Why You Can’t Motivate Your Employees

Photograph via Getty Images

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 Mike Del Ponte, co-founder of Soma.

For a most leaders, ‘motivation’ means energizing their teams to squeeze as much work out of them as possible. I know, because I was one of these leaders. I understood motivation as a means to an end. Like gas for a car — just make sure there’s enough in the tank to keep moving forward. In reality, this understanding of motivation is as inaccurate as it is ineffective. True motivation is based on a compelling mission and providing your team with the autonomy to effectively contribute to that mission. Too much advice about motivation focuses on compensation, “cool” office cultures, or giving pep talks to “rally the troops.” Motivation has more to do with mission than it does with bonuses, free snacks, and ping-pong tables.

At Soma, it comes down to whether everyone understands how they are contributing to our mission to hydrate the world. Can they connect the dots between the hard work they do daily and how our products benefit the daily lives of our customers? Do they understand how our philanthropy efforts help people without access to clean water around the globe? If the answer is no, then we need to get clear on the vision of the company and how they fit into it. If they answer is yes, we need to remove roadblocks. As a startup, roadblocks typically include a need for human capital, budget limitations, and autonomy. That being said, there are three specific and unique things that we do at Soma to provide clarity around our mission and keep employees motivated:

See also: The Secret to Making Your Employees Work Harder

Get everyone out of the office — every six weeks
We hold two company off-sites per quarter to provide clarity on the company vision and strategy, and the opportunity to bond as a team. At the beginning of each quarter, we get out of San Francisco. We rent a beautiful property on the beach or in the mountains and we review everything from our mission to our values. We also participate in bonding activities like cooking competitions, yoga, hikes, and the occasional lip sync battle. Mid-quarter, we spend one day together — outside of the office — assessing progress on the goals we set six weeks earlier. Both of our off-sites are focused primarily on clarifying Soma’s vision to hydrate the world and how each employee is contributing this goal.

Work anywhere, anytime
No one likes to be micromanaged, this is nothing new. But what is often overlooked is that the normal work environment has limitations, even if micromanagement is eliminated. The internal processes of most companies (meetings, office design, work hours, etc.) are usually tolerable, but certainly not preferred. That’s why we give everyone at Soma the opportunity to work however, and wherever, they want. Of course, face-to-face interaction is necessary, but anytime an employee needs to check out and recalibrate, they’re free to work from home or their favorite coffee shop. Giving autonomy to employees not only produces higher productivity, it also reminds everyone that they are their own bosses and we trust their judgment to decide what will make them work most efficiently.

Empower health and wellness
There’s one risk that comes with getting a bunch of high-achievers together: they won’t take the time to take care of themselves. That’s why we provide a number of health-and-wellness programs that are convenient and affordable. One of the key attributes of the Soma culture is vibrancy. It’s the metric we use to gauge health and wellness in the office. Do people have energy, optimism, and that discernable glow that happens when both one’s mind and body are nourished?

To make sure this is the case, we have ongoing initiatives to increase vibrancy, such as Monday meditations to kick start our week. Additionally, we also have a seven-minute bootcamp workout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We play loud music, move around, laugh, and remind ourselves not to be too serious. All it takes is seven minutes to get us energized again. We also hold walking meetings. When you live in California, it doesn’t make sense to spend most of your working hours at your desk when you could be enjoying sunshine and fresh air. This is one of those things that simple, easy, and requires no planning — just enough leadership to let everyone know this is a good alternative to sitting in a conference room.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Great ResignationClimate ChangeLeadershipInflationUkraine Invasion