Management Toolbox: Five aspects of motivating and empowering your team through change


How to lead a great team by being a great team leader

DT BLOG May 15, 2013

Following up on "Management tips for supervising pharmacists" [Julie Fishman, Up Front in Depth, April 2013], reader Christina Pereira outlines five crucial factors that every team leader should bear in mind.

Have you ever thought, while trying to drive change in your department, "How do I motivate my team?" or "How can I empower my staff to perform their job autonomously?"  

Motivation is intrinsic and cannot be accomplished without the presence of one of the following five factors: constant communication, knowing your staff, leading by example, providing continual feedback, and empowerment for self decision-making. Implementing these elements is the first step toward setting your staff on the path to seeing their jobs as the source of rewarding experiences, rather than a financial means to an end.  

Motivation and empowerment do not occur overnight, and no one ever said it would be easy to be a mentor or leader of any size group of people.  Hopefully, these five key factors will give you some perspective on how to make this challenge exciting and rewarding.


Communication is essential! Be sure that you clearly and concisely convey your goals to your team from the start. Discussing the vision of the department will put everyone on the same path.

Communication should happen frequently and should openly explain the reasons behind the decisions being made. If people are told about certain choices and know why you are making them, it is easier for them to understand those choices.

Face-to face-communication is always best, especially in the era of technology.  We are constantly being bombarded with e-mails, text messages, pages, etc. Electronic communication with your staff is impersonal and may lead to animosity. The best way to achieve a human connection is to communicate in person. You will tend to have better results, because you can actively listen and read body-language cues, which will help you tailor your message to ensure that the other party understands.

Since communication is a two-way street, it is vitally important that as leader you actively listen, rather than allow yourself to be distracted by something else while you are listening to a concern expressed by a member of your staff. Listen! Be cognizant of your body language and how receptive you are to the person talking to you.

Emotions are better portrayed and more easily understood in person than they are over a phone or in an e-mail. Strive to maintain an open-door policy by being available for your staff when they need you, even if it means stopping what you are doing.

Your staff always has the ability to make you, as a leader, look good or bad.  Therefore, giving a few moments of your time to lend a helping hand or listen attentively can only be beneficial to you in the long run.

Maintaining trust and confidentiality, providing guidance as necessary, and being supportive is sometimes all it takes. Remember: Perception is reality, so your body language and tone can make or break how receptive your staff will be to the message you are trying to deliver.

Get to know your staff

When you are trying to motivate your staff, you need to know what motivates them, what is it that makes them get up and come to work each morning.  If you don't know, ask! 

Building relationships with your staff is a fundamental function. It should be one of the first things you do, even before you start to drive change. If you don’t know your staff, you can’t create that partnership with the team that will be necessary for the group to move forward. 

People are motivated by things that align with their personal beliefs and values. As their leader, you need to ascertain the beliefs and values held by your staff. Knowing these things, you are able to establish a relationship with your staff, and that will enable everyone to move to the next level. 

It is part of your job as leader to get to know your staff. You should sit down with all your staff members for a friendly talk about their lives, families, hobbies, what they do in their spare time. Make time every morning or at the beginning of your shift to walk through your department and say “good morning” to every person. This also serves as a great time to provide your staff with positive feedback about their work or to ask how things are going with them.

Little gestures can mean a lot, especially when you are in a higher management position. A simple pat on the back or “thank you” for a job well done will go a long way, especially for your employees who are in the trenches on a daily basis. 

Lead by example

If you want to drive change as a leader, you need to be open and receptive to change as you embrace new ideas. Being resilient, adaptable, and flexible without impeding the effectiveness of the team shows that you will promote your team’s accomplishments and take the blame for failures. 

Hold yourself accountable as their leader and set the example. Demonstrate how things should be done, and others will follow. This will help create the alliance with the staff that you need to move forward. Sometimes, working in the trenches with your team not only helps you to ensure that things are being run the way they should be; it also demonstrates that you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves  and get your hands dirty when necessary.  People don't forget the little things, which will allow you to develop a reasonable level of respect and rapport with your team.


Soliciting input from your staff on the strategic goals and direction of your department will start to empower them as a group to accept accountability for their actions. Be enthusiastic. Engage your staff in the decision-making process; it will make them feel as if their opinions are valued and they are a valuable asset to the department. 

Encouraging your team to decide how to go about their work within the guidelines and expectations that you define makes them feel as if they are indeed a part of the big picture.  Encourage your team to bring solutions to you instead of problems. This will allow them to start thinking globally. By asking open-ended questions, you can get the staff to start thinking as you do, and this will inculcate in them the future vision of the department. 

Delegate! Challenge your team with as much responsibility as they can reasonably handle. If they feel they are part of the decision-making process, it will make it easier to create the alliance you need to move forward through the changes that need to be made.

Feedback ... Good, bad, ugly!

Sometimes the toughest part of being a manager is providing genuine, real-time feedback, whether positive or negative.

People love positive reinforcement; a simple form of recognition such as a “thank you” goes a long way. 

Unfortunately, negative feedback, if it is not delivered in the correct manner, has the potential to make or break the rapport that you just worked so hard to develop. Negative feedback needs to be delivered in such a manner that it becomes a learning tool and teaching aid, and not a form of punishment. It is your responsibility as a leader to provide your team with the tools they need to accomplish their goals. Providing genuine feedback is just one of the ways to do this.

Motivating a team can be challenging, but it is also very rewarding to see what has been accomplished along the way.

Without constant communication, knowing your staff, leading by example, continual feedback, and the ability to empower your staff to make their own decisions, you will have a difficult time getting positive results out of your team - especially in motivating them to meet and exceed the objectives and goals you have set for them.

Having a team that meets and exceeds the department’s goals, and respects you as their leader, is worth the time and effort you have invested.

And most important, don’t forget to have fun while you’re doing all this! 

Christine Pereira is a pharmacy supervisor in Boston, Mass. You can e-mail her at


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