1. How to build and motivate Startup teams

How to build and motivate Startup teams

Goals and meaningful feedback go a long way towards providing productive, consistent motivation.

Published: February 3, 2015 4:54 PM

Your team members are only human. Goals and meaningful feedback go a long way towards providing productive, consistent motivation.

If you want to know if a fish is bad, look at its head, they say. No role in life is more dependent on success and failure than that of a leader. Some see the pressure that comes with managing others as a burden; others see it as a thrill. The reality is the best leaders see it as a mixture of both.

Over the last six months I have met literally hundreds of start-up founders. I have learned that there is no set personality type, barely any common identifiers, and no hard and fast formula for success.

Predicting who will be successful and who will fail is far from a perfect science, which helps to keep things interesting if nothing else. With the likelihood of a new business failing so high, however, a conservative estimate suggests that 7 out 10 start-ups will not prove to be sustainable over the long term, the acid test often comes when a business starts looking to hire.

Having a successful team is number one in startups. Keeping them motivated is another. Let’s talk a bit about keeping your startup team motivated. It is no secret that motivating your employees is crucial in a start-up business.  It can also be more challenging in the absence of a proven concept, historical trading success and achievements.  As entrepreneurs we live and breathe our companies. Startups often adopt the highest standards. Most of the companies make statements such as:

“We wanted to build the kind of company where people would only leave when they retire.”

“You work well, you get paid well”

When we talk about motivation, we have to mention values. Realizing values is the basis of your career as well as your everyday life. Values bring people in, and if they are not suitable, they scare people away. When in the beginning of 20th century the best motivator was money, then this has changed quite a bit. Now there are more incentives such as challenges, freedom, creativity and sense of community that act as main drivers.

It is very important for the leaders in the company to acknowledge what are the biggest challenges of the other members in the company, to understand these challenges and to be able to predict changes in behavior. Taking it to the individual level is essential since understanding individual needs help us realize how people understand motivation.

To motivate others, you must start by motivating yourself. Have you had experience with leaders who think they are good motivators, but they have one problem – they evaluate things only from their own perspective? For instance, they assume that if they pay their team members well, they are expected to do whatever. This often doesn’t work because people have different values. And if the team leader will not acknowledge these values, he/she will either lose the employee or he/she will never work with a 100% efficiency and pleasure.

A good leader is a role model. Especially with characteristics that are expected from other members of the team. Being able to put together a productive team is the most important task leaders have.

A good way to motivate your startup team is to enable team members work on projects that they believe in. Depending on the size of the company and the overall process, however, they may be some difficulties in the implementation. Google’s SVP Laszlo Bock has said that one of the best ways of motivating your employees is to make them feel they are supported and part of the process. Whether it is allowing them to use a percentage of their time to work on other projects or opening up an innovation facility, giving them a taste of freedom will be worth it. The art of leadership is supporting these processes. Although quite substantial and profitable ideas have taken off from Google’s “innovation time off”, they decided to continue in a different way.

If you notice a decrease in motivation, avoid assuming that the individual is apathetic or careless. Identify the source of the problem, set goals to guide that individual back on track and lead with meaningful praise and purposeful encouragement. When your whole team is earnestly invested, your company will be able to rise to any challenge.

All in all, motivating your team is a marathon, not a sprint.

By Udit Mittal, Managing Director, Unison International​

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