The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you keep your team motivated? is written by Sarah Kauss, CEO of S’well.
Today’s business model oftentimes seems to be as much about fun as it is about making money. We have a new breed of employees – myself included – that seeks a work-life balance that didn’t exist 20 years ago when I first entered the professional world. It’s one that mixes an always on approach (thanks, technology) with an almost always fun element (thank you, millennials). At S’well, we like to work hard, but we also like to play hard. What we’ve found is that the fun in our days does more than simply entertain, it helps us build a community within the office and drive creative conversations.
Food plays a huge role in this process, transforming stressful days into manageable ones. From bagel Mondays to group-lunch Fridays, we break bread together with informal conversations. We take those conversations one step further with weekly office happy hours and once-a-quarter volunteer activities which allow us to get out of our own heads and focus on issues close to our hearts. This inspiration not only helps us take a break from the stress in our lives, but it also feeds the spirit of doing good that permeates our company.
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We also take our competitive natures and apply them to team outings and contests to grow (or, in some cases, shrink) together. From our annual body fat/weight loss program with Equinox to internal photo contests, we cultivate our competitive spirits within a safe, empowering environment. We then celebrate the winners, by memorializing them with wall plaques and turning winning photos into office art. Speaking of celebrations, employees shouldn’t only receive appreciation and praise once a year. Awarding staffers for their outstanding work on a monthly basis has been important to our motivation process. The monthly “S’welly Award” allows individual team members to nominate and champion their colleagues that have gone above and beyond.
However, for as much fun as we have, there are other – some might argue – more important things we do at S’well to motivate the teams both individually and collectively. And it starts with transparency. Not only is it a personal value of mine, but I learned early in my career that being open and honest was the best way to solve tough problems. I’ve worked diligently to create an environment that fosters openness. We share the good and the bad, the wins and the challenges together, so that we can lift each other and the business up at every turn. By letting team members at all levels in on what is happening with the company, they understand that they have a huge stake in the game. It encourages teams to become a part of a solution-focused approach to business building and it keeps all of us learning, thinking, and engaging.
I’m also a huge proponent of goal-setting and providing one-on-one time with leadership. Every team member sets three goals at the start of the year and I personally follow-up with each person throughout the year to see how S’well can help them reach those goals. It’s critical to me and to the business that our teams feel supported and connected at every level. Having fun is a must-have for any organization today. But I’ve found building on the fun with transparency, access, and support can truly transform and motivate your crew to entirely new levels of exceptionalism.