could use a pick-me-up. The following is a quick summary of the main areas of motivation that were explored in the quiz, and a guide to the specific tools you can use for each.

Providing Productive and Challenging Work

(Questions 1, 4, 15)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

The first step in building a highly motivated team is providing interesting work, which is well organized to meet the needs and desires of team members. No matter how self-motivated a person is, how challenging the goals he or she sets, or how wonderful the rewards, if the work is badly designed, it will be hard to motivate people and work will be less than ideal.

Effective motivators understand that work design has a strong impact on performance. When a person finds a job inherently unsatisfying, there's not much you can do to motivate him or her. Job design and enrichment combine to match characteristics of the job with workers' skills and interests: The more variety, challenge and autonomy there is to a job, the more intrinsically satisfying it will be.

Our article on Job Enrichment   details how to set up meaningful work assignments. Other articles of interest include Pygmalion Motivation  , which addresses the impact that your work assignments have on conscious and unconscious motivators, and Dealing with Poor Performance  , which outlines steps that you can take to ensure you have a good fit between the person and the job.

Setting Effective Goals

(Questions 2, 3, 12, 14)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

When you are confident that the work you provide is well organized, the next thing to do is to ensure that workers have clear and attainable goals that they're working to achieve. Managing the goal setting process is essential for creating a highly motivating environment. The effectiveness of goal setting in motivation is a well-recognized fact, and by making goals specific, consistent, and appropriately challenging, you can set goals that are powerfully motivating. As such, the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) acronym helps you define effective goals.

Specific goals are measurable, unambiguous and behavior-changing. They outline exactly what needs to be accomplished, and when it will be considered as "achieved." Having goals that are consistent with other personal goals as well as organizational goals is also important. If goals are inconsistent, the resulting confusion and incompatibility would like cause the person to do nothing rather than work in different directions.

For more on goal setting, read our articles on Locke's Goal Setting Theory   (which explains the principle of setting SMART goals); Management by Objectives   (which details how to align personal goals with those of the organization); Performance Management and KPIs  ; and, Performance Agreements  .

Finally, challenge is important, due to the observation that we get what we expect. Up to a point  , the more you expect from someone, the harder they will generally work. This has been shown time and again, and is explained by the idea of Expectancy Theory  : the idea here is that you need to link high effort with high performance, and high performance with a positive outcome. With those two linkages established, people are motivated to work hard to achieve a positive outcome.


Think carefully about the goals you set, and make sure you adapt them to circumstances in a reasonable way. If you're too rigid with your goals, you may motivate members of your team to "cut corners" in order to reach them.

Understanding Individual Differences in Motivation

(Questions 5, 9, 10, 11)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

Motivational techniques should bring out the best in people. That means they should build on an individual's strengths and minimize his or her weaknesses.

There are certainly some common denominators in motivation, like fair wages, decent working conditions, a sense of camaraderie with co-workers, and a good relationship with one’s supervisor. Abraham Maslow and Frederick Herzberg are two famous motivation theorists who established that even if these sorts of things are not necessarily motivating in themselves, they have to be present in order to even think about enhancing motivation.

However, the assumption in most modern workplaces is that these lower order, "hygiene" factors are being met, and that people are seeking the things that provide real motivation. These are things like challenging work, control, growth opportunities, and recognition for a job well done.

To decide which motivating factors to provide you need to look at the individual employees. Some will be motivated by more time off, while others may prefer to gain status and recognition in the company. Understanding these individual needs is mandatory for building a motivating workplace, and is why question 11 above is a "trick question": if you try to motivate everyone in exactly the same way, you're likely missing plenty of opportunities for motivating individual members of your team.

Meeting peoples' needs, providing challenge, using a variety of rewards, and matching them to the right people are issues discussed in the following articles: Using Maslow's Hierarchy  , Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors  , Alderfer's ERG Theory  , Theory X and Theory Y  , Adam's Equity Theory  , and Expectancy Theory  .

