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8 Killers of Motivation — and Ultimately Killers of Momentum

Leaders need to remain motivated so they can help motivate their team. Leaders also need to be keenly aware of how motivated their team is at any given time.

I have found over the years that regardless of how motivated I am if the people around me are unmotivated, we aren’t going to be very successful as a team.

Which is why it may be even more important a leader learns recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation.

But, here’s the greater reason.

Momentum is often a product of motivation.

When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss. It’s far easier to motivate a team — in my opinion — than it is to build momentum in an organization.

So, as leaders, we must learn what destroys motivation.

Here are 8 killers of motivation and — ultimately — momentum:

Routine – When people have to repeat the same activity over and over again, in time they lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Change needs to be a built-in part of the organization to keep people motivated and momentum moving forward.

Fear – When people are afraid, they often quit. They stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort. They stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, by lessening control, and by celebrating each step.

Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. Leaders who recognize this killer may want to provide new opportunities, change people’s job responsibilities, and introduce greater challenges or risks.

Lack of direction – People need to know where they are going and what a win looks like — especially according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. Leaders should continually pause to make sure the team understands what they are being asked to do.

Failure– Some people can’t get past a failure and some leaders can’t accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build momentum. As one strives to recover, lessons are learned and people are made stronger and wiser, but if not viewed and addressed correctly, it leads to momentum stall.

Apathy – When a team loses their passion for the vision, be prepared to experience a decline in motivation — and eventually momentum. Leaders must consistently be casting vision. In a way, leaders become a cheerleader for the cause, encouraging others to continue a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.

Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they soon lose their ability to maintain motivation. Momentum decline follows shortly behind. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. This may be different for various team members, but everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.

Feeling under-valued – When someone feels his or her contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouraging and appreciative of the people they lead.

If you see any of these at work in your organization, address them now!

The problem with all of these is that we often don’t recognize them when they are killing motivation. We fail to see them until momentum has begun to suffer. Many times this will be too late to fully recover — at least for all team members.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • peter says:

    Very true Ron. These are what we as leaders constantly fight against, both for our teams as well as for our homes. I have learned that often most of these motivation and momentum killers can be dealt with by providing a solid and consistent vision. You alluded to this on "lack of direction." Without vision people perish or go unrestrained.

  • Alex says:

    Very true Ron. These are what we as leaders constantly fight against, both for our teams as well as for our homes. I have learned that often most of these motivation and momentum killers can be dealt with by providing a solid and consistent vision. You alluded to this on "lack of direction." Without vision people perish or go unrestrained. A consistent presentation of the larger picture – vision – we become motivated – engaging with full swing, the task at hand with a vision in the heart.

    Hey, thanks again for this reminder. I'm gonna copy and keep this for future reminders 😉 Good Job!

  • HMarkham says:

    I think another demotivator is micromanagement and overall distrust by upper management.

  • kmac4him

    Oh Yes, been bit by lack of direction!! I have failed in the past by impulsively moving forward, imparting vision without the God-plan that directs the steps of the vision. I got so excited about the vision God was imparting me, I jump started it without waiting on God for the plan. When God gives me a new vision now, I wait on the plan to balance it out, so the vision isn’t imparted without feet to walk it out. A vision will topple without the balance of a God-plan. I have learned to give God time to WORK, not to rush off with the exciting new vision and walk by the light of a man made fire (Isaiah 50:10-11), but to wait until God provides the light for the vision, because no one likes to lay down in torment in the ashes of a new vision.. no not I!  I also saw something not so good… my impulsiveness to impart vision without direction, showed me my motive to impart the vision was self-centered. OUCH! Love, Learn and Grow! AWE-GOD!

  • This is a great list Ron. I've seen all these motivation-killers at some point in my career. However, the one I find especially prevalent in many organizations today, is FEAR. The state of our global economy has many employees afraid of losing their jobs. As a result, many folks are afraid to take risks, stand out from the crowd or challenge the status quo.

    The best way I've seen this particular fear fought, is through transparency and encouragement:
    Transparency: To reflect the financial status of your organization and the relevancy of any fears of staff reductions.
    Encouragement: By highlighting examples of risk-takers – both successes and failures. In fact, highlighting failed risks taken is especially important in difficult times to encourage others. For example, "John took a risk by investing in this product enhancement. Although it did not achieve the targeted ROI, I commend him for his passion, dedication to the company and commitment to quality."

    Great post Ron – thank you for sharing!

  • alszambrano says:

    I feel like burnout always creeps up on our staff. We all seem to be chugging along just fine and then all of a sudden we're operating in burn-out mode. What are some early ways to identify it?

  • Jonathan Pearson

    Routine is huge here Ron… at least for me. Some people build momentum in routine, but some of us lose it. It's important we recognize what works for us/our team. Thanks Ron, always love your thoughts!