CREATING FERTILE GROUND (i.e. building motivated teams)

by Kurt on October 3, 2011

Why do some companies win and other (nearly) fail? Is it the people? Honestly, I don’t think so. There are brilliant people in every company, highly motivated and hard working. Failure to win is an environment-factor more than anything else. It is not a lack of capabilities per se, it is how capabilities get deployed, get activated…or not.

As a marketing leader, ask yourself …

…are you on top of every single detail and actionpoint in your team all the time? If the answer is yes, then STOP, now. You are killing creativity and accountability, and are blocking people from growth!

…how much time do you spend listening to ideas from others, wherever in the organisation? If the answer is “little”, then you are probably “telling” everyone else what to do. Well, then STOP, now. You are killing creativity and accountability, and are blocking people from growth!

…do you have the final answer or strategy in your head after someone in your team has spoken to you for only 5 minutes? If the answer is yes, and you see yourself as unbeatably smart, then STOP, now. You are killing creativity and accountability, and are blocking people from growth!

The only way, in my opinion, to come up with great ideas, to motivate teams to go beyond just delivering the obvious, to jazz up an organization, is by creating the right environment, the right FERTILE GROUND for people to grow, to express themselves and their ideas, to bring their whole self to work, to challenge the norms and go new ways, to dare to explore, to learn and ask the right questions.

Is it so difficult that only few companies do this? Hell yes! It requires serious effort, and enough time to PAUSE and reflect deeply on the impact of every single action that you take. But it probably more than worth it!


Here are 5 simple but powerful suggestions to help turn things around :

1) Have your teams talk about the consumer, at the start of every meeting, and just listen

2) Stop frantic, detailed follow-up. Lead the direction and have checkpoints at relevant interchanges in the project

3) Ask your team what they would do differently if they would be in your shoes, and in the shoes of the CEO

4) Celebrate BIG TIME when anyone comes up with an own idea

5) Stop telling people what to do…ask them how you can help them to do what they think is best for the company/brand to do.

Key word in all of the above :  L I S T E N


Here is a Harvard Business Review article that describes the destructive powers of  hanging on to “old” business leadership myths.



As a metaphor to reiterate why, think of your team as a bank of oysters… If you pull them out too soon, and start squeezing them hard, they will never ever open; and when they open, they’ll be a bunch of empty shells. If on the other hand you leave them time to grow, nurture them, put them in the right environment…guess what…yep, pearls appear everywhere!





{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Edwin October 4, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Great start. THE world lacks leaders who serve their team. Its up to us THE NeXT generation to fullfil that need.


spiky October 4, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Thanks Edwin. Stay tuned for more and share your thoughts and ideas! Kurt


Scott Simmerman October 4, 2011 at 11:08 pm

We use Square Wheels cartoons in an effort to get tabletops to identify what is not working well / smoothly and what Round Wheel ideas they might have for making some improvements. This is a really simple way to involve and engage people in the development of ideas for improvement (note: Square Wheels actually DO work and they work just like they always have in the past — Round Wheels are the cargo of the wooden wagons).

The simple concept is that, “Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car.”

If we do not give people the opportunity to identify their own ideas for improvement and work together as a team to solve and implement the solution, they will never develop the ownership involvement needed to actually generate results.

90% of strategy implementations fail (research by Robin Speculand) simply because they do not have effective strategies and tactics for involving people in the workplace improvement ideas.

Building motivated teams is about generating intrinsic motivation. See the research or read the book Drive, by Dan Pink.

Some things are really clear when we simply step back from the wagons, so “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!” Take a look at what is actually happening in your organization, ya think? Ask and ye shall receive good ideas for improvement and motivation.

In a related theme, “A Desk is a Dangerous Place from which to View the World.”


Kurt October 5, 2011 at 7:03 am

“Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car” : that IS a powerful concept! Thanks. Kurt


Staysha November 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

All of my questions sletted-thanks!


Scott Simmerman October 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm

There are just so many ways to involve and engage people in the workplace. Often, a simple discussion of issues and opportunities is enough to get people rolling forward on solving problems and improving performance. People are natural problem solvers and WANT to make things better, but leadership and policies will often put real or perceived roadblocks in the way.

ONE negative comment — or a comment perceived to be negative — will put the kabosh on motivation.


Kurt November 5, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Sue true! Thanks for the comment, Scott.


price of a stamp November 1, 2011 at 4:11 am

I’m never good at tying something. I’m a doer.
Doers thrive on instinctive behavior.
This could be tough.


Kurt November 5, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Don’t stop being a DOer! The point of my post is very much about that…with the right leadership, companies can nurture doers better. So my question to you is: is your manager coaching you the right way, and are YOU yourself leading your teams and colleagues in such a way that they can all thrive, individually and AS A TEAM? Best, Kurt


Fatima Ali February 25, 2012 at 11:55 am

This is so relevant!! I have witnessed a organization flourish when leaders followed these basic principals, and saw same organization shatter when leadership lost sight of these simple but critical facts.


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