Motivate Your Team: 5 questions every CEO must ask themselves

Passion, adrenaline and a mesmeric belief in YOUR THING are the primary motivators when it’s just you and your co-founders, but how do you keep that energy going when your team has grown to 10, 20 or more? How do you get that mighty bubble of insatiable, adaptable, creative, brilliant productivity to expand around your whole team and float you all off to super success?

5. Tribes, not Factories – Who are we?

Remember that they’re human beings and that human beings are better in groups.

Like lions or ants or elephants, an isolated human (whether physically or emotionally) is worse off. There are the lone wolves out there, of course, but most of us would rather have a hug and a smile and say “Fifty thousand users? Yay for us, let’s buy cake and eat it together, while laughing about how great we are!”


The following tips clip together like a Team-building Megazord, especially for creating a group of people who work like humans beings should: together. People won’t complain about their boss, or the system, or be mopey, or do 10 hours work in a 40 hour week, or any of the other things symptomatic of an employee that’s treated like a component in a machine, rather than a, well you know, a person.


4. Clear Purpose – Where are we going? 

You have a value proposition for your customers, you have an ‘elevator pitch’ (yuk), you have a clear and well-defined USP for investors, but what about for your staff? If you asked every member of your team what the company does, would they all give the same answer? Exactly the same?

They should. You should put it on the walls. It should be first and last in everything you do. If everyone is pulling in exactly the same direction, in everything they do, you have the most efficient, productive team imaginable. That doesn’t mean everyone has to agree on how to get there, but we all need to be going the same way as you, otherwise we’re all just getting in each other’s way.


3. Shared Values – How will we get there?

If having a Clear Purpose is the ‘what’, then committing to a set of Shared Values is the ‘how’. Doing stuff around values is often misunderstood, mainly because it’s never really explained properly. So I’m going to have a go at explaining it properly in just three paragraphs. We’re nothing if not ambitious at Enternships.

(1) Values are things that you simply will not budge on. They are UNBREAKABLE RULES; otherwise they are pointless and are simply a shallow business exercise to make you feel good about your braces and off-colour collar and cuffs.

(2) A shared value is one that EVERYONE in the organisation lives, breathes and believes in. Not just the management, not just the people doing the values work, not just the founder – everyone.

(3) Every member of the team should imbue EVERYTHING with your shared values: your processes, your recruitment, your meetings, your parties, your brand, your advertising, your social media, your conversations, your networking, your products, your services, your design, your UX, your sex life, your customer service, your, wait, no not your sex life. Although, try it, tell me how it went.

I’m sure you could already give me a rough score out of 10 for how ‘on board’ each member of your team is. Discover, define and broadcast your shared values and everyone will jump to a 9 or 10; and those that don’t, get rid of them, they were wasting your time – well done you for spotting the deadweight at such little cost; I’ll nominate you for CEO of the Month.

4. Intrinsic Motivation – What’s in it for me?

What would each member of your team do if they didn’t need to get paid?

Read that again.

Think about it a lot.

Would they still turn up to work? Would they still be trying to achieve the things your company is trying to achieve? Or would they go and work for your competitor, who they think does it better in some way, but doesn’t pay as much? Or would they carry on, pretty much the same, occasionally dropping out of the office for a bit to investigate something else, or take a month-long holiday, only to return and do more awesome for you?

If the answer is anything other than the last one, then your motivation system could do with some tweaking. People do things best when they are motivated by what’s going on inside them, not by reward, or anything else external. With a Clear Purpose and Shared Values, you’re on your way to aligning everyone’s intrinsic motivation, but you all need to chip in and work hard to identify each other’s driving forces and act on them.

“If you do X, then Y will happen to you.” is the WRONG way to motivate, whether Y is good or bad.

“Doing X will help us achieve Y, and Y is what we do.” is a much better way to motivate.

1. Openness and Transparency – How are we doing?

None of the above will work if everyone on the team isn’t comfortable with being open, honest and transparent about what’s going well, what’s not going well, what they want to change and what they want to stay the same.

This is particularly true of you, the people in charge.

Don’t leave anything unsaid, it’s unhealthy and unproductive. Encourage a culture where criticism is accepted and acted upon, whether positive or negative. Using the concepts above, you can create such a strong culture that people will feel supported when someone tells them they could do better – instead of feeling isolated, shunned or left out to pasture.

For the lions.

By Will Bentinck

Image courtesy of svilen001

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Will Bentinck

Will likes bears. And startups. He has a beard, which explains a lot.

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