One of the keys to maximizing the productivity and success 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. This is 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 many experts have settled on four R’s for motivation, but I have found ten, and you can probably add a couple more:
1. Respect. Every professional expects to be treated with respect. We all watch our leaders’ body language, facial expressions, and words for indications of respect and disrespect. Show by your words and actions that you value their role.
2. Resources. A team that doesn’t have the resources to do their job will lose their motivation rapidly. In a startup, key resources include funding, facilities and tools, and the time to get the job done. The most important resource may be your help and support.
3. Relationships. Positive social interactions with fellow team members lead 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.
4. Responsibility. New responsibilities, when done with respect and moderation, prevent stagnation and challenges people to perform at even higher levels. Most people will rise to the occasion, see their progress, and become even more motivated.
5. Recognition. 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.
6. Rewards. 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 even intangible rewards, like lunch with the boss, can be powerful motivators.
7. Reserves. In the military, an important mission is always backed up by reserve forces. Having backup gives a team confidence, motivation, and a sense of value. In startups, when people are clearly willing to back up each other, everyone’s motivation increases.
8. Reasons. A good cause can be the most powerful motivator of all. Workers doing assembly-line tasks during World War II were highly motivated because they were helping to win the war. Make sure your team really believes their work has impact.
9. Reinforcement. When a team member shows increased skills or results, following prior rewards, reinforcing that progress will result in a motivational multiplier. Reinforcement on a regular basis is recognition and rewards on steroids.
10. Recruiting. People are more motivated when they see “new blood” joining the team. This gives everyone a sense of renewal, additional support, and a fresh perspective. Recruiting is the inverse of layoffs, which reduces motivation in everyone.
In reality, people motivate themselves, and all these dimensions are simply ways to accelerate personal motivation. The key to increasing anyone’s intrinsic motivation is to align the support with things they 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.
Doesn’t it make sense to use these motivational elements to get that other 50% from your startup team? In addition, these elements will make your business a more enjoyable and exciting place for everyone, consistent with your own vision for being an entrepreneur. When was the last time you really assessed the motivation level at your business?
CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups; ATIF Angels Selection Committee; Entrepreneur in Residence at ASU and Thunderbird School of Global Management.