How the Best Leaders Motivate Their Teams

May 4, 2016, 1:30 AM UTC
Photograph by Robert Daly 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 Rod Drury, CEO at Xero.

Building software is part art, part science. To create beautiful art you need passion and ownership, and the same goes for building beautiful software. At Xero, we’ve grown to more than 1,300 people, spread across the world. As we’ve scaled, we’ve had to invest in our people and carefully think about their career progression to keep them motivated. One productive software developer is better than five unproductive developers combined. So keeping our people motivated and working toward a common goal makes good business sense. Here’s how I rally the troops:

Purpose is everything
Clearly defining your purpose, communicating it effectively, and empowering your employees is one of the purest ways to motivate a team. At Xero, everything we do needs to help boost small business profitability. Here’s why. If small businesses earn more in part because of our products then more jobs are created, ultimately, raising national GDP which means more money to build better schools and hospitals. Better healthcare and education systems promote a stronger labor force and the uplifting cycle continues. It’s a powerful idea and one that is highly motivating.

By articulating your company’s mission and ensuring your products boost that cause, you attract people who align with your purpose. Combining your employees passion with the tools they need to be successful will empower them to do their best work, and ultimately, help your business bottom line.

See also: This Is What Makes a Great Boss

Positive feedback
Empowerment is the key to motivation. For every negative criticism you give, ensure you provide five pieces of positive feedback. Using platforms like Yammer to give every employee a voice and the opportunity to participate in company-wide conversations, which helps instill a sense of ownership no matter whether you’re the CEO or an intern. You can also use platforms like Yammer to keep an eye on what’s happening in and around your organization. It allows you to reinforce great initiatives and correct behavior that’s inconsistent with your strategy or culture.

Being (visibly) wrong is good
If you’re in an organization that is truly centered around learning — filled with smart people — it should be expected that people will either poke holes in your ideas or come up with better ones. It takes humility to admit you’re wrong in such a public setting, but doing so promotes an environment where people aren’t be afraid to fail and encouraged to innovate.

Do the opposite of convention and trust your instincts
It’s easy for large companies to fall into rut and rarely stray from doing the same old thing. But maintaining convention is the quickest way to develop stale teams. In my favorite Seinfeld episode, George Costanza suggests that if every instinct you have is wrong, doing the exact opposite must be right. So don’t be afraid to take risks.

Additionally, when it comes to inspiring your staff common motivators usually include a competitive salary, internal professional development programs, etc. While we do much of this at Xero, we also encourage our staff to mentor employees at up-and-coming startups. Through mentoring they quickly discover they’re already experts in their field and have the ability to make incredible contributions. By using their skills in a new situation, they gain perspective and develop confidence that is valuable for our business.