Motivate your new startup team
Working at a new startup can be absolutely amazing. Everything seems new and vibrant, there’s this exciting buzz in the air, people feel like they’re all doing something immensely exciting and that they’re part of something that can change the world. The thing is, that rarely lasts. There are always unexpected problems. I mean obviously, there are. After all, nobody believes their startup is going to fail when they start it and yet 90% do.
The trick is keeping everybody motivated when the storm clouds pull over, the wind picks up, the ship starts to rock and you need all hands on deck. Because not managing to do that is a sure-fire way to join that 90%.
Here are some great ideas to do just that.
Keep them in the loop
The first thing to realize is that people join a startup for a reason and that’s because they want to be part of something. If they just wanted to work, make their money and go home they would have picked a more established company. They’d certainly have had more job security there. But they didn’t. They chose to go into the sea with you. Reward them by letting them know what’s going on.
Now this doesn’t mean that you should whine and complain, or let them know every bad situation that’s lurking. That will be just as demotivating as not telling them everything. In fact, as a leader, it’s your job to offer some insulation from the outside world. At the same time, they should feel like they’re in the know. So tell them about the big decisions, certainly share the good news and let them know at least a little bit when the winds have turned and are no longer favorable.
Take time for them
Similarly, since you’ve taken the time to attract good people, make sure you actually spend time with them. They’ll appreciate it. After all, we all want to be heard, we all want to share, and we all want to be able to feel like our opinions matter. And that’s why you need to give them one-on-one time.
Just as importantly, you’ve actually got to listen to them. After all, perhaps you’ll be able to take something interesting away from this conversation, perhaps not, but if you don’t give them the time to express their point of view, you’ll never find out. So learn to bite your tongue and let them tell their story. This can be hard. After all, there’s a good chance you think you’ve got things at the right end, seeing as you’re the head of a startup. Still, other people have good ideas and might see problems that you don’t.
So instead of interrupting them and defending yourself, have a pad of paper and write down points you’d like to return to and only interrupt them when you want clarification. Afterward, go away, think about what has been said and only after that seek them out and straighten out those points that need straightening out. The advantage of this approach is that it will make it far more likely that you’ll actually figure out what they were trying to say (after all, we’re not equally eloquent) and it will make your employees truly feel like their opinions matter.
Have a clear vision and stick to it
People join a startup because they like the vision that it entails. The problem is, that often gets lost as the startup company suddenly unexpectedly changes direction. Now that is a good way for people to lose their motivation as well. So don’t do that.
First of all, have a clear vision that everybody can understand. Display it clearly, where everybody can see it. Then, whenever starting up a new project ask, ‘does that fit within our vision’ and if it doesn’t, don’t start down that road! Also, importantly, finish those projects.
If you can stay true to what you intended to do, the people you work with will stay motivated. If you dilute it, change it, water it down and confuse it, they’ll wonder why they signed up with you in the first place.
You have to be better
And finally, everybody else in the office gets to be a human being. Except for you. You have to be more than that. That means taking the blame when something isn’t your fault. That means leaving your stress at home. That means staying positive and even-keeled when everybody else is running around as if their hair is on fire. What it doesn’t mean is yelling, storming around like an idiot or losing your cool.
Obviously, that’s hard. They’ll only be made harder if you don’t have a good work-life balance. You need to have some way in place to stay sharp, fresh and stress-free so that you’ve got some place you can leave behind the baggage that life shoulders us with. So exercise, meditate, keep a gratitude journal or do whatever else you have to be the person you have to be.
And when you (inevitably) do screw up, have the decency to sincerely apologize. For those who aren’t that familiar with those, that means there are no ‘buts’ in there. For as my mother always said, everything said before the ‘but’ in an apology doesn’t really matter. Now apologizing well isn’t quite the same thing as being a superhuman, but it does come close.
Image source: bigstockphoto – I the author confirm I have the right to use this image.