August 10, 2018
Working on big ideas with your best people can be the key to innovation, but it can lead to burnout. Here’s 5 ways to manage the process without burning out your talent.Our company makes software that powers online event registration and fundraising for thousands of companies. Since founding, we have processed over one billion dollars on behalf of our customers. In January of 2015, we released a brand new version of our software that took us over 3 years to build. In our industry, that’s an eternity.
Big ideas take a lot of time and so much happens between the spark of an idea and the actual launch. One of the biggest threats to success is burning out your team on your way to the finish line. If you’re working on a big idea that requires your best people, here are 5 ways we learned to manage the process from start to finish.
Conventional wisdom suggests that setting your sights too high will lead to failure. However, when motivating your team, there is something special about setting audacious goals that invigorates people. It explains why thousands of people travel around the world to climb Mount Kilimanjaro when they could hike their local grassy knoll instead. If you want to draw the best out of your team, you need to captivate their passion by casting a big vision. Don’t be afraid to make it meaningful, significant and venturesome.
When we work on a big new feature, it’s not unusual to tie bonuses to various stages of completion. Complacency is an innovation killer. Your team can be easily demoralized if there is no marginal benefit to them. Add some extra motivation by setting rewards and bounties for key milestones. Competition is fun and has the added benefit of creating newness throughout each stage of the project.
If your team goes too long without successfully accomplishing a task, project fatigue can set it. This is especially true if your team gets stuck on a complicated task. When we get stuck, we pull back and work on something smaller that we can check off the list. The satisfaction of completing a task goes a long way in resetting morale. It’s amazing how often we can get unstuck on the larger task simply by taking a break and working on something else. As a team leader, you can coordinate the project tasks to regularly find quick wins so that the team can feel like they are always moving forward.
Your team wants to do great work. Yet part of the challenge of doing great work is avoiding the trap of perfectionism. Pursuit of perfection can lead to long delays, rewrites and paralysis by analysis. In keeping the project moving forward and keeping everyone energized, be okay making temporary tradeoffs to reach completeness rather than perfection. It’s better to improve on completed work than hold the team up to get that small thing perfect.
After our team reached the first beta version of our new version, we celebrated big! We flew the whole team, plus their spouses and kids, to Costa Rica to work, surf and play for a month. All expenses were included. For several team members, it was their first time out of the country ever. The result of celebrating big with your team is enormous satisfaction, pride and a strong sense of community.
Applying these concepts has been transformational for our company. Our team is motivated and eager to work on big, new ideas. Because we can testify firsthand that these concepts work, we encourage you to apply them to yourself and your team. As always, let us know what you think and what else works for you in the comments below.