Like most entrepreneurs, I've developed some effective systems for motivating my employees. What I've found in the course of doing this is that the motivation, however powerful, is transient. It's hard to acquire and easy to lose, just like a client.
You've already done a lot of the heavy lifting when you searched high and low for the best talent you could find. Unfortunately, many common motivational tools do exactly the opposite of what they're supposed to do, and run a very real risk chasing good people away.
Here are some ways to keep your team motivated and engaged, and keep it that way.
Put the personal back in development
The term "personal development" gets thrown around a lot when employers are trying to attract star talent. The problem is that employers often frame it in terms of getting better at one job, not in terms of growing and nurturing unique abilities.
Rather, people are motivated by their passions, not by picking up new skills. Learning a new Excel function might help pad the resume of an employee who's going to leave you someday, but it doesn't offer that employee any actual, personal development.
Google allows its employees to spend up to 20% of their time pursuing projects of their own initiative. This doesn't mean employees should spend every Tuesday playing video games, but it does mean that they get to broaden their horizons while helping the company.
When people are allowed to push the boundaries of their daily responsibilities, it often yields some happy accidents. So encourage the accounting team to brainstorm with your marketing employees. Unique ideas will emerge.
Some mistakes are okay
Mark Cuban didn't start off making million dollar deals and appearing as an expert entrepreneur on national TV. Like the rest of of us, he had some slip-ups along the way.
"I wouldn't be where I am now if I didn't fail... a lot. The good, the bad, it's all part of the success equation," he said.
Many employers believe that in raising the bar, they're motivating their employees to aim higher. Unfortunately, they often push too hard and end up alienating the person they're trying to motivate.
Nobody wants a mind-numbingly easy job, and it's a great motivation to be challenged all the time. But you have to acknowledge that along with the challenges there will be some bumps in the road.
The only mistakes that I criticize in my office are the careless ones, and you should do the same. For everything involving our clients, there's a system already in place, so mistakes are absolutely inexcusable. But if your team is trying out something new, it won't get far if they can't have a slip-up or two.
Drop the titles
One of my favorite ongoing jokes throughout the series "The Office" is Dwight Shrute's relentless drive to become a manager. He is even awarded a responsibility-free, fake title, "Assistant (to the) Regional Manager," by Michael Scott, just to (as he meanly put it) "make a loser feel better."
Hopefully, your office is nothing like this. Mine sure isn't.
With great success, my office has implemented a holacratic system, which ditches traditional top-down management. Everybody is their own chief, so everybody is motivated, and your team should also be motivated by recognition and growth, not by job titles.
Everybody on your team should be allowed to reach as far as they possibly can. That will be more than enough to drive them. If you want to offer promotions, don't slap "VP" on someone's name and fatten their check. Give your stars some real incentive - and the title won't be important.