Often, we don’t articulate what we expect from our team members; this leads to disappointment, frustration, and feeling like our team members are incompetent.
We don’t set expectations because we’re afraid of people thinking we’re micromanagers; and we overestimate the abilities and competence of junior people.
The solution is simple: Each time we assign a task or action, we should articulate why the task is necessary and its overall objective, define what good looks like, and state when we want the work done. If possible, we should provide examples of similar work.
Continue to provide feedback when expectations aren’t met and encourage our employees to speak up if they have questions about the expectations of an assignment.
Feedback Is a Gift You Need, Maybe Not One You Want
Your job as a manager is to provide constructive, timely feedback. You will hurt your employee’s long-term career prospects if you do not provide feedback.
We are terrible at giving feedback because we want to be liked and we know that individuals have a hard time receiving feedback.
We are terrible at receiving feedback because we are biologically hardwired to run away from threats to our ego; we also believe our performance is better than it typically is.
Effective feedback starts from a place of data and objectivity and provides actionable modifications to behavior at the end of the feedback.
Great managers also actively solicit feedback from their team members; praise and reward those team members who show courage in giving hard feedback.
Just do it. If there is one thing you take away from this chapter, it’s that you should just start giving feedback. It will be awkward at first, but the important thing is that you start doing it.
Managing Performance Anxiety
It’s important for you, as a manager, to be comfortable putting your team members on performance improvement plans when they are not meeting expectations of performance.
When assessing someone’s performance, there are subconscious biases that may inhibit us from being completely objective with how someone is performing; these include the ladder of inference, attribution theory, and confirmation bias.
A good PIP has a defined timeline and is concise: it should focus on three to four areas of improvement and a short set of clear action items for the person to work toward.
Along with a clear process, you can create a positive culture toward PIPs by celebrating when an individual comes off of a PIP and holding up positive examples of when a PIP was helpful.
The Trifecta of Motivation: Achievement, Power, and Affiliation
Each of us is motivated by a mixture of three basic needs. Most of us have a dominant need that primarily drives how we are motivated.
Understanding one’s dominant need helps to understand what is motivating to the individual, and specifically how to structure work, provide praise, and reward performance.
The three needs are achievement, power, and affiliation. Someone with a deep need for achievement is motivated by setting and accomplishing goals and showing progress. Someone with a deep need for power cares about their ability to influence and compete. And someone with a deep need for affiliation cares about their community and being liked by those around them.
What’s the best way to figure out your team members’ dominant needs? Start by just asking them. You could also use a motivation intake form to help facilitate a conversation around motivation.
The three needs are just a starting point for understanding the complex topic of motivation.
Goal Interrupted: The Good and the Bad of Setting Goals
Goal setting is a powerful tool that can help motivate teams and drive productive behavior.
Goals can also create unintended consequences, including unethical behavior, a myopic view of the organization, and a failure to innovate.
Furthermore, in start-ups, annual goals are often wildly mismatched with how the business operates: static goals don’t align to a dynamic and quick-changing environment.
When setting goals with your team members, make sure you are aware of the upsides and downsides of goals, and be okay with not using goals to help motivate and guide action.
The Complications of Compensation
Compensation motivates your team, but often not in ways that are rational, and there are times when paying people more money might demotivate them.
Be careful about taking money away from individuals or expecting a small amount of money to be a huge motivator. This is because of loss aversion—the concept that people are much more upset about losing money than they are excited about an equivalent gain.
Individuals put much more value on relative pay than absolute pay, a concept known as equity theory. Thus, an individual would rather make less money if it means that his peers are making the same amount as him.
We care more about how decisions are made than the outcome of the decision. It’s important to clearly articulate the compensation process and ensure that your team members respect and are bought into that process.
A well-defined compensation philosophy that aligns with your company culture and clearly articulates why choices are made regarding how you pay people will help to ensure that compensation is motivating.
The Heavyweight Title Fight
Promotions and titles are a great motivator, especially for team members who are driven by achievement and power.
Yet a sloppy approach to promotions and titles can ultimately hurt the person being promoted, hurt your ability to recruit other team members, and hurt your ability to motivate the rest of your team.
The case for a promotion is made when an individual shows competence and success in their role, performs better than their peers, and when there is a new set of responsibilities and requirements (i.e., a new role) that the organization needs.
Be clear with your team about what is required for a promotion and set the expectation that promotions won’t happen quickly or willy-nilly. If possible, develop a competency matrix that helps to outline what is required at each level of the organization.
Be thoughtful about titles, and don’t use titles as a negotiating tactic; rather, err on the side of caution with titles, as it’s easier to bring in someone more senior when you haven’t given away all of your senior titles.
Making Work Meaningful
As a manager, you can help your team member find meaning in their day-to-day work. You can do this in how you design and structure roles, and how your team frames and perceives their work.
There are five design choices that make a job meaningful: task significance, task identity, skill variety, autonomy, and feedback. Often, little things you do as a manager can impact those five factors.
Job crafting is a tool used to help team members reframe how they think about their daily activities and how they align with their broader motives and purpose.
There’s No Crying in Baseball
Emotions are a tricky topic in the workplace—we are often encouraged to hide our feelings, often to the detriment of bringing our authentic selves to our jobs.
Emotional labor occurs when the inner emotions someone feels don’t match the outer emotions someone is expected to express. Lots of emotional labor can cause stress and burnout at work.
Emotional contagion is the immediate and subconscious spread of emotions between people. Emotional contagion is particularly impactful on a team, where one little negative emotion can quickly create a collective negative emotion of the whole team.
As a manager, you should be aware of these concepts, and make sure your team members can express their true emotions, but also protect the organization from quickly spreading emotions.
In sum, feelings are everywhere. Be gentle.
Talk Is Not Cheap
As organizations grow, communication often suffers, and employees no longer have access to the information that they used to.
The most important aspect of communication as a manager is to just make sure you are doing it. And make sure you are doing it often and repeatedly.
Oftentimes, our team members struggle with our communication of information because of misaligned expectations. Clarifying what will be communicated and what will not be communicated is important.
Our words matter when we communicate to our teams. Words that are specific can help team members feel more committed and closer to our organization’s mission.
Other ways to ensure you are communicating enough include formalizing a weekly team email, committing to summaries of key meetings, and building an internal communications strategy that the team is aware of.