Besides the usual individual motivations like fair compensation, mentoring, opportunities for self improvement, setting clear goals, and positive reinforcement, here are some not-so-obvious, but proven ways, to motivate teams at your firm.
1. Have daily stand-ups – Choose a time of day for the team to meet–both in-person and online for remote workers–where each member shares what they’re working on that day, what they worked on yesterday, and what, if anything, is in their way. This keeps everyone informed, accountable, and on-task. It also fosters team familiarity and unity. Everyone stands up so that the meeting zips by – one to two minutes per team member. Check out: How Do I Do A Daily Stand-Up Meeting?
2. Reading time allotment and budget – Reimburse team members for one book a month related to the work they do and allow them time during work hours–even if it’s one hour a week–to read. The time could also be spent reading related blogs. This empowers team members to explore new ideas and identify industry trends and leaders and learn from them. Expand your daily stand-ups one day a week to briefly discuss what each team member learned.
3. Collaborate on a blog or writing project – Nothing brings a team together like collaborating on a project and starting a blog or newsletter or something firm-wide or public facing that will ensure everyone contributes their top effort. No one wants to look bad online or let down their team. And if someone says they can’t write, show them their Facebook and Twitter feeds. In today’s digital world, everyone is a writer.
4. Reward failure – Rewarding failure instead of punishing it encourages people to take risks they wouldn’t otherwise take. As one Google X Lab employee explains, “You must reward people for failing. If not, they won’t take risks and make breakthroughs. If you don’t reward failure, people will hang on to a doomed idea for fear of the consequences.”
5. Don’t constantly measure every process – Metrics driven decisions help improve processes and grow companies, but adhering strictly to “if you don’t measure it you can’t manage (or improve) it” can sap the energy and creativity of employees and an entire team. Beware of spending more time measuring the work than planning or producing it. And recognize, even encourage, creative, intuitive, processes that get results but are difficult to measure.
6. You hire smart people, let them loose – Too often, smart, creative people are nuzzled soon after being hired. Or, they’re expected to conform to a certain way of doing things. What a waste! Company executives and team leaders need to let go of the “correct” way of doing things and let the bright people do their thing. While being held accountable, of course.
7. Host an office olympics – Few team building exercises bring out the competitive and creative spirit more than sports. The team sport here involves idea generation, presentation, and execution. See: Law Firm Team Building and Leadership with Office Olympics.
8. Have a “quiet” room – Meditation is all the rage these days. Because it works. See Jeena Cho’s How To Meditate: A Guide For Lawyers and her blog and podcast at The Anxious Lawyer. But many aren’t motivated to meditate when they get home after work. Instead, have a “quiet” room for guided team meditations.
9. Give credit for ideas – You’d think this would be one of the more common ways leaders motivate teams but in today’s fast-paced environment, good ideas get presented and adopted without proper acknowledgement. Sure, you’re operating and succeeding as a team, but a quick hat-tip goes a long way in making team members feel appreciated while challenging others to come up with their own ideas.
Many of these practices are standard in startups and legal technology companies where today’s killer idea and implementation quickly fades into tomorrow’s old news. Where it’s all about producing results, not just occasionally but every day, and finding ways to make sure teams do just that. After more than four years in legal tech, I often envision how lessons learned would have made my decade heading up a couple of departments in a law firm more effective. Because that’s where law firms are today. It’s a buyer’s market for legal services and firms have to adapt and produce and show results. These team-motivating practices help.