Here's what actually works when it comes to getting the most out of your team.
Have you ever met someone who’s highly motivated at work? Try to picture them now.
You might have a mental image of someone upbeat, someone focused on getting results and hitting deadlines, all while happily looking for proactive ways to go the extra mile.
Similarly, if I asked you to imagine a demotivated worker, you might picture someone with their head down and a cynical attitude, waiting for the clock to strike five so they can escape the office.
You’re probably picturing two quite distinct individuals — after all, there are only two types of people in this world: motivated and unmotivated. Right?
In fact, whether an individual is motivated or not isn’t just down to their personality. It also depends on the company they work for. And if you want to keep your team in the ‘motivated’ category over the long-term, read on.
In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink discusses two varieties of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Many of the most obvious motivators are extrinsic, meaning that the incentives of behaviour are external to the person — in other words, carrots and sticks. They include:
According to Pink’s research, external incentives lead to increased motivation only when the job involves following a set of instructions or sticking to a routine — like a factory worker. This is because external incentives tend to narrow focus and concentrate the mind.
However, if the job involves creativity and experimenting with different possibilities, external incentives can lead to demotivation, by ‘crowding out’ the inherent joy of the job. This phenomenon is called ‘The Overjustification Effect’.
Here’s the issue: in a startup, there is no set of instructions — and you need all the creativity you can get.
If you were hoping to increase motivation by setting higher targets, it’s time to reconsider.
Luckily, there’s a second category called ‘intrinsic motivators’, in which the incentives of behaviour come from within. Pink talks about three elements of intrinsic motivation:
1 — Autonomy: the desire to direct our own lives.
2 — Mastery: the urge to get better at something that matters.
3 — Purpose: the yearning to work on something larger than ourselves.
When I was studying at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the topic of motivation came up during a management class. The professor added a fourth element to Pink’s existing three:
4 — Connectedness: the need to belong to a group of people.
What can you do as a leader to cultivate someone’s internal drivers of motivation? Here are some methods you can adapt to your company, to enhance your team’s internal drive to work hard and achieve better results.
When people feel that what they’re doing matters, they’re more likely to go the extra mile. Here are a few ways for you to promote a sense of purpose in your company.
If you want to focus your team, give them a goal. If you want to motivate your team, give them a purpose.
When people feel in charge of their actions, they’re more likely to stay engaged with what they’re doing. Here are a few ways to instil autonomy in your team.
Learning a new skill is its own reward. Here are some ways to stop your team from stagnating and feel like they are improving.
Teams that feel connected are more likely to help each other when things get tough. Here are some ways to increase your team’s sense of connection.
‘For connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.’ Brene Brown, TED talk
There’s no denying it — if someone feels their salary isn’t adequate or equitable, it’s unlikely they are going to show up for work well-motivated and raring to go. People have to earn a living.
The key with compensation is to pay enough so you can take the issue of money off the table.
In a startup, you have two main levers of financial compensation: salary and stock options. Many companies, especially those outside of Silicon Valley, fail to implement a good stock options plan for their team. Yet the chance to own a part of the company can be incredibly motivating for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Creating an environment that gives your team purpose, autonomy, mastery, and connection in their job will help them feel excited about coming to work. And they will likely be more proactive — and work harder — as a result.
Founders need to keep their motivation levels high too. If you feel your motivation slipping, trying rating yourself from 0 to 10 on the four elements of intrinsic motivators. Where do you score the lowest? And what can you do to improve your situation? Because without a motivated leader, your team will find it hard to motivate themselves.
Thoughtful essays on growing teams, building products and raising money by Serial Entrepreneur and Investor, David Bailey.