Being a part of a startup team is uniquely exciting – it provides opportunities and experiences that established corporations simply can't match. It's a rush, and with the right people, it can be the time of your life. There's a dark side to startups, though – because no one knows what the future holds, working for one can be somewhat frightening. Leaders absolutely have to keep their teams motivated and help them fight through feelings of apprehension. Here are a few tips I've learned over the years for keeping startup teams motivated.
1. Craft A World-Class Culture
Nothing makes a job feel better like a great culture. Showing up to work unmotivated and unexcited is damaging for numerous reasons, and crafting a strong workplace culture works wonders for motivation, especially in the startup world. Best of all, startups are prone to encouraging awesome cultures, making it the new standard. Daniel Floyd of SpeechMaster Pro tell me, "I keep myself motivated and those working with me by creating and maintaining a positive vibe and embracing individual’s unique creative process. Allowing individuality in the workplace is just amazing for overall motivation.”
2. Regular Meetings
Meeting with team members on a regular basis is one of the easiest ways to keep a startup team motivated. Staying on the same page is crucial to success; without keeping up, communication suffers and the business falters as a result, but it does more than keep the company running. It tells team members that you care about their professional well-being, and it goes a long way. Helen Tyler of Pocket Poppet explains her situation and how regular meetings help her stay motivated. "As there are only two of us currently running our business and Karen and I work from separate home offices in separate states (Illinois & Wisconsin), regular communication is vital. We check in daily through phone calls and email and make an attempt to meet every week, if not every two weeks in person. After a long day of meetings we will grab dinner and catch up on life in general, which keeps us connected and on the same page not only as business partners, but as friends."
3. Schedule Regular Lunches With Them
For being such a simple option, it goes a surprisingly long way – just once a week, have a team lunch. I've noticed that taking 45 minutes each Friday to regroup and relax a bit is an outstanding way to motivate the team. Even if business isn't discussed, having that opportunity to get everyone in the same room and chat results in your team going back to work with a fresh disposition.
4. Keep Them In The Loop
A good leader shows trust in numerous ways, but one particularly helpful method is to keep employees in the loop regarding company updates. It tells the team that they're trusted enough to have an honest discussion regarding the future of the company and that they have a say in various choices, and the resulting push keeps them motivated and boosts productivity. They see more clearly the impact they have on the company, and it's amazing for overall operations.
5. Stand At The Frontlines With Them
A good leader stands at the front with their team and moves forward with them, rather than standing back and pushing them. It's good practice for overall success, but in terms of motivation, it's a powerful gesture that keeps the team moving. Dr. Chris Montanaro, a Syracuse Chiropractor, puts it perfectly. “Being a leader means you are the one taking the risks and making decisions. If the others on your team don’t show up to perform at 100%, then you take it upon yourself to get the job done. You don’t need a pat on the back or accolades for getting the job done. You rise to the occasion and take your team to the top because that's what leaders do.”
6. Repeat The Vision
As a leader, act like a parrot when it comes to your overall vision – repeat it, repeat it again, and repeat it once more. Make it the lifeblood of the company. Repeating it ensures that there are absolutely no doubts about the ethos of the company, and it naturally builds a team that believes in the company. Dave Arel of Chefmade puts it perfectly. "Startups are difficult because you are forced to do so much with so little. It’s easy for a small team to begin feeling overwhelmed or overworked. It takes a tremendous amount of passion and drive to get a business off the ground, so every little bit of motivation is necessary. That passion has to start with the founders and be instilled amongst your team. However, I think motivation will always come down to one thing: empathy and respect. If you are able to effectively prove to your team that you respect and understand the difficulties and importance of their job, they’ll find pride and passion in their contribution."
7. Keep The Office Stocked With Coffee (And Alternatives)
We live in a culture that is obsessed with caffeine. It's at the point where entire business operations are fueled by the stuff, and team members genuinely appreciate having it available in their workspace. It saves them time and money, too, which doesn't go unappreciated. Most people love coffee, but stay stocked up on alternatives, like tea and caffeine-free options. Everyone gets their day going differently, and accommodating your team's various patterns keeps them going strong.