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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

These days, in a world with extraordinary advances in the workplace, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Learning how to motivate employees is more important than ever if you want a productive workplace, and it certainly isn’t receiving the attention it deserves. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

Only 12 percent of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation.” Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. And 53% of Americans are unhappy at work[1].

Archaic management and HR structures are the root cause.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It’s not impossible to learn how to motivate employees as a manager, and it’s important if you want to keep them happy and motivated.

Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity.

1. Run Your Team Like a Lean Startup

The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been used all over the globe[2]. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable. Some of the key pieces are explained below.

Encourage Your Employees

When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic, develop genuine trust, and enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

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Note that increasing the competency level of employees and offering positive feedback along the way is key. You, as a manager, need to do the same. Nourish your brain, and get a mentor that will keep you at the top of your game.

Offer Rewards

Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at were great at rewarding employees, not just with fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations. If you really want to know how to motivate employees, employee recognition is key.

The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fundraiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

In a world of instant messages, having a conversation about performance, likes, and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

Give Autonomy

Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world.”

Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting to inspire team motivation. Give them access to the knowledge, people, and resources that help them make important choices.

Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck and interject yourself as a benevolent leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations. Allow the employee to perform in the best way possible without someone looking over their shoulder.

2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

Robin Sharma (a leadership adviser) suggests using the 90/90/1 rule to help improve productivity. Here are the main aspects of the rule.

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Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to an Important Project

For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and to help learn how to motivate employees.

We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning, which robs our focus. Mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and click away from your Instagram feed.

Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business.

Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

A To-Do Scheduling System

Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards[3].

The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do,” “Doing,” and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other.

Use a Kanban board to learn how to motivate your employees.

    I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first-out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate and then take on what will truly move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

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    With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes, and leave the sizzling steak?

    Approach your work with a weighted vengeance, and encourage your team to do the same.

    3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

    The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy, and passion.

    You can check out this article to learn how to connect passion and purpose.

    “The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” —Richard Leider

    An ace team-member once told me that, while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person and did not want to sit behind a desk, sifting through lines of code.

    What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is that she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests, which allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

    Here’s what you can do when you want to learn how to motivate your employees with these ideas in mind.

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    Ask If They Like What They’re Doing

    If a team member is frustrated, unmotivated, or not performing in the best way possible, one of the questions you should ask is if they feel good doing what they’re doing. Then, genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether it’s in the same team/company or not).

    There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion, and help pave the way for your team to do the same to increase job satisfaction overall.

    “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” -Steve Jobs

    The Bottom Line

    Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive work environments. Some will climb out of it, but it is incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employees.

    Teach them the ropes. Advise them as you would yourself. Let them lead and make mistakes. Do not fear them, but make them the leader you would want to become.

    For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

    Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

    More on How to Motivate Employees

    Featured photo credit: Clayton Cardinalli via unsplash.com

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    Shabbir Evershine

    Foodie, techie, travel buff, bibliophile, and founder @ proptech startup —some days, I’m all 5.

    How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity Top 10 Leadership Tips from My Geek Trip

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

    The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

    Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

    In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

    When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

    Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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    1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

    When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

    As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

    That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

    The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

    What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

    Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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    There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

    So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

    2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

    When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

    No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

    3. Move Your Body

    A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

    It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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    So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

    4. Connect With Another Person

    Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

    One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

    Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

    5. Use Your Imagination

    When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

    That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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    And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

    Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

    Final Thoughts

    Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

    Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

    More on the Importance of Taking a Break

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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