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Motivation is – according to the dictionary – the cause of behaviour

The subject "motivation" could fill whole libraries. Here is just a small insight into the subject and a few thoughts about who and how and through whom and what a person can be motivated.

Why do we do something (e.g. youth work)?

  • Because you get paid (or not) for it?
  • Because it makes you happy?
  • Because it’s "IN"?

For what reason do you fail to motivate your group members?

  • Because you cannot motivate?
  • Because you can't be bothered?
  • Because the group members can't be bothered?

Why do some group leaders manage to motivate a group and others not at all? For what reasons can some groups go on day long hikes on hard ground through wind and rain and camp out under the stars while others can hardly be coaxed into cooking a meal?

I think it has something to do with trust, acceptance, encouragement and a little talent in enthusiasm and motivation. If you cannot manage to build up a trusting relationship, then you will not be able to motivate all members of your group.
Motivation comes from the Latin word "moving". You must be able to move, you must be moved, you must let yourself be moved in order to move others.

We will therefore deal with the three different roles

  1. You, as the responsible person in youth/community work, must be able to motivate your youth leaders and members of staff.

  2. You, as a youth leader in youth/community work, must be motivated.

  3. You, as a youth leader in youth/community work must be able to motivate your group.


You, as the responsible person in youth/community work, must be able to motivate your youth leaders and members of staff.

No simple thing. You must awaken the energy which is inside the members of staff. There is no money in voluntary youth work. Money would not be effective as a motivational technique and would have at best a "mobilising" effect. What are the motivational factors which you can apply?

  • Goals:

    A set goal generates fulfilment. The clearer and more attractive the goal is, the higher the level of motivation achieved to want to strive towards the goal. A goal which is set too high (excessive demand) just like a low target (too little) are absolute motivation killers.

  • Feedback:

    Positive feedback spurs a person on but also a well communicated and reasonable (positively brought over) criticism or recommendation should be given.

  • Responsibility:

    Delegate responsibility among your members of staff. That is proof of your trust and encourages motivation.

  • Small gestures:

    Small gestures such as a "thank you", a small gift as recognition and a birthday wish are all well received.

  • Recognise success:

    Let your members of staff see success and be a part of the success. Without any opportunities for success or successful experiences, the motivation will reduce.

  • Example:

    Whoever wants to motivate someone into doing something must be motivated himself. Members of staff observe very closely and if you are not a good example, you will not motivate your staff to do their job "exemplary ".

  • Scope:

    It doesn't always have to run like clockwork and be based on a specific plan. Leave your members of staff scope and the freedom to make decisions so that they can achieve their goals. Many paths lead to Rome!

  • Allow changes:

    It is de-motivating if something runs like it has done forever and a day. Therefore - a change around is required. Routine is a motivation killer.


You, as youth leader in youth/community work, must be motivated.

The motivation of the youth leader is an important ingredient in motivating the group to do something. No group will let themselves be pulled into action if the leader is not motivated. Your own motivation is therefore of utmost importance. Ask yourself a few questions and answer them truthfully

  • How is it going at the moment? Are you stressed, easily annoyed and tired? Don't really have time?
  • Or are you full of dynamism and energy?
  • What do you expect from the next group time, free time or the next event planned together? Why are going there? Why are you taking part? What do you want to experience? Do you want to convey something to the group, or do you simply want to be part of things?

How can I motivate myself when I can't be bothered (anymore)?

Should you have no motivation at the moment, make a few thoughts about what you could change to become re-motivated or why you can/could be motivated.

What motivates you?

  • A great sense of community with action, fun, party, pizza, a good time, sports and games.
  • Lots of people (people in your group, the members of camp, the conferees, the other members of staff).
  • A certain level of recognition and if you get something back (give and take!).
  • You are determined and want to bring something to a close,
  • You are a person who wants to do something good and it is fun to work with children and teenagers.
  • You are convinced about something and something spurs you on.
  • You want to get to know a person/people.
  • You are looking for a challenge, enjoy chaos and stress and want to meet the goals.
  • You feel like you are at home and are looking for relaxation and togetherness.

