Leaders Remember: Motivation is 90% Connection


In a prior blog I had talked about people needing to know what’s expected of them in their job in order to feel a sense of belonging and ongoing motivation. I also believe that 90% of the remaining structure of motivation exists if your employees feel connected.

Brene Brown’s quote sums up connection the best I’ve seen: “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

In your people strategy, start-ups must make sure they are taking time to listen to their employees. Start-up founders are swamped, and oftentimes spread in dozens of different directions. However, they must make a conscious effort to continue to interact with, and seek out, their employees. Their employees must feel they can be open in their communication, that their words are heard in a “safe place”, and that their words are valued.

One mistake I’ve seen multiple scaleups make is sacrificing connectivity with employees for growth of the business. They will argue that it’s a cultural shift when they’re large enough, for example, to hire in senior management who may not take the time to interact with employees like the founders did. I’ve heard many times about the growing pains businesses go through when they shift day-to-day leaders from people-oriented to results-driven leaders. Company numbers may look better, but oftentimes there is an undercurrent of negative culture at play. Results-driven leadership must connect with the employees and take the time to show they value them and their input, or the culture will suffer, leading to a lack of motivation. All of which will ultimately lead to turnover for the organization.

On the other hand, if day-to-day leaders in scaleups take the time to connect with their employees, even at a minimum, the impact on motivation is marked. For example, slacking an employee, “Hey, can we do a quick slack call? I just want to check in.” or stopping by an employee’s workspace, making eye contact, and saying, “How’s it going today? You doing alright? Do you have everything you need, or can I help at all?”. It may lead to a 10 second response or a 10 minute response – so leader, make sure you have a few minutes to give – but those check ins are huge to motivation because your employees feel heard, valued, and connected to you as their voice of the organization. Any company at any phase of their life cycle should have their leaders take the time to do this regularly, as “Focused Attention drives Engagement” (Gallup).