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 Dr. Tal Schwartz, CEO of Clicktale.
As CEO of Clicktale, I often find myself chatting with other heads of companies, and more often than not, the conversation turns to questions about what’s the most efficient way to run a business. Which is often then followed with this inevitable question: How do I motivate my team? My answer is simple: I don’t. I recently learned that motivating from the top down is becoming more and more difficult in a world where employees often respond with cynicism to corporate cheerleading. At Clicktale, we like to keep things real, and that means accepting that rank-and-file employees understand the workplace intricacies of our business better than we in the executive suite ever will. So when it comes to motivating our teams, there’s no one better to handle that responsibility than their very own peers.
Last year, we ran an experiment at ClickTale in which employees were tasked with identifying what they felt were “problem areas.” The result, for me, was humbling: they zoomed in on issues that I, as CEO, had been blissfully unaware of. Contrary to what many other CEOs may suggest, I knew the best approach was for our management team to take one giant step back. Instead, I wanted our employees to pick up the reins and handle the problem-solving on their own. My employees formed task forces and started brainstorming innovative ways to fix the issues at hand, which included making our meetings more effective, managing our company’s new and expanding global culture, and boosting collaboration between departments.
It’s hard for many CEOs to acknowledge that there are parts of a company – the nuts and bolts at its core, the wires and references and millions of tiny transactions that make up each employee’s jam-packed day – that are impossible to see from an executive perch. We, as company leaders, are in charge of the forest, and it’s a job filled with countless responsibilities and a lot of excitement. But woe to the CEO who thinks that just because he knows the forest he also understands each and every tree. It’s easy for an executive to stand on the sidelines and cheer on his team as they do their work. It’s simple to dole out benefits, offer praise, or dangle both carrots and sticks in order to keep a company running smoothly. But at the end of the day, nothing is a better motivator than the idea that your superior has faith in you, that you’ve been handed a special responsibility simply because you are worthy and capable of doing something extraordinary with it.
So when you’re cooking up motivation for your employees, make sure you start with a healthy balanced meal. Or better yet, get out of the kitchen and let your staff take over. It’s why you hired them, after all. Let them tell you how they want to be motivated, and make sure you listen hard to their ideas. After all, they might just know something better than you do.