One of the keys to maximizing the productivity of your team, as well as yourself, is motivation. It has been estimated that the average team member at any given time works at less than 50% of his capacity. Thus mastering the art of employee motivation could double your chances of success over the average competitor.
While there are many books written on this subject, most entrepreneurs I know simply assume that their own vision, motivation, and drive will be adopted and maintained by partners and employees, based on a one-hour inspirational talk by the founder or business leader, supplemented a reasonable salary, and a dose of fear for good measure.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Motivation has to be a constant priority and tone, focused more on the positive emotional and internal needs of a person, rather than their opportunity to simply make more money. My review of the research indicates that most experts have settled on four R’s for motivation, but I have found at least six, and you can probably add a couple more:
- Respect. Every professional expects to be treated with respect. We all watch our leaders body language, facial expressions, as well as their words, for indications of respect and disrespect. Never forget to offer only constructive criticism, and not in front of co-workers, as a sign of respect. Show by your actions that you value their opinions.
- Recognition. This is something that you should always do in front of co-workers. When you recognize and celebrate individual achievements, large and small, in front of peers, people feel wonderful about themselves. They feel more competent and eager to repeat the success or take on additional responsibility.
- Reward. People need rewards to maintain their motivation, or they will start to feel that the recognition is all “show,” with no substance behind it. Cash incentives are a good start, but tokens indicating performance, like prizes and custom certificates often work just as well. Even intangible rewards, like lunch with the boss, can be powerful motivators.
- Reinforcement. When a team member shows increased skills or results, following prior rewards, reinforcing that progress will result in a motivational multiplier. Reinforcement is recognition and rewards on steroids.
- Relationships. Positive social interactions with fellow team members leads to improved job satisfaction and motivation. Inversely, people who are negative and bring negative interpersonal attitudes to the workplace will destroy the motivation of others. If not addressed immediately, these people will drive good employees to seek work elsewhere.
- Responsibility. New responsibilities, when done with respect and moderation, prevent stagnation and challenges us to perform at even higher levels. Most people will rise to the occasion, see their progress, and become even more motivated. The best people love to learn and accomplish new things.
In reality, people motivate themselves, and all these themes are simply ways to facilitate personal motivation. The key to increasing anyone’s intrinsic motivation is to align the feedback and rewards with things they deeply value. Therefore the first step is to get to know your people, talk to them, and ask them what they are passionate about. Don’t try to guess the answers.
In all cases, it is important to provide on-going communication and training to make sure employees know what is expected of them in their role, and what constitutes acceptable and exceptional performance. Nothing de-motivates a person more than not knowing what is expected.
Use these key motivational themes to double the productivity at your startup, and make it the enjoyable and exciting place that your own vision of the business says it should be. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.