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7 Things Every CEO Should Know About Motivating a Team

7 Things Every CEO Should Know About Motivating a Team
Image credit: Courtesy of ElevenNews
By Shazir Mucklai

When it comes to productivity, efficiency, innovation, and sustainability within an organization, nothing trumps the ability to motivate your team. The team is everything: it’s where creative ideas are generated; the place where those ideas are executed; and the soil in which the company grows.

The team is also a large part of what creates the culture, which attracts talent when it’s good, and repels talent when it’s bad.

Here are three things every CEO absolutely needs to know about motivating a team:

1. Be specific in your praise

Blanket statements like, “You’ve been doing a great job, Stephanie,” are far less likely to inspire than specific comments like, “I like the way you tied our company culture into the last blog. It was both funny and inspiring. Great job.”

“As a leader at the company, I see recognition as one of my super-powers,” says Jack Dell’Accio, CEO and Founder of Essentia. “When I acknowledge and really ‘see’ members of my team, they light up. They want to do more, contribute more, reach for more. A not insignificant part of my job is to inspire people by seeing specific things they’re doing well, and telling them why I value their work.”

It’s easy to focus solely on what needs improvement, but when it comes to motivating a team, don’t ever forget about highlighting what is working. Be specific and consistent.

2. Encourage failure

If people aren’t willing to take risks and make mistakes, they’re not going to be able to innovate.

The best way to foster creativity is not, ironically, to foster creativity. It’s to not only be OK with failure, but encourage it. Let your people try things you don’t think will work, and then pay attention to the results. If part of an idea worked and another didn’t, keep what worked and praise the person for discovering something useful.

“A key quality that I look for in our employees is whether they want freedom while holding themselves accountable to results," Tomas Gorny, CEO of Nextiva says. "Employees who show their entrepreneurial side demonstrate the drive needed to match Nextiva’s growth and the ability to thrive in an autonomous environment. Failure is like free tuition."

3. Use humor. Often.

“Humor goes a long way to keeping the culture alive and happy,” says CEO Rishabh Chokhani of Naturevibe Botanicals. “Whether it’s gifs in a Slack channel or friendly banter around the office, the more we joke around at work, the more motivated I see people to get down to it when it’s time to get stuff done.”

Humor is directly linked to connection and happiness. And according to Jessica Pryce-Jones, workplace expert and author of Happiness at Work, "Happiness at work is closely correlated with greater performance and productivity as well as greater energy, better reviews, faster promotion, higher income, better health, and increased happiness with life. So it's good for organizations and individuals, too."

4. Money isn’t enough

Study after study shows that while salary is important, it isn’t the be-all-end-all when it comes to how motivated a team member is to contribute.

As Kimi Verma, CEO of fashion brand Shaik K says, “Only money cannot motivate a team.” Instead, she says, “When you’re sharp and precise in your guidance, the team knows where to go. This is inherently more motivating because everyone has a clear direction. If you’re vague or unclear in your own direction, the team will feel it and everyone will suffer.”

Take responsibility for the precision of your directions. If you’re not getting sharp results, consider whether you’re giving sharp guidance. Adjust accordingly.

5. Institute regular ways of appreciating team members

The research is clear that one of the most motivating things a human being can experience is being acknowledged and appreciated for his or her contributions. When you’re seen and praised for your hard work, you’re more likely to want to excel even more. When you’re not, you’re likely to decline in both your motivation level and quality of work.

According to Patrick Murray, CEO and Co-Founder of NOSON’s On Air Parking, “You can’t just rely on appreciating people at random intervals. It’s a good idea to have a codified way of doing it, whether that’s a regular part of team meetings, or some other way.”

For example, dedicate a short section of team meetings to “shout-outs,” where members can shout out something helpful another team member did that week. Not only does this highlight contributions, but it builds meaningful connections between employees, which contributes to morale and camaraderie. While “Employee of the Month” is a somewhat outdated version, it’s still getting at the right idea: to recognize team members loudly and publicly.

Remember that this isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s important to the overall health of the organization.

6. Make feedback two-way

“Too many companies and leaders rely on performance reviews as the sole way of giving feedback,” says Blake Murray, CEO of Divvy, a platform for businesses to eliminate expense reports by proactively managing payments and subscriptions.

“The fact is, you should be constantly asking the people around you, ‘How’s it going? Is there anything you think we could be doing to improve your job? The team? The company?’ Then really listen to the responses. If you’re hearing the same thing over and over, it’s time to really pay attention.”

Don’t assume employees or even those at your same level of the company will give you feedback—solicit it. You’ll keep a pulse on what’s going on and you’ll also be able to make smaller changes more quickly, rather than waiting until something is a huge problem down the line.

7. When it comes to goals, be precise

This is true at every level of the organization. Don’t just say, “We need to make more sales.” Make specific, clear goals, and make sure everyone knows what they are. Luriya, a leading brand that helps people sell diamonds online lends their expertise.

“I notice our team responds more quickly and that we actually end up hitting goals more when we make them exact,” says Fima Kandinov, CEO of Luriya. “If there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of my career, it’s that the more you can incorporate numbers and metrics into your work, the more successful you’ll be.”

According to one study, 63% of employees said they wasted significant time at work because they didn't know what work was a priority, and what wasn't. Goals and targets must be clearly delineated, and priorities must be clearly outlined.

The bottom line is that if you’re in a leadership position, it’s critical to be good at motivating both individuals and the collective. Want your business to thrive? You have to make the team thrive.

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How to Lead Your Team to Achieve the Goals No Individual Ever Could