15 Characteristics of High Achievers You Need to Know


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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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