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Engage Your Team

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify what motivates each of your team members.
  • Structure your weekly 1:1s with your employees to include big picture discussions.
  • Select the most fitting way to reward and recognize your employees.

What Motivates Employees

If your parents ever “motivated” you to clean your room by promising extra dessert at dinner, you’ve experienced the power of motivation. While you might not be able to bribe your employees with treats, unlocking your employees’ motivations helps you frame projects, ideas, and conversations in a way that excites them to do their jobs well.

Of course, identifying what makes your employees feel fulfilled is going to be more challenging than offering them an ice cream sandwich. It takes time, honest conversations, and a flexibility to understand what makes your reports tick. Take a cue from expert Dan Pink in learning just how important the right kind of motivation is to achieving growth.

What Dan Pink says can be packaged into a rad acronym to AMP up your team!

Employees want:

  • Autonomy—the ability to work independently and be self-directed
  • Mastery—opportunities to get better at what they do
  • Purpose—a belief and sense that their work contributes to something bigger

By AMPing your approach to your employees and getting out of their way you are giving them the opportunity to be their best selves and do their best work. With a sense of greater purpose in mind, they’ll enjoy devoting time and effort to making a measurable impact and true difference in their work. That’s a win-win-win situation.

At Salesforce, AMPing up our teams is ingrained into our Salesforce Ohana culture and great management characteristics. When it comes to autonomy, our managers motivate and champion employees by enabling team members to determine how to complete their work. And it’s not just the how, but also the where, because employees have the flexibility to work at home when needed or use different spaces on our campus to find a quiet area or collaborate to get work done.

To promote mastery, we offer our employees opportunities to advance their skill sets through training and development opportunities. When it comes to purpose, our V2MOM process helps employees align and connect their work in a meaningful way to the company-wide goals. And our Salesforce Ohana values help our employees walk the talk of making our work environment and the world around us a better place.

We believe so strongly in these principles that we’ve made them core to our employee value proposition (EVP), our promise of what employees can expect from us in exchange for their time and talents.

Part 1: Do meaningful work (mission, vision, strategy); Part 2: With good peple in a good envrionment (culture, values, vibe); Part 3: And be fairly rewarded for it (rewards, growth, taking care of ourselves and others)

Employees are motivated by:
At Salesforce, this translates to:
The opportunity to do meaningful work
Employees being able to connect to their individual work and impact to the company’s vision and success in a meaningful way.
Working in a good environment with good people
Working within our #SalesforceOhana culture with great co-workers.
Being fairly rewarded for it
Opportunities to grow careers, take care of oneself and others, and get paid fairly.

Whether it’s by applying the Dan Pink principles or bringing to life your employee value proposition, when your team feels supported, excited, and rewarded by their work, you effectively motivate them to work hard and be their best selves.

In addition to supporting autonomy, mastery, and purpose, here are a few more best practices for motivating your employees.

  • Make spending quality time with your employees a priority.
  • Show your appreciation for a job well done.
  • Flex your approach to a person’s style and work preferences.
  • Become a better listener.
  • Find opportunities for employees to shine and grow.
  • Provide visibility, rationale, and input into decision making.
  • Give credit where credit is due.

These all sound like common sense practices, but as you know, common sense is not always common practice. Check your team self-assessment and see how well you’ve been implementing these motivation best practices.

Now that you have a handle on your role in motivating your team and a good sense of where they lie on the engagement spectrum, we’re going to look at how to address engagement on an ongoing basis.

Step 3: Conduct an Engagement Conversation

Sitting down with your employee for a 1:1 conversation is probably baked into your schedule on an ongoing basis. But how often is that conversation focused solely on tactical updates and project development questions?

Engaging your employees means making room for big ideas in your regular 1:1 conversation. We know that when the pressure of a deadline or an important deal is bearing down on you, it’s hard to zoom out from the task at hand.

So how do you set up the conversation? Start by providing context. Make sure that employees know where they fit into the organization, why their role is important, and that you, as their manager, value their efforts. Here’s one way you could open up the dialogue.

“I’d like for us to chat. Your contribution to our team and this company is important. I want to make sure that you feel fulfilled and engaged by what you’re working on.”

Great! Now you’ve created a runway for this conversation to really take off. Your next step is to ask open-ended questions to better understand how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. The questions can target anything from their day-to-day satisfaction to how they feel their current project applies to their career.

