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Top 10 Ways To Motivate Your Dev Team To Go The Extra 10%

Motivation is a tough nut to crack. If we all worked just when we were motivated to work, not much would get done. However, as a team lead it is important to keep your developers focused and keep their eye focused on the finish line in order to get the projects done on time and on budget.

Although self-motivation is difficult, it is well within your power to motivate others to perform at their highest levels.

Top 10 Ways To Motivate Your Dev Team To Go The Extra 10%

1. Give More And Require Less

Cash incentives are often seen as ineffective for motivating your team. If giving a bonus for good work actually encourages speed and quality is debatable. What is an absolute motivation killer, however, is not feeling valued. Whether a developer, or corporate employee for an insurance firm, have you ever held a job where you felt underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked? How likely were you to go “above and beyond” in that job? Probably not very likely.

Pay your people what they are worth. If you want high output from your development team it is vitally important to pay them competitively for the skill and expertise they bring to the table. If your star developer is worried about putting food on the table, he’s not going to be able to give his all to your project. If he feels that his input is far greater than what he gets out of the work, he’s not going to be motivated to go the extra 10% for you.

A great way to kill your developer’s spirit is by underpaying him and putting an unending laundry list of demands upon him. I’m not saying don’t challenge him and don’t get people who work hard, but there is a drastic difference between taking advantage of someone and pushing someone to excel.

2. Provide Them With A Secure Place To Work

I can hear you already, “My developer works remotely! It’s out of my hands…” Nope! You’re wrong. Keep reading to find out how you can foster a secure workplace even for remote workers.

Job security is paramount. Your developer won’t be able to let his guard down to focus solely on your projects if he feels replaceable. He will always have a foot out the door looking for other opportunities to hedge in case you decide to give him the axe. So, how can you convey to your developer that they’re here to stay?

Give your developers the resources and tools required to do the job and keep them informed about important issues and changes. I’ve worked on plenty of teams where we were left in the dark while management made decisions behind closed doors because “we didn’t need to know, just yet.” These decisions impact the whole team. Keeping them in the dark until you need them to do something makes them feel like an impersonal automaton ingesting orders and executing lists of tasks.

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Create a positive atmosphere and culture. Don’t be afraid to praise good work. Someone who is good at his job still likes to be told he’s good at his job. I used to think it was funny when I got praised for completing a job exactly as I was expected to. After all, it’s what I was supposed to do. On the flipside, it’s demoralizing to continually do good work without being given a little recognition. Especially if team leads and management are quick to point out shortcomings and errors without positive feedback on what you’re doing right.

Get creative when it comes to downsizing. There are unavoidable moments when costs start to mount and it looks like you’ll have to eliminate peronsel. This is when you protect your team the most. Don’t look at your dev team as the chaff, they’re the wheat! Are there other areas you can cut costs before dissecting your team? The goal is for your dev team to feel that you are doing everything in your power to keep them.

3. Empower Your Dev Team Through Opportunities For Self-Development

Encourage development and further learning. Encourage your dev team to stay up to date with the latest industry news, trends, tools and to learn additional programming languages. When individuals learn new skills, it’s better for the team as a whole. If you’re in a position to help your developers with scholarships, training, or paying for certification tests, you’ll convey to them that they are highly valued and you support their continued professional evolution. This also fosters an environment of improvement – how can we make this better?

By sending signals that you’re looking for developers who are interested in growing professionally, you also encourage them to scrutinize their own work and think about how to do better rather than just “get it done.”

People aren’t inspired by showing up to do the ordinary or by meeting expectations. They are inspired when they can push beyond what they initially thought possible. Give your team opportunities to exceed their own expectations. Give them opportunities beyond the work to grow and acquire more skills thus bolstering their competence and confidence in the field.

4. Team Bonding, Collaboration Within The Team

Encourage communication! As a team lead it isn’t a sign of weakness to ask for feedback from your team. Getting their input shows that you trust their judgment. Let them in on what you do and they’ll probably be more understanding of the hard decisions you might have to make down the line.

Regardless of how you do it, information flow is key to building a connection with your developers. Share your expertise where applicable and don’t be afraid to learn from them. Whether you’re technical or not, showing a vested interest in what they do communicates to them that you understand and appreciate the skill required of them.

Leave room for hilarity! Don’t be afraid to let your team communicate in an informal way. We all need a mental break from challenging work. Our brains need to reset and take a breather. Allowing the team to have an outlet for informal conversation and jokes during working hours will keep them energized and happy to work that extra 10% when needed.

5. Encourage Your Developers

Team leadership is like parenting. Without a good balance of encouragement and correction, your team is likely to get tripped up somewhere. One way you can encourage developers is through small unexpected gestures of kindness. You know they have an anniversary or birthday coming up send them a gift card for a dinner and a movie.

