If you’re an independent contributor looking to advance your career, demonstrating your leadership capabilities within your team is a good place to start. Motivating your peers demonstrates your managerial potential and, more importantly, builds your influence. As author John Maxwell said, “Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”
But motivating peers without stepping on toes can be difficult. Our community offered three concrete tips to keep in mind.
Share your intent with your manager
Before diving into motivating your peers, connect with your manager to discuss your intentions. Doing so can help you in two core ways: securing buy-in for your initiative and integrating this goal into your professional development plan.
As Ezequiel Alejandro Martinez candidly says: “The worst thing that could happen here is that your boss simply isn’t interested.” To avoid ambivalence, Martinez recommends you “share your interest and see if you can tackle the challenge more effectively alongside your manager. This will allow you to validate whether your understanding as ‘success as a team’ is something your manager shares.”
This conversation will also show you’re interested in developing your career within your organization. Charles Howell adds, “I’d suggest letting your manager know that you want to have a greater role in helping the team move forward. Make these goals part of a professional development plan so they can be tracked and rewarded. If your company doesn’t do professional development plans, put one together yourself and offer to share it with your manager.”
Be upfront and request time with your manager before getting started. You’ll pave the way to successfully motivate your peers and further your career as a result.
Get to know your teammates’ motivations
Leadership isn’t about you, Jamie Martin says, it’s about your team. “Remember, at the end of the day, we all want to be valuable. We all want to be heard. Get to know your colleagues and what makes them tick.”
Understanding what gets your team going — or, what their goals, working styles, and perspectives are — begins with listening. John Blackman suggests you have one-on-one conversations with your team to understand individual motivations. “Listen to each person in an informal way.” You’ll then be able to connect them with the resources that will set them up for success.
As Blackman states, “Making a human connection and genuinely putting the needs of your team ahead of your own is all it takes. You may not get officially recognized, but your team will.”
Lead through example and service
Don’t try to lead your peers by instructing them on their jobs. You’ll step on toes and put people on the defensive. Instead, William Chumchal recommends you “let your daily example inspire and motivate.”
How do you let your daily example inspire? Justin Fischer advises you “lead through service and accountability.” Think to how you can help your team members complete a project, give a presentation, or get a new idea off the ground. Then, continue providing support or being a sounding board as they make progress.
Doing so provides teammates with a unique support system they can’t get elsewhere, Jen Hermann says, “With managers there is typically a power dynamic to navigate and, to some degree, people tend to not be as forthcoming with their real thoughts to the manager. As an independent contributor, you’re in a position to really motivate others based on what you model and the way you show up.”
Attempting to lead by instructing others will just show your team that you’re interested in managerial power. Leading through example and service, on the other hand, shows your commitment to your team’s success — earning you their respect and trust.
In summary, when looking to motivate your team as a peer, remember to:
- Discuss how you’d like to motivate your team with your manager
- Build relationships with your team members through one-on-one conversations
- Set the example for your team