  • What else can we do to help you thrive here?
  • Do you like what you’re doing now?
  • What else would you like to be doing in your career?
  • What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
  • What about this position attracted you?
  • What things would you like to do more of in your job?
  • What do you need from me to help stay motivated in your job?

Let them drive the conversation. Make note of the things that provoke a strong reaction, and focus on these areas after the conversation. To wrap things up, circle back to how you opened the conversation.

  • Remind them how they fit into the team and company and why they matter.
  • Reiterate the things that are important to them. Make a point to achieve a few of their requests.
  • Set up a time to have a check-in about your progress toward these engagement goals monthly or quarterly.

If you’re having a check-in, follow-up, or start-to-finish development conversation with your report, here’s how you can use the familiar Stop, Look, Listen safety model to get the most out of the dialogue.

Big stop sign with a hand icon, palm up (halt).

  • Stop—Press pause on “execution mode” to make sure that your employees feel like what they are doing has a purpose and that you’re in alignment on its importance. Not sure how to communicate this?
  • Constantly connect what they are doing now to the company’s vision as a whole.
  • Coach with consideration for the organization at large when you give feedback.
  • When possible, allow an employee to own a project from beginning to end to give a sense of completion.
  • Convey your sense of positivity and excitement for the future as much as possible.
  • Look—Watch people’s body language and responsiveness when they describe how they’re feeling about their current projects. (Remember those tips of what to look for from the last unit.)

Pie chart: 80% for listening.

  • Listen—Observe the 80/20 rule to ensure that your employees are doing the majority (80%) of the talking. Listen for what they are saying (and not saying) to get a sense of their everyday engagement.

If you take the time to listen and understand how your directs are doing, it demonstrates your investment in their growth and future with the company.

Step 4: Make an Engagement Plan and Follow Up

After the meeting, follow up with a thank you email and calendar invite one month later outlining what you spoke about and agreed on. Your employee then trusts that you welcome big thinking and feels more comfortable sharing ideas that go beyond the day-to-day “getting it done.”

And this kind of heads-up thinking helps you spot oncoming disengagement danger. Read on to learn about how recognizing improvement is also an important aspect of strengthening engagement.

Reward and Recognition

Showing some love to your employees when they do something great is one of the easiest and most important things to do as a manager. In a remarkable recent Harvard Business Review and Energy Review report, employees overwhelmingly confirmed the importance of recognition.

  • 53% linked recognition to higher focus.
  • 58% linked recognition to higher engagement.
  • 71% linked recognition with increased enjoyment at work.

In this same study, when employees were asked what their leaders could do more of to help them feel more engaged, 58% said “Give more recognition!” Another recent Harvard study also found that the best performing teams have team members and a manager who give each other six times more recognition than constructive feedback.

That being said, everyone responds to recognition differently. Some folks love getting a shout-out in a group setting. Others would prefer a personal, “Way to go!” It’s not just about recognizing others. It’s about doing it in a way that means the most to each person.

  • Do you know how employees on your team prefer to be recognized?
  • Do they prefer public or private recognition?
  • Would time off be more welcome than a dinner in their honor?

Don’t leave it up to chance! Match the reward and recognition to the employee. Consider the individual’s:

  • Interests
  • Needs
  • Preferences
  • Values
  • Communication style

The best way to find out how individuals want to be recognized is to ask. Try asking:

  • How do you like to be recognized?
  • What works? What makes you uncomfortable?
  • What means the most to you?
  • What makes you feel appreciated?

How much and what form your recognition takes also depends on the situation. This opportunity can show how much you care and know about their personal interests. If they are a big fan of wine, you could give them a vintage you know they love. What about a dog lover? Leaving gourmet dog biscuits for their favorite pooch will blow them away with your thoughtfulness. Just choose wisely based on what you’ve heard employees say is most important.

And don’t just recognize the rock stars on your team. Recognize those working hard to improve and those doing a great job in the day-to-day. Everyone gets their chance to shine when you recognize your team members appropriately.

Let's sum it up.

Let’s Sum It Up

For both motivating and recognizing your employees, the important thing to remember is that we’re all human! When we think about why people work, we’re acknowledging that you aren’t a robot when you’re at the office. You still have feelings and emotions that absolutely matter. Being mindful of that makes your employees happier and your company more successful.

In our next unit, we look at what to do when, despite your best efforts, an employee is about to “jump ship” and how you can keep the person from being the next one overboard!


  • Conduct regular engagement conversations to support your team and sense disengagement before it happens.
  • Tell people when they’ve done well! It reinforces positive behavior and creates an environment of growth.