Motivating others from a distance

By Neil Shorney, Director of Navanter Knowledge Bites. Time to read: 2 minutes.

My last strategy for you in this little series on remote management, is about one of the biggest problems of managers of remote teams: how to motivate people from a distance.


We all know what motivation is – it’s the feeling we have when we really want to do something, which drives us forward, and helps us to work more quickly and efficiently. What’s sometimes less understood is what it actually means to motivate other people.

From a management and leadership perspective, motivating others is about taking positive, decisive actions to create feelings of motivation and desire to achieve, in another person. And whilst there are certainly some general things you can do to motivate groups of people, such as sharing the organisational strategy, giving feedback and thanking people, motivation is much more effective when people are treated as individuals who have specific motivational needs. Because people are individuals, and that’s exactly what they have.

Motivating others is something which many managers find to be a challenge even under normal circumstances. When you throw remote working into the mix, and the changes that brings about in working practices, communication and environment, the task of motivating team members when you don’t even meet face-to-face is particularly daunting for a lot of people.

The 3 types of motivational needs

If we categorise people by what motivates them, they fall into 3 main types:

  • Competitive
    • People who have a competitive motivational preference thrive on having the opportunity to be the best they can be, and for that to be noticed by others, whether that be peers, direct reports, or managers.
  • Contributive
    • The contributive motivational preference is about feeling that as an individual, you’re adding adding to something bigger. It’s about knowing why you’re doing something, and seeing the results for what you add.
  • Comfortive
    • Employees with a comfortive motivational preference thrive on feelings of being in control, and on knowing they are secure in their job and what they do.

There’s no right or wrong in motivational preference, of course – it’s just the way people are. What’s important to us as leaders, is that we notice the differences between employees, and target our motivating interactions accordingly, even when remote.

I've created an infographic of 4 key areas to consider for effective remote management. You can grab yourself a copy just here. 

Or why not check out Knowledge Bites' courses in the Remote Management Toolkit:

Managing Remotely

How To Facilitate Effective Virtual Meetings

Delivering Remote Feedback

Motivating From A Distance

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