Q: How can the CEO/COO inspire/organize employees to work harder?

First, let’s be clear here.  Working “harder” doesn’t work.  Working better does.  Maximizing the high-quality productivity of your team — without burning them out.

There are no magic answers here, but a few things sort of always work:

  • Incentives. Put as many folks on an incentive plan as you can. Sales naturally has an incentive plan with a bonus structure. What about marketing? What about customer success? Magic happens when folks have variable comp. They spend 50% of their time doing what it takes to hit the bonus plan. A related post here. Also don’t make the mistake of not having an incentive plan for folks that don’t care that much about money. They still will respond to the incentive plan. Just as much, often.
  • Everyone Having Core Goals to Hit — and Report Against. Have everyone have 1–2 core goals to hit and report progress each week. Folks will be motivated to show progress here. They’ll work harder. When you are bigger, this is where OKRs and all that come in. But in the earlier days, every employee can just have a Core Weekly Goal and ideally a dashboard to report against.
  • Don’t hire mediocre people. This is easy to say, but it’s true. The mediocre just don’t work that hard. Everyone sees that … and they in turn work less hard. Mediocre folks aren’t just less productive themselves. They bring down everyone else’s productivity as well.
  • Judge folks on results, not hours. This actually will inspire the best folks to work harder. See point #2 above on everyone having a quantitative, weekly goal
  • Promote the top performers — early.  Promote the ones that make a difference early.  It’s OK if it’s a half stage too early.  They will drive the rest of the team to excellence, and attract and hire top performers.  A bit more on that here.
  • Hire just one truly great VP.  This alone just has a magical effect.  Just adding one great VP that truly is better than almost any other leader on the team just makes everyone stand up and take notice.  And realize they have to do better.  A great VP also quickly recruiters a few stellar team members.
  • Show them success. This is subtler, but it also inspires the team. Show them that one great sales rep can make a ton of money. That your largest customers doubles their deal size. Momentum doesn’t motivate every employee. But it helps.

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