Date posted: 24/10/2017 5 min read

Seven ways to motivate the finance team

Managing people is not always easy but here are some tips to how to engage and inspire staff on a personal level and get them working well together.

In Brief

  • Managers have a tremendous influence when it comes to motivating their teams.
  • It is well worth investing time to understand what makes your people tick, and to explain how their role contributes to organisation goals.
  • Leaders who demonstrate empathy, honesty and reliability have more motivated teams.

One of the hallmarks of any successful finance team is a leader who can motivate his or her people. Good managers know how to engage their teams and inspire colleagues to do the best they can, even in the most challenging circumstances.

Economist Chris Roebuck, author of Lead to Succeed, says an employee’s motivation to perform is 57% rational and 43% emotional, and approximately 80% of that emotional motivation can be strongly influenced by an individual’s direct manager.

Related: Motivating underachievers in the workplace

Read up on office life tips and techniques to improve employee engagement. 

To motivate their people, finance managers need to find out what makes them tick, says Paul Barnicoat FCA, who is General Manager - Financial Operations and Change at TAL. “That means getting to know them and finding out what gets them out of bed every morning. Then you can focus on supporting them and earning their trust.”

Barnicoat has managed a variety of finance teams across many sectors, including insurance, banking and financial services. He is currently general manager for financial operations and change at life insurer TAL and offers these proven tips: 

1. Make it personal

Investing time up front will pay off in the long run. Barnicoat recommends sitting down with each team member individually to ask what motivates them. “Salary and benefits aren’t sufficient on their own,” says Barnicoat. “Employees also need interesting work, new challenges, status, social interaction and the potential for career advancement, as reasons for turning up each day.”

2. Help people fit in

It is vital that employees are crystal clear on their organisation’s strategic objectives and what that means for the finance team. “Ask your team how they think they can best support the organisation’s strategy,” suggests Barnicoat. “You’re more likely to get their ‘buy in’ to your team’s activities if they have contributed in some way to the plan.”

3. Get your priorities straight

In a business, it is not possible to do everything you want. When it comes to workload, everybody has to be selective. “As a leader, you can help by clarifying what the priorities are for your team,” says Barnicoat. “It’s important that you also reaffirm the importance of work/life balance.” 

4. Follow up

You can foster trust within your team by being reliable (do what you say you will) and by responding promptly to employee requests. “Act consistently and fairly, in everything from answering emails through to staff pay reviews,” says Barnicoat. 

5. Show you care

Your team members will experience highs and lows, inside and outside the office, as we all do. When an employee is experiencing a hard time, some understanding from their manager can go a long way. “Give a little when someone is struggling with a particularly stressful workload, or family problems” suggests Barnicoat. “Offer time-in-lieu, or work-from-home arrangements, if your organisation permits.”

6. Admit your flaws

Nobody is perfect, and managers who pretend to be so are kidding themselves. Be prepared to engage honestly with your employees if you expect the same from them in return, says Barnicoat: “For example, if you have a natural tendency to leave things to the last minute, tell your employees – but then explain the ways you try and combat this each day. It just might be that you have a fellow procrastinator in your team and they might benefit from your tips.”

7. Celebrate!

When the team, or individuals within it, achieve milestones make sure you give credit where it is due. “Establishing meaningful team goals is a good starting point for building staff satisfaction and a sense of shared achievement,” says Barnicoat. “Reporting back on progress against those goals is equally important. Celebrate wins with your team, and share the news with colleagues elsewhere in the organisation too.”

CA ANZ Library: Managing and motivating your finance team

Practical guidance on how to establish and grow a successful finance team.

Andy McLean is a writer and content marketing consultant. He is also the former publisher of Acuity magazine. Visit: