One of the most common questions I received from Managers wanting to engage their people, to boost their productivity by motivating them more, is how? More specifically,

How do I motivate my team members or multiple teams using non-monetary mechanisms? Salary hikes, promotions, more benefits, gift cards are not an option.

  • My suggestion is a short one, but before I share that, answer this for yourself, how would you like to be motivated if money or financially-linked benefits were not an option?
  • Take it a step further, with the same constraints, how would you like your boss to motivate you? 

When you get promoted into a management role, there is an unspoken rule, assumed expectation, extra responsibility that you feel compelled to adopt: that is, having to know all the answers. Almost instantly there’s a pressure applied to solve everyone’s problems and carry the burden of thinking and problem solving for others. 

Managers have said to me:

  • “I feel like they look to me for all the answers, so I have this pressure to have all the answers, whether I know them or not.”
  • “I am responsible for these people and the outcomes, they saw something in me otherwise they wouldn’t have promoted me, right? That means I need to find the way, I need to motivate them, I have to get the results.”

I know this pressure to be true because I too felt the (self-imposed) pressure when I was first promoted into a management role and now I hear it regularly from my clients in workshops and coaching sessions. 

I was chatting with my team about a project opportunity and asked them what they thought we could do, how we could proceed. I noticed their high level of engagement in the conversation and a sense of ownership for taking on parts of the project. Together we created a project plan and from there on, it was theirs to execute. My job was to merely approve anything that was in my authority level and support them along the process. While this could be seen as delegation, in this instance it started out from curiosity and needing ideas. More specifically, it started from when I asked.

To take this a step further in answering the question about motivating for productivity but with financial constraints, start with asking. You could run a quick team activity during your staff meeting:

  1. You can pre-frame the conversation with, ‘Given a zero budget, what would you do to boost motivation in the team?’ 

When I run this as an exercise in training and facilitation, the group’s ideas that flow are brilliant.

  1. You could ask each member to write down their top five motivators and demotivators and share. You’ll be surprised with what some might share with you. Let them tell you, you are not a mind reader, and the act of asking has a significantly positive impact on engagement. When your people are engaged and motivated, they are productive.


Questions are such a valuable tool for any manager or leader to have in their skills toolbox. I’m always listening out for great questions and one resource that I recommend is Warren Berger’s book A More Beautiful Question.

Click here to listen to my interview with Warren.

Using questions builds engagement and productivity, invites broader thinking and enhances problem solving. Questions are essential for coaching your employees and team. 


In what other aspects of your work – e.g. team building, delegation, creativity & innovation – could you be asking your team more beautiful questions? 

You might like this set of question cards.



In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.

Shunryu Suzuki (Toshitaka Suzuki)

Zen Monk and Teacher