How to motivate people from a distance

Recognising success in a remote or hybrid environment requires a little creativity, says Insight SVP Emma de Sousa.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 13 Aug 2020
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SMEs

Despite what you’ve heard, it’s probably not true that 93 per cent of communication is non-verbal. 

Nonetheless, there’s a reason we deliver our most meaningful messages eye-to-eye. You wouldn’t (hopefully) make someone redundant, ask them to marry you or thank them for saving your life via WhatsApp. Words matter, but they don’t tell the whole story.

With this in mind, the pandemic has presented leaders with a particular challenge - how to motivate their people when the most meaningful form of communication isn’t an option. 

Here Emma de Sousa, senior vice president at IT services provider Insight, shares some ideas that have worked for her.


“Sadly, making a song and dance about your successes is quite often seen as vulgar, but we like to make a big ding-a-ling about our teams’ achievements. Quite literally – sales teams celebrate deals by ringing a bell in the middle of their salesfloor. 

“It’s important that people are involved in setting their own goals and tracking those so we can congratulate them on a job well done when they’re met. This doesn’t all have to be about sales targets either – in the lockdown, for example, we introduced a new company award called the ‘Fuchsia Heart’ to recognise those employees in our warehouses and front-line support roles who have helped keep essential public services running. 

“In the current environment, we’ve had to find new ways to recognise these successes – after all, nobody can ring the bell right now. It may sound corny, but we’ve been awarding virtual medals and gift certificates for the whole company to see on our internal workspace platform. Sometimes we announce them on email or all-hands video calls too.

“The real challenge for a leader is making sure it isn’t only the loudest team members who get recognised. After all, not everyone wants to shout – or ring – their achievements from the rooftops. 

“Sometimes a line manager of someone who’s set to receive recognition will let me know that this person would rather it not be announced loudly, and that’s okay. I try to call them directly instead, just to say well done.

“Ultimately there’s reams of advice on sharing bad news or criticism with employees. There’s much less on how to really celebrate success. Ringing the bell, whether in the office or virtually, is just one way to celebrate success and motivate people. And as we face challenging times, it’s these little acts of kindness that can make all the difference.” 

Emma de Sousa is senior vice president at IT solutions provider Insight 

Image credit: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

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