Every good team leader knows that success of the team as a whole lies in the ability of the team's execution. But what is needed for the best team execution? Talent? Of course, every team needs to have a talented core that naturally knows how to excel in the designated task set in front of them. But as Tim Notke said first (yep he said it before Kevin Durant)
“Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard”
We can say, that if not talent, then hard work is the key to success. And most people will agree. Work hard, have a sober head, and you will succeed. Hard work requires a lot of commitment, and commitment can be hard to attain. To be committed to something, you need to be motivated. And that brings us to the key topic - how to motivate yourself in the first place and then your team.
What is motivation, anyway?
I am pretty sure, everybody has their own definition of the word motivation. To be clear what it is - the Google dictionary says:
a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.
desire or willingness to do something; enthusiasm.
There are also a bunch of synonyms for motivation, just to name a few - motive, stimulus, incentive, inspiration, impulse, drive, ambition, determination. All of these words stand for motivation. Now that we have a clear understanding of the meaning, we can agree that motivation can lead to a commitment that leads to hard work that in the end leads to success (however you define success).
There are many motivational theories, with one of the most prominent being Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory that is presented in the form of a pyramid with the basic needs on the bottom and higher level needs at the top. We will not go into detail about Maslow’s theory because it is a general motivation theory that is applied to the general quality of person’s life. So let's jump to the best one when it comes to motivation in business.
In with uncle Freddie's theory
First of all, Frederick Herzberg is not my uncle, if that was thought from the beginning. Uncle reference is a mere thank you for his great job enrichment Two-factor theory about motivation which I really like and try to use as much as I can when dealing with my fellow colleagues and team members.
To explain the theory, we need to assume and set that “satisfaction” and “dissatisfaction” are not the opposite ends of one scale. There are two scales. One is for satisfaction and the lack of satisfaction, and the other is for dissatisfaction and for the lack of dissatisfaction. So, you can be both satisfied and dissatisfied in the same time.
Two-factor theory states that the two factors for the overall motivation are: Hygiene factors and Motivators.
Hygiene factors account for salary, job security, status, insurance and work conditions, just to name a few. If you have all good hygiene factors, nothing really happens with your motivation levels. On the other hand, if some hygiene factors are missing out or are at low levels, then level of dissatisfaction rises, which produces low motivation level. Simply said, if you have a great salary and job security, you will do your job on the required level, and that’s it, nothing more, nothing less. If you have a lousy salary and no security, you will probably just slack and procrastinate all day.
On the other hand, motivators are challenging work, appraisal for good work, meaningfulness, involvement with decision meaning and good coworkers. Without good motivators in a workplace, nothing really happens to your motivation levels. On the other hand, if motivators are highly emphasized, then your satisfaction level rises, and with it, your overall motivation level rises. Motivators boost your intrinsic feeling of being important, good and acclaimed (similar to the top of Maslow’s pyramid).
Since we have two factors, we have four distinctive scenarios:
Hygiene / Motivators
Employee hates everything
Hates the job, loves everything else at the workplace
Loves the money and that's it
Full bliss and unicorns everywhere
Obviously, the best case scenario is to have both factors on high levels. Let’s assume hygiene factors are on par with the job requirements and employee has all (or at least most of the hygiene factors satisfied). With that assumed, we will look how to increase the level of motivators.
Evolve into a Charizard - make a great team
Now we have employees that are fairly paid, have secure jobs and have their hygiene factors covered. This is the perfect time to motivate them through the roof and make some super-soldier style employees that will contribute the maximum they can.
If you are lucky to find employees that don’t look on the whole world through the wealth prism, then you are lucky. Those are the ones you really want to keep and give them reasons to stay on board. They will enjoy challenging and tough work. On the other hand, most people would ask why or wish for silly and easy tasks every day - because it's the easy way out. If you want to have a life that has no meaning and just goes by you, until you die, then it’s ok to have silly, easy, mostly useless tasks every day. But for the fortunate, very few, that try to find additional meaning in life, love challenging work that brings out the best in them, makes them go harder, higher, break their own limits and evolve (like Pokemon, when they fight hard they evolve).
Apart from challenging work, give your best employees additional level of responsibility. Make them team leaders and make them feel special and in control. Make them accountable for their actions, in the end, it will (like the challenging work) make them go harder and beyond imaginable because they cannot disappoint you or their team. It’s much easier to disappoint you as their boss, but it's harder to disappoint your team members. Responsibility is a fu..ing great motivator.
Appraisal for good work is always a good motivator. But do it in style, appraise your best employees in front of all others. If you have the right kind of employees, this situation will benefit everybody. The appraised ones will feel special and motivated to stay special, and the ones in the crowd will be happy for their co-workers and will try all their best to be appraised next time.
Working on meaningful or personally interesting projects can also be a great motivator. What better for an employee than to work on something that will someday possibly change the world or at least something they are personally passionate about. By giving your employees relevant and meaningful projects, you can make them real ambassadors of those projects because they really believe in them and enjoy working on solving them.
Finding a right motivator for your employee is the hardest part, but there are some tips and tricks you can follow and let your employee evolve into a gracious “Charizard” that doesn’t spit too many fireballs around.
Tips and tricks for the bravest
The list of motivators can go on and on. The devil is in the details, and often small things can motivate your employees. The following is the list of motivators we use at Bamboo Lab:
- Flexible working hours
- Flexible vacation time
- Involvement in the early stages of a project
- Working on long-lasting projects
- Sharing team’s success with the whole team
- Sharing personal success with the whole team
- Small presents for birthdays and other important dates
- Investment in education
- Conferences and travel
The hardest part is definitely, to find out which motivator works for whom. Every employee is unique and you need to pinpoint the exact motivator that impacts them. How? Simply by asking.
Firstly, do feedback sessions with them, once weekly, monthly, after a project is done. In the feedback session always go through both good and bad parts of their work. Be honest as much as you can and the employee will appreciate it. Finding out what makes them tick, will help you in motivating them further. Apart from the official feedbacks, go for a beer, talk during team buildings or other events, people will often tell you by themselves what would they like if you treat them as humans first, and as employees second.
It probably feels scary. You are thinking that this kind of openness will undermine your authority and that your position will feel less strong in the company but know that authority coming from fear is a weak authority, and authority coming from a fair and strong character is a strong one. Be brave enough to be fair and open.
In the end, what matters the most is to find your own, suitable ways to motivate your team and make them the best team ever. With a great team, comes great responsibility. Use it and change the world.