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How To Motivate Without Money?

by C.Mcar

I am looking for suggestions on how to motivate a team without using monetary incentives. I work as a manager for a chain retail store. Unfortunately there is no budget for an incentive program.

I've tried several ways to get my team excited and work to make their day interesting.

For example, I try to encourage them to choose items that are quirky or unusual and get them excited around selling them.

I have tried contests where the winner receives an additional paid break. I have tried praise and recognition at team meetings to try to get them excited.

So far, nothing has been successful. My direct supervisor is completely against rewards such as a "jeans day" or store cookout. With so many obstacles, I feel like their morale is going to continue to suffer and result in a decrease in their performance.

MY QUESTION: Do you have any creative suggestions for getting them fired up? They are a great team. I hate to see their spirits so low. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


C.Mar, First, congratulations for being the type of leader who's more interested in making improvements and finding solutions, than in blaming and giving up!

When a team is not motivated it is ideal if you can figure out what thetrue and real causes are for the lack of interest and energy.

(Is it money? Is it scheduling? Are people upset with someone on their Team? Are basic tools or resources missing? Do they feel unappreciated? Are performance expectations unclear? Do you have the right people in the right roles? etc. etc. etc.)

One way to figure this out is via an anonymous, online survey - something like this can help you get people to open up and reveal the REAL problems.


If you can run an online team survey, check out these Resources to help you:

  • Use these Questions from the Gallup Organization in your Survey---These 12 questions are highly researched and are proven to closely tie to an engaged, motivated and committed workforce. The 12 Best Employee Engagement Questions

  • Use this Video Article for details around how to CORRECTLY (in a trust-building way) do a Team Opinion Survey---My video is less than 8 minutes, and is, in my opinion, worth watching... 7 Keys to Successful Opinion Surveys

If you are unable to conduct an online survey, due to Company structure, conduct an informal 'survey'---Talk to People:

  1. What do you like about working here?

  2. What needs to be improved?

  3. If I could change one thing, that you think would make things better, what would that be?

The key to greater success in these type of conversations is both ASKING and LISTENING.

Be sure to practice Aggressive Listening skills, as outlined in this article: The Forgotten Charismatic Leadership Skill: Listening Aggressively

If you're asking the above questions, please understand that your focus is NOT to defend, try to advise them, correct or even ALL what they think needs to be changed.

Your Job in These Conversations to to Just Tune In, Listen and Try To Understand Their Perspective. You are trying fully understand what they think and feel. As they share and you listen, simply thank each person for their Feedback and let them know that you'll get back to the entire Team about next steps at the next Team meeting.

Stephen Covey, of Seven Habits of Effectively People, said: "Seek FIRST to Understand...THEN to be Understood." Asking via an online survey or by one-to-one conversations is about "seeking to understand..."

Ask questions, listen and look for themes. Look for root causes. Fix and change the easier to fix things that are within your control - for example scheduling gripes, broken equipment, breaks, training...

And on the bigger things that you can't control or change, let folks know that you are aware of this issue and will keep them informed on possible, future changes.

Most leaders are surprised when they realize that ALL employees need to heard, and cared about by their Supervisor MORE than they need to have everyone of their requests and ideas implemented.

Also - your instincts to appreciate and praise is SPOT-ON!!

Don't stop this... For more information about the POWER - check out this article: Autocratic Leadership Jerk Leaders and The 'Secret ' to High Performance and Loyalty

In this 2-Part Article I provide numerous (17) Leadership Action Steps you can take to build commitment. (One of the Actions is Appreciation - using the 3:1 Ratio---Read the article, here.)

I hope some of these tools help.

I have to say it again: Do not give up! Keep paying attention, keep listening AND over time you will see progress.

EVERY leader struggles with these type of challenges, the smart leaders never give up and continue to "mold the team into shape..."

Thanks for posting your Question and for being a Wake Up Eager Community Friend and Leader!

All the Best,
Suzie Price

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