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You need more than a quote to motivate a team

October 14, 2022 - 16 min read


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Quotes to inspire your team

The types of motivation

How to motivate a team at a workplace

Inspiration is about more than a quote

It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a tech startup or a manager at a Fortune 500: teamwork makes the dream work. And scientists have proven that increased teamwork

  • Fosters creativity, collaboration, and learning
  • Promotes trust and cohesion among employees
  • Resolves conflicts between workers
  • Gives people a sense of ownership over their work
  • Creates opportunities for healthy risk-taking

As a leader, it’s your job to ensure your team performs at its best. That means, in addition to making a plan and assigning tasks, you have to create the conditions for them to stay motivated.

If you don't, you risk creating an underperforming team or torpedoing your staff retention rates. But if you can motivate them successfully, you could see up to a 22% gain in performance.

Every type of worker will require a different motivational approach. A content writer might value creativity and independence, while an accountant may value clarity and well-defined instructions. The reverse can also be true, depending on how any person likes to work.

Plus, at a more granular level, employees will have their own beliefs, values, and goals driving their work. You’ll have to use your leadership skills to meet each person’s needs and maximize their talents to contribute to the team’s overall success.

This isn’t an easy task. But you can learn to inspire with these tactics and quotes to motivate a team. Let’s dive in.


Quotes to inspire your team

For those of you who are already blessed with a great team: using inspirational quotes at the beginning or end of your meetings can remind them what makes great teamwork so special.

But you’ll have to choose ones that are aligned with your industry, company values, and what employees care about. Quotes to motivate a sales team won’t be as effective for a team of social workers.

Here are some example quotes to motivate your team of employees:

  • “It’s the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” - Charles Darwin
  • “Teamwork is the secret that makes common people achieve uncommon results.” - Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha
  • “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” - Michael Jordan
  • “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” - Phil Jackson
  • “A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of others.” - Norman Shidle
  • “Individual commitment to a group effort — that’s what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” - Vince Lombardi
  • “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team” - Reid Hoffman
  • “None of us is as smart as all of us.” - Ken Blanchard


  • “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” - Henry Ford
  • “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” - Steve Jobs
  • “Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they're doing it because they care about the team.” - Patrick Lencioni
  • “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” - Helen Keller
  • “Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to produce uncommon results.” - Andrew Carnegie.
  • "In teamwork, silence isn't golden, it's deadly." - Mark Sanborn
  • You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime." - Babe Ruth
  • “You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” - Walt Disney
  • “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” - Mother Teresa
  • "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead
  • “Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” - Stephen Covey
  • “A team isn’t a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.” - Simon Sinek
  • “Individually, we are a drop. Together, we are an ocean.” - Ryunosuke Satoro
  • “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” - Abraham Lincoln
  • “If you can laugh together, you can work together.” - Robert Orben
  • “Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” - Amy Poehler


  • “The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” - James Cash Penney
  • “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” - Thomas Edison
  • “You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.” - Jim Stovall
  • “Synergy — the bonus that is achieved when things work together harmoniously.” - Mark Twain
  • “There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” - Booker T. Washington
  • "The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side." - Margaret Carty
  • “There can only be one state of mind as you approach any profound test; total concentration, a spirit of togetherness, and strength.” - Pat Riley
  • “The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first.” - Iyanla Vanzant
  • “Only by binding together as a single force will we remain strong and unconquerable.” - Chris Bradford
  • "There’s no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others." - George Shinn
  • “Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.” - Brian Tracy
  • “It takes two flints to make a fire.” - Louisa May Alcott

These inspirational figures highlight the value of hard work and togetherness. But even the best teamwork quotes can’t create a culture of trust and collaboration out of thin air — you’ll need to do that yourself. And this will require a deep understanding of your employees, what motivates them, and how to create an environment for them to thrive.

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The types of motivation

Creating a culture of trust, collaboration, and teamwork starts by understanding people’s individual motivators.

You can’t control a person’s interest in their job. But herein lies the secret to how to motivate a team member: you have to understand their intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Then, create an environment for them to thrive in.

Extrinsic motivation refers to external factors that drive team members to perform their best. These can be either positive or negative. For example:

  • Pay raises and bonuses can act as rewards for an employee’s good performance
  • Formal reprimands for underperformance can be a reality check for an employee, encouraging them to improve

Rewards and positive reinforcement tend to be more effective than punishments, but punishments are sometimes necessary to correct negative behaviors. The trick is to find the right balance.

Intrinsic motivation is internal. It refers to an employee's desire to do something for its own sake. For example, their company’s mission might align with their values, or they relish the challenge of their daily tasks. 


As a manager, you can’t change a person’s intrinsic motivation. But as you get to know each team member, you can make staffing decisions based on what drives them. If one of your employees thrives on teaching and helping others, you can ask them to mentor the new hire.

This can help them feel valued and increase the likelihood they’ll keep performing at their best.

How to motivate a team at a workplace

Learning everyone’s motivators will help boost individual performance on your team, but now you need to encourage cohesion among them. They need to learn to trust each other and that they’re working toward a common vision or goal.

Here are four things you can do to foster a culture of collaboration and motivate your team.

1. Make them feel valued

Distribute praise evenly and often. People want to feel valued for a job well-done, and complimenting publicly will go a long way toward making them feel part of the team. 

The best way to offer praise is to do it promptly and focus on something specific. For example, if a team member gives a great presentation to a client, let them know right after they’re done. If you wait too long, the complement will still feel good — but it will lose its luster. 

It’s also worth showing them how their work fits in the big picture. Tell them why their presentation was so effective and how it contributed to the overall success of the organization. This will help them better understand the value of their efforts and motivate them to keep contributing.

2. Let them be creative

You hired your team for a reason. They’re each an expert in their respective fields, and all have something valuable to contribute to the group. Your job is to provide an environment where they can work together, using their skills creatively and at maximum effectiveness.

Team building exercises can help here — especially for teams that aren’t used to working with each other yet. Bring them together, give them an artificial goal, and let them work together to reach it.

They’ll have to communicate with each other, learn each other’s work styles, and accommodate each other’s personalities. These learnings will help them collaborate more effectively when working on real-life work problems.


3. Embrace failure together

Just like in sports, you win as a team, and you lose as a team. It’s important not to blame any one individual for poor performance. 

If your team underperformed in a particular situation, create a safe environment afterward where you can debrief. Examine the problem objectively, assess where you collectively went wrong, and address your shortcomings together so it doesn’t happen again.

4. Foster a culture of trust

Corporate culture starts at the top. If you’re a toxic leader who is passive-aggressive, micromanages your team, and gaslights your employees, others in your office will do the same. And over time, this erodes trust between people, increases stress levels, and leads to higher employee turnover.

But if your team knows that you trust them, they’ll learn to trust each other. This creates a culture of respect and mutual tolerance that’s essential for helping them perform at their best. Building trust takes time and effort, but it’s essential to being a transformational leader.

Inspiration is about more than a quote

A strong motivational quote can capture the spirit of what makes teamwork so special. History is rife with inspirational leaders and eloquent speakers. They can put it into words better than we ever could.

But you’ll need more than quotes to motivate a team. As a leader, it’s your job to foster a culture of trust, mutual respect, and collaboration — no easy feat when you’re a new manager constantly bombarded with the day-to-day challenges of your job. But an inspired team will not only meet your strategic goals but will surpass them.

Bringing together people with diverse talents, expertise, and ways of thinking will breed creative solutions to complex problems. They’ll create work that you could never pull off on your own. And, after spending so much time trying to inspire them, they might just inspire you, too.

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Published October 14, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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