I was shocked to read an old Gallup study that indicates only 13 percent of employees worldwide are actively engaged at work, and more recent data shows only a small change in the right direction. In my own experience as a startup advisor and mentor, I find that entrepreneurs who can’t attract and maintain a highly motivated team rarely even get off the ground.
Thus if you want to change the world with your new business, you need to follow the example of startups like Zappos, which hires according to cultural fit first. Another example is Facebook, maintaining motivation with food, stock options, collaborative office space, an on-site laundry, and a competitive atmosphere that fosters personal growth and learning with great benefits.
These companies, and many others, are finding that strong leadership and personally-tuned benefits are the key to long-term satisfaction and motivation, certainly more effective than high salaries and financial incentives alone. Here is my personal list of the key practices that I recommend to every entrepreneur and business executive alike for motivating their team:
- Bring passion and positive vibes to the workplace every day. Nobody likes a downer, especially for a boss. Every team member is motivated by being able to absorb energy from others, rather than being sucked dry by their own leaders. As a startup founder or executive, you need to subvert your own troubles for the sake of the team.
- Fuel a reserve of positive energy outside of work. First of all, that means taking care of your health, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise. Find ways to recharge your emotional batteries, through supportive relationships and community activities. Team members need to see you at work, but they also need to know you have a life after work.
- All work and no play creates a de-motivated team. Fun is always motivational, and it’s not inconsistent with work. There are many ways to add levity to a tough challenge, and engaging the team occasionally in some fun activities will work wonders for your team’s productivity and motivation. Don’t take yourself too seriously as well.
- Always treat your team as your highest priority. Investors have long agreed that you invest in the team, more than the product. Yet many managers unintentionally de-motivate their team by being too busy with business challenges to communicate, understand, or help people. Good hiring, training, and mentoring are the best motivators.
- Practice every day what you preach. Everyone is a role model for the people around them, and everyone needs a role model. Your team members follow your actions on integrity and follow-through, much more than any written company policy. Your display of pride in the company and respect for the customer will translate directly into motivation.
- Consistently ask for and implement ways to improve engagement. Building morale is not a one-time task. It requires ongoing listening to team members, implementing and tuning new incentives over time. Examples include work time flexibility, transportation assistance, exercise opportunities at work, and rewards for setting the right example.
- Provide timely personalized feedback and incentives. Everyone needs to be treated like an individual, rather than just another soldier. Tie incentives to measurable personal goals, as well company achievements. In today’s fast moving world, the time frame for giving recognition keeps getting smaller. Positive feedback has a diminishing half-life.
I believe that increasing your team’s motivation will be more effective than providing new and advanced tools for increasing productivity. The Hay Group, a global management and consulting firm, found offices with motivated and engaged employees were 44 percent more productive than the others. Other sources see the potential as high as doubling productivity through motivation.
So if your mission is to change the world, a great idea may be necessary, but is not sufficient. Your parallel challenge is to build and lead a highly motivated and engaged team that can execute with you, and can effectively motivate your customers to the same level. If you can do it, motivation can easily be your biggest competitive advantage. Start today.
Startup Professionals Musings