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How To Motivate Your Startup Team Without Carrots or Sticks

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With limited funding and resources, a startup has to stay results-focused while racing against rapidly changing market conditions, consumer demands and overnight competitors. Founders and other business leaders have plenty to do without micromanaging employees — especially when they should have their eyes on the prize and not over their employees’ shoulders.

Without constant supervision, how do you keep your team focused on results?

It all begins with accountability. When the organization values personal responsibility and integrity, people work with focus and autonomy. But accountability only works if everyone agrees to it and holds others to their own commitments.

There should be an unspoken agreement that every employee will work diligently towards completing their goals. This is not merely an agreement between employees and managers, it must exist in every relationship in the organization.

Is it better to be feared or trusted?

Intimidation doesn’t solicit authentic accountability, and any sense of responsibility born of fear won’t last long. Sure, people will get their work done, but it isn’t self-motivated. They’ll only perform to the point where they won’t incur your wrath.

Instead, establish trust with the team. Trust is at the center of accountability. It leads to self-motivated individual engagement aligned with a mission. Foster relationships founded on trust with managers and peers because most people show up more for other people than they do for themselves.

Entrepreneurs looking to gain trust should consider how they communicate with employees. By regularly asking your team questions, you invite them to communicate their big wins, their innovative ideas and the places where they’re stuck. You instill a sense of ownership in your talented team.

Employee engagement and accountability emerges when your people feel heard and supported. Employees must be committed to their jobs from a place of desire, not fear. They’ll be more engaged and show up as accountable, reliable people.

Be the change

How valuable is your word? Without having integrity and demonstrating that you hold yourself accountable, no one else will feel the need to live up to their commitments and follow through on their duties. A leader willing to say, “I dropped the ball on this initiative” welcomes the same candor from everyone else at the company.

You can’t hold someone accountable unless an expectation is clearly voiced ahead of time and updated regularly as projects and responsibilities change. Without well articulated goals, employees quickly get frustrated. And frustrated employees stare longingly at the exit sign.

Have regular conversations and let everyone on the team know what’s expected of individual and collective efforts. Meet weekly to realign everyone around their goals. Give and receive regular feedback so expectations remain clear. If you wait until an employee’s annual performance review to discuss accountability issues, you’re way behind the curve.

Accentuate the positives

Managers dread having the tough conversations with employees. No one ever wants to resort to punitive measures for poor performance. The fear of embarrassment or termination is the worst type of motivation and can often stifle the creativity you need from employees. Fear can motivate, but it will never inspire.

Positive reinforcement and constant support work better than intimidation or the fear of being fired. Offer compliments, acknowledgments and rewards when others live up to their word and perform exceptional work. When employees know their manager supports them, they’re more likely to be fully engaged in their daily tasks.

You can’t always throw carrots around the office, and sticks don’t motivate. But by giving and receiving regular feedback in a culture that highly values trust and accountability, people will naturally show-up more engaged, empowered and driven to do their best.

David Hassell is Founder and CEO of 15Five, a SaaS company with a powerful and simple solution that gathers critical insights from employees in minutes each week, enabling informed management to get the visibility they need to boost engagement and drive alignment across their entire team.

This post originally appeared on Brazen Careerist.

How do you inspire your team to do their best work? Leave us a comment below.