Providing Rewards and Recognition

(Questions 6, 7, 8, 13)

Your score is 0 out of 0  

When you know what you want to provide in terms of reward and recognition, it's important to establish an effective system. The primary focus of a reward system is fairness. Both reward and discipline have to be perceived as fairly distributed according to clear guidelines. This is why setting specific performance expectations is so important. ("Fairness" doesn't mean that everyone has the same reward package – it means that differences between people's reward packages need to be clear and understandable.)

It is equally important to make sure you give your team members the tools they need to be successful. If you're setting goals, then you need to make sure that they are attainable, and you do that by providing the necessary support, tools, resources, and training.

It's also important that you get to understand the challenges your team faces. This way you can appreciate the small victories that lead to the major accomplishments. Motivation is all about encouragement and appreciation.

When you are part of the team and not simply an "observer from above" you will have many opportunities to thank people and recognize good work right on the spot. This is a really important factor in successful recognition. You have to be in a position to show or tell people every day that you appreciate their contributions. Once or twice a year in formal review process is not enough!

To help you understand these key concepts and develop a great reward system, learn to use the following tools: Management by Walking Around  , DILO (Day in the Life Of)  , Expectancy Theory  , and Giving Praise  .

Key Points

If you want to build a high performance team, then you absolutely have to learn how to motivate team members. Side benefits of this include high levels of team-member job satisfaction, and good staff retention.

You can stimulate high performance through providing interesting and challenging work, helping people set and achieve meaningful goals, and recognizing and rewarding high performance in ways that are valued by each individual.

Making a point of motivating people is a challenge in and of itself. Once you decide you are up to it, however, you too will reap the rewards and benefits. This creates a momentum that will help you and your team achieve great success.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (6)
  • drahmedd wrote This month
    Nice one
  • Rachel wrote Over a month ago
    Hi All

    Are you motivating your team as well as you could be? Or could your motivational skills do with a boost?

    Take this week's Featured Favorite quiz and test your motivational skills. The quiz also points you to other Mind Tools resources that will help you to motivate your team more effectively.

    Click on the link below to take the test. ... TMM_67.php

    Best wishes

  • Rachel wrote Over a month ago
    I'm with James! This is a very good quiz to help build these crucial skills. I've really enjoyed re-reading and practicing some of the things it teaches!
  • James wrote Over a month ago
    Hi All

    I’ve chosen the interactive motivational skills quiz as our Featured Favorite this week because I believe it helps to review and rejuvenate our abilities in this area. As team leaders, we may fall back on our ‘usual’ way of managing and motivating our people – and sometimes a fresh approach can make all the difference to our team’s performance.

    Our quiz will help you identify the aspects of team motivation that you can improve.

    Best wishes

  • JosieB wrote Over a month ago
    The area of motivation is so fascinating to me. After doing the quiz and reading some of the articles it directs us to, I realized that I'm guilty of using Pygmalion motivation the wrong way. I was not expecting much from my assistant and had an attitude that she was only good for clerical administrative type work. Her work started off real conscientious but it went downhill very fast. As a result I was giving her less and less to do and this just made her work even less. I was seriously ready to dismiss her. We hardly communicated any more and it was horrible. A few days ago, after reading this article, I recognized my culpability in the situation and we sat down and had a good chat. Turns out she was very resentful of the fact I didn't let her do any interesting work. She thought I didn't trust her and that made her complacent with her work. It's not that I didn't trust her I just didn't think to give her the work and this started a negative spiral. So the lesson for me is to expect more from a person at the start and let them show you through their work what they are indeed capable of. If it turns out you give them too much, you can always scale it back but if you give too little right from the start it will be hard to break the cycle of low expectations and low performance.

  • ladyb wrote Over a month ago
    Great quiz guys. I especially think we need reminders to make sure the work we give people is interesting and challenging. In my experience that's a place where people forget to look when trying to motivate. Even delegating interesting work if you can't change up job descriptions, anything that lets people know you recognize their special talents and trust them to do challenging work.


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