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Most of us don’t expect a boss or supervisor to view us as individuals with complex and rich personal lives. We often feel like a means to an end. Shattering this barrier by unexpectedly treating your devs like humans can do a lot in encouraging them to go that extra 10% for you when required.

Share the praise and never shift the blame. Speak highly of your talented team. You know you can’t get it done without them so brag. Talk like a proud parent and report back to your team when a client or superior speaks highly of the work they do. Share the praise. Conversely, keep the blame to yourself. Don’t shift negative client comments onto them, or point fingers. Using them as scapegoats will make you look incompetent in your client’s eyes, and blaming your development team will create an adversarial dynamic between you.

6. Correct Privately and Praise Publicly

You won’t be successful in nurturing a recognition-rich working environment if you’re also punishing mistakes. What does this mean? First, a mistake is a mistake. It is unintended and it is counter productive to punish them for it. Punishment doesn’t make someone less likely to make that mistake in the future, but scrutinizing the process that lead to the mistake does. Develop systems to avoid common mistakes and recognize when current systems are flawed. If you need to call attention to an issue with an individual, do it privately.

Fostering a recognition-rich culture where team members of all levels and skill sets actively congratulate one another is important. Be the first to praise high performing individuals, and praise the team when they perform well. You developers will appreciate the gratitude especially if they’re used to less supportive working environments.

7. Set Them Up For Success

I used to work in restaurants. I hated pre-shift lineups because they were plagued with overused phrases like “set yourself up for success” and “opportunities for improvement.” However, what they did do well is communicate to the entire team what the priorities and goals of that night were.

Set clear and incremental goals. Your developers have a huge list of tasks they need to accomplish in order to have a working piece of software, web app, or website. It is your job as a team leader to break down these steps and set realistic expectations for when you expect them to be completed. Setting unrealistic deadlines will not motivate your team, and only set them up to fail consistently and often.

8. Inspire That Extra 10% Don’t Demand It

When you’re inspiring people, you’re not telling them exactly what to do or giving them precise directions. You’re empowering them to be their best. Inspiring your team is probably better verbage to use than “motivating.”

Work in the trenches alongside them. Be an example to your team and share in the sacrifice. No, you’re probably not a developer, which is why you have a team of developers working under you. But, you can inspire your team by showing them that you are an equal participant in their sacrifices. Don’t ask a sacrifice of them, that you are not willing to take part in yourself.

Trust in your ability to hire the right people for the job. Don’t micromanage. If you’ve made the right hiring decisions, then you can trust them to do the job required. Let them work in the best way for them so long as the work gets done. Don’t expect everyone to work the same way you do, don’t expect everyone to address challenges exactly as you would. Trust that you hired intelligent individuals and let them use their own abilities, skills, and creativity to get the job done.

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9. Communicate Better With A Website Bug Tracker

All too often breakdowns occur as a result of poor communication. Especially when you’re interacting with a highly specialized individual in technical fields, it’s way too easy to miscommunicate your ideas. Establish a base level understanding of the words your developers use and know how to speak their language.

Don’t over communicate. Communicating a lot is not necessarily over communication. When your communications do more to hinder progress and distract your developers then you are a perpetrator of over communication. Luckily there are ways around this!

Give regular and clear feedback through web issue tracking tools like The Bug Squasher which allow you communicate visually through screenshots accompanied by text so you can easily get your point across and manage the feedback process in a way that your notes won’t be lost in a chat window or an overfilled email inbox. Use the right tools for the job to communicate better.

10. Speak To The Person

You can’t speak to everyone on your team the same. Well, you physically can, but it doesn’t makes sense. As the team lead, it is your job to know how to best communicate to each individual. Remember, every person is different. Different people are motivated by different things. Some employees would like to be given a challenge to conquer, while others prefer to feel more support and guidance in their day-to-day tasks. Some will require a close working relationship with you, others might need to be left alone for a bit to get the work done.

Appeal to the individual and appeal to their emotions. Your team is more likely to be motivated by positive emotions like excitement and pride or a sense of belonging and the thrill of accomplishment than fear. Using scare tactics is likely to de-motivate and work against your main objectives.

With this in mind, work to your developer’s strengths and give him what he needs to succeed.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of tips and tricks out there to get your workers to do what you want. A lot of them are surface level bonuses and cash incentives. These can work for a period of time, but don’t make for a long-lasting solution. What we’ve found in working with various web developers, software engineers, and designers is the best way to keep your team motivated to go the extra 10% for you is to treat them like a human.

They’ll go the extra 10% for you because you’d do it for them. Getting someone to work hard “for you” is easy when it’s not about you. When you make it about the team and speak to the individual as a unique person rather than a job description, you can inspire them to happily strive beyond what’s expected.

– The Bug Squasher Team

P.S. When you remember that everyone is human and appeal to that human nature, you’ll be amazed how far they’ll go to be a good team member.

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