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Running a Motivational Session – 10 Steps to Success


At some stage most managers need to conduct a motivational training session with his or her team. Bob Selden, who has been a manager and trainer for many years, sets out 10 helpful points to help them reach that goal.

So, you’re a manager. So, you know you have to run a training session or a team meeting for your team (for the first time) that needs to be motivational and you’re not a professional trainer. So what! With a good plan and a well structured session, training can be enjoyable and most of all rewarding for both you and your team. Here’s how …

1. Get people involved in the topic before the session – issue what the professional trainers call “pre-work”. This can be as simple as asking people to jot down some answers to one question about the topic.

For example, let’s say that you need to improve the service to customers provided by your team, then your pre-work question might look like:
Assume that we have just had a very successful year, and that we have received heaps of feedback which suggested our service given to customers has been first rate over the last 12 months:

  • What things did we do to get such great success?

  • What problems or challenges did we have?

  • How did we solve these problems and / or meet these challenges?*
  • 2. Agree ground rules for the session – if it is to be a discussion session, discuss and agree the role of the facilitator (you). Ask : “Think about some of the more enjoyable and rewarding training sessions you have been in. What did the facilitator / trainer do? What did the participants do?” Ask people to quickly jot these down, then draw out the two or three things that you believe will be most important during the session for both the facilitator’s role and the participants. Write these two lists up in view of everyone and stick to yours – when people get off the track, remind them of the ground rules.

    3. Involve people in the discussion very early in the session. Avoid a long introduction, just a brief intro, then straight into the ground rules.

    4. For maximum participation, start the discussion or activity in pairs or small groups, then move the discussion/feedback to the main group. For example you could ask people to discuss their answers to the pre-work question in small groups and come back to the main group in six minutes with the three most relevant points.

    5. Use questions to stimulate discussion. You should prepare these in advance. I always suggest that you prepare 15 questions that you could ask. Why? There’s no science or research to the number 15, just that I know through experience that not only will you have some great questions to ask, but in the process you’ll probably also develop the answers to any question you might be asked!

    6. Involve all participants – pose questions to the quieter members to provide answers from their pre-work or from their discussions they had in the small groups at the start of the session (this will enable them to answer from their prepared notes without putting them on the spot).

    7. Paraphrase and summarise the group’s progress often. This is important to keep the session on track. List the agreed points on flipchart paper progressively throughout the meeting.

    8. Have teams record results of their activities/discussion on flip-chart paper and post around the room – this provides a focus; a way of summarising; a sign that “action is happening”. It is also very helpful for you as the facilitator to refer back to from time to time to remind people what has been covered or to emphasise important points that they have already agreed on.

    9. As much as possible, give the group the responsibility for running the session. Set an agenda, then give people roles to carry out, activities / exercises to complete. For example, appoint different people as leaders of their small group discussions with the responsibility of feeding back to the main group. Rotate these leadership roles regularly so that everyone is involved.

    10. Ensure there is an “Action” at the end of the session. This could be applying a new skill or simply an Action Plan with key actions to be taken, responsibilities and completion dates. Ensure this is written up and distributed to team members as soon as possible after the meeting. Diary to follow up the agreed actions.

    Finally (Did I say there were 10 points?) work as a “facilitator” not “the boss”. Encourage open, positive, critical discussion. If you want to make this a motivational session, it is particularly important to accept all views (you don’t have to agree with them, but you do have to accept them for discussion). Avoid putting the counter argument by using words such as “but…” and “yes, but…” Instead ask “How might that work in practise?”

    Putting on the boss’ hat and making decisions about what can and cannot be done, soon stifles discussion and enthusiasm. On the other hand, being open and receptive (although difficult at times) will make the session stimulating and rewarding. Above all, you will find that you have a committed team rather than a compliant one and that’s truly motivational!

    * For more information on pre-work questions, see my article “Meetings – Management Meetings – Why are they such a waste of time? How to follow the 80/20 rule and five steps to success!” at

    About the author: Bob Seldenis MD of The National Learning Institute. If you are a manager, send Bob an email with an outline of your suggested training session and he will be happy to provide some feedback and advice. Bob may be contacted via


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