When your team is working on a new project they are (or at least should be) extremely motivated and excited about the work they are doing. But keeping the momentum after the project is completed or even getting them to that level of team motivation in the first place can sometimes be a struggle. And since motivation is the key to having a productive, creative and innovative team, let's take a look at how you can keep your team's fire burning.

Be the leader your team needs

"Not the cry but the flight of the wild duck leads the flock to fly and follow." Chinese proverb

It seems self-evident, yet so many team leaders lose sight of leading by example. It's ok - leaders are human too - but it's absolutely necessary to get back to leading by example as soon as you see yourself slip. This is especially true if your business, like many startups, relies on innovation. Your team will not take risks on its own if you don't show courage, commitment and enthusiasm yourself.

Encourage and polish team members' ideas

People feel motivated both when they can see the results of their work and when they feel their work is appreciated. For a team leader, this means that you need to find the fine balance between embracing your employees' ideas and filtering through them without hurting how that employee perceives his contribution to the team.

Creating an environment where new ideas are encouraged and where every team member has the ability to improve on other people's ideas is critical to a startup. And, as a team leader, you need to be able to submit your ideas to the same process.

While you need to give equal consideration to your employees' ideas, you also need to learn how to discriminate ideas. Even though there is a possibility for an idea to be implemented, it doesn't mean that it should. Henry Ford used three questions to discriminate ideas:

  1. Is it needed?
  2. Is it practical?
  3. Is it commercial?

Use these questions to evaluate new ideas within the context of your organization, but don't apply them too early in the creative process.

Open and constructive communication

Beyond an efficient use the everyday office communication tools, for example synchronous communication methods like face to face or instant messaging, there are a few other considerations for open and constructive communication within your team. Improve communication by encouraging lateral, as opposed to vertical, communication. Allow a good flow of information among individuals from different departments. This will make it more likely for ideas to emerge as a result of cross-fertilization.

You should also use lateral communication to your advantage by explaining to your employees (individually or as a group), why certain ideas cut and others don't, by encouraging your employees to give each other updates about their progress, and by giving recognition appropriately.

No tolerance for complacency

"A thing is not right because we do it.

A method is not good because we use it." John Adair, 100 Greatest Ideas for Amazing Creativity

It's imperative that you always ask yourself "why", that you make it a habit within the culture of your organization. There are few things more debilitating to a business than blindly following organizational procedures. You should constantly ask yourself - and so should your team -  "Why do we do things the way we do them, rather than any other way?" As your team becomes involved with this kind of creative thinking process, they will become more involved with the work that they do, especially when they know you are encouraging them to work outside the box.

We'd love to hear how you've kept the fire burning in your team. Join the conversation in the comment section below. 

Note: all quotes in this post, as well as Henry Ford's three questions, are from John Adair's book 100 Greatest Ideas for Amazing Creativity.