5 Tips for Building and Motivating Your Team

For many companies, it isn’t the product or service that drives their ability to scale but the team of people that are put in place. With this in mind, how do you think about building and motivating your team? OnFrontiers explored this question during a recent Webinar with Founder and CEO of Living Goods Chuck Slaughter and Founder and CEO of Off Grid Electric Xavier Helgesen and moderated by Cofounder and Director at Schaffer&Combs Arthur Combs. You can listen to their discussion here:



Here are our five key takeaways:  

#1: Be flexible and creative with hiring

Hiring is like dating or house hunting, according to Chuck. You approach the task with an idealized version of what you want, but that image only exists in your mind. It’s important to recognize that there’s almost always a discrepancy between the job description you’ve written and a person in the real world. Instead, be prepared to adjust your job description to match an employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Look for hidden strengths that an employee brings and take advantage of them. Also like dating and house hunting, you should always be in the market. This increases your chances of finding the right person even if you have to compromise on the timing.

“I like the idea of every organization having a signature benefit, specific to their culture.”   – Chuck

Get creative with the interview and job offer processes. Try to mimic or simulate work conditions during interviews through assignments or role-playing exercises. Consider hiring prospective employees for short-term trials and make retention decisions based on actual performance. If your budget is tight, think about benefits beyond salary that can motivate people, such as more flexibility with work hours and location or a paid sabbatical after a certain number of years on the job.

#2: Empower your team

Give your employees as much control over driving results in their area as possible. The more people are given ownership on a granular level, the more they will thrive. Encourage employees to think about new ideas that can be tested quickly and cheaply. These small experiments are empowering because everyone can conduct them.

Enable an environment where leadership isn’t just one person reporting to another but a full 360 degrees – downwards, upwards, and sideways.

#3: Insist on excellent management

“Really good bosses know which details matter and which don’t.”   – Xavier

The main reason people get demotivated is because of poor management. If you have great leaders, people love to work for them no matter the type of work. To avoid micromanagement, be aware of how capable a person is of a certain task and how important that task is to the organization. Be transparent about it with the employee and adapt your style to be more directive or more supportive, depending on the situation. Embrace the “trust but verify” philosophy – encourage managers to trust employees and focus on verifying not telling. Nobody will learn if you always tell them what to do.  

#4: Cultivate a high-performance culture

Performance culture starts with the people you hire. If you hire right, that’s two-thirds of the battle. Hire people who are driven and intrinsically motivated. Prioritize those who work well with others, have proven themselves to be entrepreneurial, and are comfortable with uncertainty. Then be very clear about your vision for the organization, long-term goals, and individual objectives. Develop a system for tracking performance that is visible to everyone. Consider the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) framework popularized by Google to set goals and measure progress. Check out tools like BetterWorks and Workplace to help you do it. Publicly celebrate success as defined by your metrics.

“Use performance reviews as a torch not a club.”   – Chuck

When it comes to performance reviews, consider reframing them as performance plans. Focus on future goals and what support is needed from managers and the organization to achieve them.

#5: Don’t reinvent the wheel – learn from those who have succeeded before

“Don’t read books by people who write about management. Read the ones by people who have built world-class companies.”   – Xavier

Our speakers gave the following reading recommendations:

  • Books by Andrew “Andy” Grove, such as High Output Management and Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company
  • First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
  • What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

Featured image taken by Flickr user Wiithaa The Upcycling network.