These are my selected, opinionated and very condensed thoughts on motivating and managing People. If you would like to discuss these topics in more detail, I'm eager to engage.
Motivating people to do difficult things is less about what you do today, and more about what you have been doing the last six months. It is a long-term game, with extreme compounding effects over time for better or worse. Your most valuable efforts to motivate people will be the foundations you've built, and while features are important, around 80% of your efforts should be directed at foundational work. If you get the culture right, the right processes emerge organically. Get it wrong and every motivational effort becomes an uphill fight, and alignment and efficiency becomes esoteric pipe dreams.
The foundations for motivation are: Trust, Mastery and Commonality. The first two are aimed at the individual needs for motivation, while the last mostly focuses on group needs.
This is where we create the basic physical and mental requirements for motivation to thrive. Your first effort — and my choice for most long-term value — is to get all the "boring stuff" in perfect order. This is one of the only areas in business, where a zero-tolerance policy for mistakes actually is worthwhile. Make sure their workspaces — digital and analogue — are safe to work in, salaries are always paid on time & on the dollar, holidays are real — not just a nice hypothetical. Make every HR mistake an opportunity to rehearse emergency procedures, and measure the time to fix them in minutes and seconds, rather than days and hours.
By making sure all the boring stuff approaches perfection, you are communicating your trustworthiness on a very primal and intuitive level. Over time, this becomes an unassailable foundation for trust and increasingly saves you massive costs for prevented risks and better efficiency.
Allow people to become really, really good at what they do, and they will become really, really happy about doing what they do. This means allowing them to make mistakes, and turning those mistakes into shame-free opportunities for everyone to learn from. It means letting them influence, and ultimately control how they work. It means always listening to them — really carefully, because although you might have an overview, they are much closer to the issues than you are.
Helping people achieve mastery is less about sending them on expensive courses, and more about creating the right environmental circumstances. The perfect environment for achieving mastery, consists of autonomy, combined with timely and useful feedback. If done correctly, a positive feedback loop is created, and mastery increases at blistering speeds.
People who feel they are achieving mastery at their work, feel an intrinsic and deep bond with work that will outlast any challenge they meet. If you instead constantly micro-manage people, you are robbing those people of the ability to achieve mastery, and will thus fail at cultivating great people.
Being part of a group is a very primal, but sometimes also complicated affair. It can give us support and be our safe space, but it can also mercilessly bully us and be our prison. In most of human history, both effects had strong evolutionary merits, but in a contemporary company trying to achieve greatness, the former is orders of magnitude more important than the latter. As such, creating a functional group structure that supports its members and their missions is absolutely critical for success.
A popular way of attempting success in groups, is by creating rules — or rather constantly introducing more and more rules as problems arise. More problems? More rules! Rules can be implemented quickly, and gives management a sort of absolvement from the consequences of those problems. But they rarely work — as intended at least. Most often due to a failure to recognize and differentiate between actual problems and the symptoms arising from the problems. Most rules are focused on eliminating symptoms, and thus unlikely to solve the actual problem, and also adds complexity to an already non-trivial challenge.
An effective way of creating success in groups, is by creating commonality — a shared concept of what defines the group. Just as culture creates process on its own — commonality creates your culture. Or more precisely, if you get commonality right, getting the culture right becomes orders of magnitude easier, which in turn drastically increases the probability of ending up with the right processes.
Earn their trust.
Let them become masters of their domain.
Find and develop your common values.