Research shows that highly engaged teams outperform poorly engaged teams by 22 percent. And most leaders know that people who are happier at work are at least 12 percent more productive than those who are not. (I suspect that number is even higher.)
But don't stop there. Look below the surface. Dig deep to understand why morale has dipped.
Have the Right Team
Often the problem lies with one or two employees. Building a great team means getting the right people on the bus. But unfortunately, as your startup grows, your bus may no longer be right for certain people. Maybe they enjoyed the sense of greater freedom and responsibility in those early days. Maybe they enjoyed the sense of purpose that comes from building something out of nothing, and now that your business has a greater focus on operational excellence than constant innovation, they feel less challenged.
Or maybe, in spite of your best efforts, you hired the wrong person.
Fortunately, there are solutions. Maybe you have the right employees on the bus, but a few need to move to different seats. That won't be a problem if you consistently provide the tools and training to help your employees do their current jobs better and to gain the skills and experience required to do the next job. (And the next.)
Or maybe your bus is no longer a fit for a few of your employees, especially if their behaviors, or emotions, or performance negatively impact your entire team. In either case, you owe it to your business -- and your employees -- to rectify the situation.
The Right Goals
Sometimes morale dips simply because your team can't hit the goals or targets you (or they) have set.
That's when you may need to be a helicopter boss: to get knee-deep in the details and help your team work through the issues they face. Sometimes leadership means delegating, but sometimes leadership means taking the reins and helping your team by reducing friction, providing the necessary leadership, and becoming actively involved in finding the answers to a difficult problem.
Or you may need to set a different goal. You may need to update your strategy or revise your plan. Even if a particular goal is, ultimately, reachable, the problem may be that the goal isn't sufficiently important. "Sure, we can do (that)," your employees may think, "but why?"
Maybe a certain initiative won't provide real value to your customers; it solves a problem, but not the problem your customers desperately need you to solve.
Your employees will always be more enthused and engaged when they pursue meaningful goals. Goals that matter -- to your business, to your customers, and to your employees.
And sometimes that means admitting one of the targets you set isn't actually the right target after all.
The Right Progress
Setting what author Jim Collins calls a "big, hairy, audacious goal" (BHAG) can be a great way to motivate and focus your team.
But there's also a problem with the BHAG approach: huge goals can take a long time to achieve which means initial enthusiasm can quickly wane as the reality of the daily grind to achieve that goal sets in.
That's why setting the right interim targets is so important. That's why focusing on the process --- and encouraging, praising, and rewarding the process -- is so important. Progress feels good. Progress is motivating. When your employees can see a direct link and line of sight between what they do today and what they someday hope to achieve, they will stay much more engaged. They will get less discouraged by how seemingly out of reach the ultimate goal may be, because they'll have daily reminders of the small successes they achieve.
Don't just set huge goals. Create plans that help your employees accomplish small goals along the way. And then help them feel good about the effort they put in on a daily basis.
Every long journey is the aggregate of thousands of small steps. While you may hope to hit $1 million in sales by a certain date, make sure your employees feel good about every $1,000 sale they make and about the process they use to make those sales.
Then your team won't just get to celebrate the $1 million mark. They'll get to "celebrate" the work they do every day. Which is the best way to boost morale -- and keep it high.