How a team leader might motivate their team


The two theories that will be compared and contrasted in this essay are Abraham Maslow's theory and Clayton Alderfer's's theory on motivation. Both theorists undoubtedly have had a major influence on how motivation works within people. As Richard L. Daft and Dorothy Marcic explain, an individual's needs are like a hidden catalogue of the things he or she wants and will work to get. To the extent that managers understand worker needs, the organization's reward systems can be designed to meet them and reinforce employees for directing energies and priorities toward attainment of organizational goals. [1] A team leader can use both theories Maslow's and Alderfer's's to motivate their team in many ways which will be explained below.

As Richard L. Daft and Dorothy Marcic (2007) outline, motivation is something which is within a person or something external to a person that makes them or rather arouses them in an enthusiastic and persistent way to carry out a certain action. Part of a team leader's job is to arouse this motivation within his or her team and make them enthusiastic and energized enough to carry out the task set and complete with hard work and determination. People have basic needs that they wish for that motivate them to work, for example earning a decent income in order to provide for themselves and a family in some circumstances. Some people are motivated by the need to feel a sense of achievement, that they have been aiming to do in order to get that feeling of satisfaction. [1] Different people are motivated by different things. Therefore, it is up to the team leader to make sure his team is motivated. For example, if they complete the task successfully they will perhaps get the reward of a promotion or a pay increase. A team leader therefore needs to make sure his members are aware of the rewards they are entitled to if they work hard and co-operate with each other.

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Maslow's content theory is a well known theory which has been accepted by many philosophers and theorists. Maslow's hierarchy of needs proposes that humans are motivated by multiple needs, and these needs exist in a hierarchal order, with the most basic of needs at the bottom of the hierarchy and the self-actualization needs of fulfilling ones potential at the top. Maslow identified five general types of motivating needs in order of ascendance. Firstly, Psychological needs. These are the most basic human physical needs, including food, water, and oxygen. In the organizational setting, these are reflected in the needs for adequate heat, air and base salary to ensure survival. A team leader can use this to motivate his team by making sure his members are aware of the fact that they will get rewarded for their hard work, there is something to work for. The next level is safety needs. These are the needs for a safe and secure physical and emotional environment ad freedom from threats e.g. from violence. In an organizational workplace, safety needs reflect the needs for safe jobs, fringe benefits, and job security. The next stage is belongingness needs. These needs reflect the desire to be accepted by one's peers, have friendships, be part of a group, and be loved. In the organization, these needs influence the desire for good relationships with co-workers, participation in a work group, and a positive relationship with supervisors. A team leader can promote belonging needs with his or her group by ensuring that his team is motivated by one goal, one goal they all have to achieve by working together. By working together they are achieving their belonging needs because they feel as if they are part of a team and share the same need to succeed in the task they have been set.

Before self-actualization needs, there comes esteem needs. These needs relate to the desire for a positive self-image and to receive attention, recognition, and appreciation from others. Within organizations, esteem needs reflect a motivation for recognition, an increase in responsibility, high status, and credit for contributions to the organization. A team leader can definitely use this to motivate his or her team because being recognized for achieving something that stands out from the crowd is a motivation in itself. It is something a team leader can motivate his or her team to do, if they are given a project, and if they work as hard as they can to complete it and then be recognized for this achievement by the employer for example the is something to work for. Something that will motivate them.

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After esteem needs comes self-actualization needs. These represent the needs for self-fulfillment, which are the highest needs category. They concern developing one's full potential, increasing one's competence, and becoming a better person. Self-actualization needs can be met in the organization by providing people with opportunities to grow, be creative, and acquire training for challenging assignments and advancement. [2] 

For Maslow self-actualization was 'to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one of capable of becoming' (1942: 382). [4] Even though Maslow believed a small proportion of people could manage to reach this level there is no doubting that this is a motivation in itself. Many people would be motivated, once they have achieved all the other needs down the hierarchy to reach this self-actualization need, this need that not many people achieve. Everyone would want to be happy and contented in what they have achieved and this need fulfils all this.

Alderfer's theory is different in quite a different number of ways to Maslow's. Maslow believed that one had to progress up the hierarchy to reach the next level, and one had to achieve a set of needs before he/she moved onto the next set of needs. However, Alderfer believed that it was possible to move in either direction. [3] (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005) Therefore, Alderfer's ERG Theory seems more flexible in terms of how people can progress through each need.

Alderfer's theory identifies three categories of needs as outlined by Richard L. Daft and Dorothy Marcic (2007). First there is existence needs, these needs are for physical well-being, then relatedness needs, and these pertain to the needs for satisfactory relationships with others. And then growth needs, which focus on the development of human potential and the desire for personal growth and increased competence.

In terms of similarities and differences, Maslow's and Alderfer's theory are similar because both have a hierarchy of needs and both presume that a person has to move up the hierarchy one step at a time. [5] Rauschenberg et al. (1980, cited in Fincham & Rhodes, 2005, p.199) argues that they both theories are also similar in the way they both lack empirical research to support their views. He argues that Maslow's research despite not having empirical support; most managers still follow his ideas on motivation. [6] 

The difference between the two theorists is that Maslow has more levels in is hierarchy, whereas Alderfer's reduced his down to only three categories. He also suggested that moving up the hierarchy is not a simple process whereby one person just moves quickly up to the next level. It is far more complex than that and something called frustration-regression principle can take place, whereby if a person fails to meet a higher-order need it may trigger a regression to an already fulfilled lower-order need. The ERG is also different in the sense that it is less rigid and more flexible than Maslow's hierarchy, as individuals can move up and down the hierarchy, depending on their ability to satisfy needs. [7] 

Neither theory, whether Maslow's or Alderfer's fail to recognize the fundamental qualities of a leader, whether leadership is innate, learned, situational nor the ability to inspire and motivate people. A team leader needs to be able to inspire and motivate people, and both theories described above can be used to motivate a team leaders team. There have been criticisms of Maslow's theory as it assumes that motivation is hierarchical. And these criticisms represent the fact that Maslow's life work ignores the notion of eupsychian management. He argued that society should aim to refocus their attention on motivation back to psychological well-being. [8] 

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However, if a team leader has met his or her psychological well being needs and is more than capable of motivating his or herself then they are more than capable of motivating their own team.

As outlined by Richard L. Daft and Dorothy Marcic (2007), one psychologist updated Maslow's hierarchy of needs for a new generation. One key motivator he regards for employees and can be similarly applied to embers of a team is the need to have fun. Having fun by working within a team relieves stress and enables people to feel "whole". If a team leader just uses phrases such as "Have fun with…Do not worry about little mistakes…" they can really motivate their team and not intimidate them. [9] 

In conclusion, the two content theories above are both valid theories which can be used by a team leader to motivate his or her team. Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, especially the self-actualization level is something that many people would be motivated by to reach. It is a level, which is true that only some people can reach but most people would want to reach this level, where all other needs at the bottom of the hierarchy are met and satisfied. A full sense of achievement and even happiness can be attained when one reaches this level and this is a key motivator within itself. A team leader can use this to motivate his or her team. Alderfer's theory, which is quite similar to Maslow's, is as equally valid to use by a team leader to motivate his or her team. Working up towards a hierarchy of needs helps one to feel as if they have achieved something. Moving from one level to the next can help a person to reach the highest level possible and achieve the best they can.