Editor’s note: “The First 90 Days” is a series about how to make 2016 a year of breakout growth for your business. Let us know how you’re making the first 90 days count by joining the conversation on social media with the hashtag #Inc90Days.
Most leaders realize that they can’t meet their ambitious growth goals by themselves.
For that, they need other people. But leaders worth their salt also know that not just any people will do.
Companies need to hire the right people and treat them in a way that motivates them to do the right things to hit your company’s targets.
Turning that sentence into reality is a gigantic challenge.
And there may be no better time than now to make sure you are overcoming that challenge with aplomb.
Indeed your company’s survival may depend on it.
Here are eight questions to ask yourself and my thoughts on how you can answer them in a way that will boost your people’s motivation in the next 90 days.
1. Does your company have a culture?
Many CEOs who excel at inventing technology are not big believers in the idea of culture.
But if they aren’t, they should step out of the CEO role and let someone take over who appreciates culture’s power to motivate.
Culture is a set of values that a CEO holds dear. They might include giving great customer service or delivering on commitments.
But if a culture is going to motivate the way people act, leaders must tell stories that show the power of those values. Even more importantly, leaders must behave in ways that show their people how to make those values real.
If you’re not doing all these things now, get started today.
2. Does your culture win long-term customer relationships?
Of course, not just any set of values will do.
Your startup needs values and actions that boost its value. And one sure way to make a company more valuable is to have employees who are motivated to build relationships with customers that last a long time.
To do that, make sure your culture values going the extra mile to create products that give customers a better value than rivals.
And see to it that everyone in the company will do what is needed to identify customer problems and solve them quickly and correctly.
Such a culture will not only motivate the right people — but it will ultimately yield them a bigger pot at the end of the rainbow.
3. Do your people understand the culture?
If you have the right culture, your people must understand it.
That understanding flows from the leader’s direct interactions with people. Leaders should communicate the culture to new hires — telling stories of successes and failures that illustrate the power of those values.
Leaders should meet with their employees regularly and start those meeting with a reminder of the company’s values and recent updates on how those values helped the company grow.
Leaders should also reward employees who go out of their way to act in accordance with those values.
If you are not doing these things, plan now how you will communicate your culture over the next 90 days.
4. Do you act in a way that gives your culture meaning?
Nothing is more de-motivating to people than listening to a leader lecture about values and then act in a way that opposes their meaning.
In short, if you are not behaving in visible ways — large and small — that illuminate your commitment to your company’s culture, your employees will not perform at their best and they won’t care about your goals for the company.
Of all these ways to boost motivation, none would be more effective than assuring that you are living your company’s values in a way that makes it clear to your people how important they are to its success.
5. Do your people fit your culture?
If you have a well-defined culture, your entire company is at risk if you have employees who do not fit.
Such individuals have the potential to poison the well for the rest of your people while you are not watching them.
Another way to boost motivation for your people is to take the time to find such people, tell them that they need to change the way they conduct themselves if they want to stay, and offer them the door if they don’t take the hint.
Managing out people who don’t fit your culture — if communicated and handled properly — can boost motivation for those who do.
6. Do you use your culture to hire and promote?
Once you have a culture, make sure that you use its core values to recruit people.
You can do that by making sure that all hiring managers ask questions that help them see whether potential hires really share those values.
One good test of a such cultural buy-in is whether a potential employee is willing to accept a pay cut to work for your company.
You should also use your culture as a tool to help you promote people. The ideal candidates for a bigger job are the ones who meet their numerical goals in a way that shows the power of your company’s culture.
7. Are you transparent?
People get nervous if you tend to hide in your office with the door closed.
You should spend time talking with people at all levels of your company. Tell them how the company is doing financially, what new customers it’s winning, new products that will boost the company’s growth, and company setbacks and what you are doing to overcome them.
If you’re not doing this already, start now. And if you want more motivate people, stay transparent through good times and bad.
8. Do you listen?
Leaders must listen well. And that’s particularly hard because people will be tempted to tell you what they think you want to hear — which is that everything is going great thanks to their efforts.
If you want motivated employees, you have to make them comfortable telling you about their challenges and how they are trying to overcome them. You ought to listen without judgment and think about how you can make their lives better.
These eight tips can be boiled down to one idea — people want to work for leaders who serve them well.