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Surefire Ways to Boost Team Morale

Motivation
Team Processes

11 November, 2021

Rajesh Agarwal
Rajesh Agarwal

VP and Head of Engineering at Syncro

Rajesh Agarwal, VP & Head of Engineering at Syncro, talks about effective ways to boost team morale when stepping in as a new manager in the team.

Problem

Morale. The word helps team members show up at work, not looking like a zombie. When I took over a team in a previous role, I noticed that the team morale was relatively low. During the 1:1s, I found out that many were considering leaving, while others felt their opinions were not well-heard. I learned about this during my first week, and at that time, The org leader whom I was reporting to had joined about 3 - 4 months back, and their arrival in the team intensified the situation.

Actions taken

It was high time that I stepped up. My priority was to make sure that the team members felt heard and understood. We had done an eNPS survey right after I joined, and 3 months later, when we conducted the survey again, the score went from about 50% to above 70%. Although this was for the engineering team alone, the measure helped us better steer the team.

I also made other changes in the processes, whereby they had the autonomy to work on things. The whole point was to minimize micromanagement. As a result, for those who were planning on leaving, I showed them a career plan and found opportunities that aligned with their career, which helped a lot. I derived that from the 1:1s as I was trying to understand their career goals, where they wanted to be in the next 5 years, and so on.

The team members were here for longer than I was, and they knew what needed to be done but were not prioritized. Besides, we had to work towards some of the top priorities for the business as well. I collectively had them voice it out by putting it in a list together, making it easier to prioritize.

I advocated that to the higher management. What I did was quite different; I invited the CEO to the closely-knit meetings, where they could present their ideas. Intentionally, I made my team members interact with the senior management so that they felt that the org had better visibility of their department. In essence, I also had engineers present at the all-hands meetings, which was something that they had not done before.

On the flip side, I perhaps may have gone a little too far to boost the morale For instance, one of the engineers re-did a process in a different technology. During that time, merely to keep them happier, I had to let them do it, and in the end, applaud them. However, that was not the most outstanding work they could have done. I questioned them on a high level, but I did not ask them enough.

Lessons learned

  • Ensure that there are two divisions: what is the right thing to do for the company vs the right thing for the team. Sometimes you might have to make some hard decisions, including letting people go, but that should not restrict you to compromise on anything.
  • A lot of the time, we find it hard to balance between keeping employees happy and also prioritizing business needs. However, it is essential to view this type of situation from a broader perspective in order to achieve both.
  • Take care of your team members authentically. Help them out, show interest in what they are doing, make time for them, and be honest and transparent with them. That’s all that is needed to build a real team.

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