If you do not agree with one or the other reasons, your motivation (dependent upon the strength of the factor) will not measure up. Maybe you can think of a few other things which motivate you.

What hinders your motivation?

  • You are tired, listless and you cannot pull yourself together.
  • Other interests have come up, a girlfriend or boyfriend for example. Your schoolwork, studies or job make demand of you so that you do not have the power or motivation to look after your group.
  • The community or the people do not have a motivating effect anymore – the wind has been taken out of your sails – everything was better beforehand (this saying has been used for generations, if it were true, we would be back in the stone ages).
  • You are standing there alone and see a great big mountain in front of you. That can be depressing but should we give up? For some people, that has exactly the opposite effect: „Now or never “, or „close your eyes and jump “, or „pull yourself together and get on with it“.


  • Allocate your time and consider making small steps.
  • Plan the steps and see them through.
  • Try to find a comrade-in-arms, however, you should always plan with the fact that you might not find one.
  • Always have a back-up plan (work out alternatives and apply them in an emergency).


You, as a youth leader in youth/community work must be able to motivate your group.

If you want to motivate your group into doing something, you must make a few thoughts about the group and its members. In doing this, you will have a better motivational effect on the group and apply yourself more easily according the needs of the group.

What do the group members expect from you, the program and the free time? Some of these expectations may be expected sub-consciously.

  • Community?
  • Be able to talk about things? Learn about social relationships?
  • Acceptance?
  • Be left in peace?
  • Trust?
  • Action, adventure, experiences, confirmation, experience personal limits
  • In what type of mood are the members of the group? Are they tired and listless? Or are they adventurous? What is going on at the moment? What went on before? The so-called “flashlight” might help as an ice-breaker. Everyone is allowed to say exactly what he is feeling, what he is thinking about etc.

Think about the things which could go wrong during the group time.

Mishap no. 1:

You are motivated, you have prepared everything well but the group members can’t be bothered. Only “flexibility”, “spontaneity” and “improvisation” can help. It would of course be great if you had an alternative idea or could adapt your program according.

Mishap no. 2:

The group is excited about a point on the program but you didn’t have time or the interest (no motivation) to prepare something. Who and what can change the program around? Is there another group leader who is more motivated than you and can take over your program section or can you talk yourself into becoming motivated and lead the program?

Mishap no. 3:

You are not motivated. The group members are not motivated. No-one can be motivated. That can happen. All of you can simply go home again!

Mishap no. 4:

All are motivated: it isn’t a mishap, it is top-class. All remain motivated and make sure that they are relaxed, cool and adaptable. We don’t want anyone to suddenly become de-motivated!

What possibilities are there to motivate the group / an individual?

We don’t have a secret recipe. You will develop your own ideas over time and with experience.

  • Talk about emotions and face them. That means that you should react according to the general mood within the group, face each member personally. The group must learn to deal with their feelings. That encourages the group to stick together and strengthens the relationship towards you as group leader. You should show that the commitments and hardships, the fears and needs of the individuals do not simply leave you cold. The youths will notice that.

  • To not expect too much of the group. There are groups who are newly formed. Some other group have existed for years. The group must find themselves and develop together. Adapt the level/type of motivation according the group situation/phase.

  • The higher the usefulness and the clearer the goal is, the higher the level of motivation. A competition evening is easier to run if a prize is in sight for the winner. If there isn’t a reward, why should they try? A hike without a planned place for the night might be motivating for some due to the sense of adventure. However others may want to know exactly what the plan is.

  • A clear line and structure should be recognisable. Bring results together to draw a clear line and structure. At the end, if no-one has understood why they have something, the motivation is lost along with the motivation to do something again.

  • Delegate tasks and pass on some responsibility to your group. Maybe you can let some older group members become station leaders. Those are important experiences and the members suddenly experience a change of role.

  • Clear rules are motivating, unclear rules or none at all are de-motivating, especially in cases where an unexpected or unfair reaction takes place.

  • Problems should be discussed. Being able to listen is important.

  • The points under Roman numeral I are also valid.

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