8 Ways To Keep Your Product Development Team Motivated

by Sean Boyce

As working environments continue to become more flexible the size and shape of our product development teams seem to be constantly changing.  The good news is that regardless of those concerns what matters most is the productivity of your team.  For many businesses today, your product is your business and motivating your product development team to do their best work is time well spent for your company.  Typically, this a role that would be fulfilled by a development manager or product manager.  If your team doesn’t have someone dedicated in this role, here are some great tips to keep in mind when looking to better motivate your product development team to be more productive.

#1 – Make Sure Your Team Understands the Company Vision

When you describe your company vision are you aiming to excite people or put them to sleep?  Share this passion with your product development team!  Share stories about the people you are helping and put context around it.  The more personal the stories are, the more important their work will seem to them.  Everyone wants to work on something important that they can be proud of.  Take note about what specifically about your company vision gets them excited.  Then have your product development team describe the company vision to you.  What part do they seem particularly proud of?  Note it and use it going forward.

#2 – Communicate Effectively

I’ve been a member of some high profile product development teams as an engineer and I can tell you, frustration builds where communication falters.  Your product development team can’t read your mind.  They need to not only know what you are thinking in detail, but be able to translate that into product development action items.  It all starts with communicating effectively.  As much as they need to learn from you, you also need to learn from them.  What details do they frequently ask for that you have a tendency to forget?  Note these and going forward be better prepared for the next conversation.  

#3 – Listen to Your Team

Engineerings and developers are just robots that run on coffee to produce code.  They are people too and deserve to be heard.  You can’t be everywhere at all times.  Your product development team is laser focused on building and maintaining your product so they are your eyes and ears from the front lines.  If you combine their feedback with your 50,000 foot view you can get a majorly comprehensive snapshot of where your team productivity-wise.  Create a judgement free time and place for product development to share honest feedback.  Give your team this chance.  You can thank me later.

#4 – Encourage Honest Feedback

Hire great people and let them surprise you.  Your product development team is full of smart people, otherwise they wouldn’t be on your team.  They will occasionally have great ideas, but to hear them you have to listen.  Encourage an open and honest feedback policy at all times.  This way you will develop a better rapport with product development.  You want them to know they are greatly respected members of your team.  Enhanced productivity will come from everyone being on the same page from day 1.  Don’t let them code something until they really understand what it is you’re trying to build.

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#5 – Follow an Intelligent Process

It seems that everyday there is a new development methodology that’s all the rave.  Resist the urge to be every changing and instead follow a process that works for your team.  One of the common mistakes I see which leads to product development issues are teams trying to use processes and productivity tools that are designed for teams of a much different size (large or small).  Make sure the process you’re following is optimal for the current size of your product development team.  For tips on how to learn about how well your current process is working see my previous tip.

#6 – Use the Right Tools

It’s hard to do great work when you don’t have the right tools.  Today’s landscape for products is so competitive you can get tons of great tools for free.  How are you tracking feature requests and bugs?  If you don’t have a system yet sign up for an account with Asana.  It’s free to get started and a great lightweight tool that will have an immediate impact.  If you’re not using a cloud based version control system yet, I won’t tell anybody as long as you setup an account with github or bitbucket immediately!  Bonus: bitbucket has free private repositories.  If you are looking for something more comprehensive and powerful try the product management software from Aha!.  They have a ton of great features built into their platform.  It isn’t free, but they do offer a trial period.  Checkout the details on their website to learn more.  

#7 – Don’t Waste Their Time

You know how much it irks you to waste time?  You’re quite busy, but so is your product development team.  Developers love to get work done, but engineering is intensive and requires lots of heads down time.  Limit the interruptions as much as possible.  Use productivity tools whenever possible to organize how your team interacts.  If you don’t have any yet, I’d recommend the free messaging app Slack.  This way you can send something quickly and easily while it’s on your mind, but your product development team doesn’t have to immediately stop what they’re doing and lose focus.  Also, don’t interrupt your product development team for something you haven’t fully flushed out yourself.  My suggestion is to typically sleep on big ideas first before bringing them to the team.

#8 – Reward Their Successful Efforts

Your product development team loves what they do, but rarely do they get enough praise for it.  Reward them with recognition and hopefully an award of monetary value when it is deserved.  It doesn’t have to break the bank (pizza and beer go a long way), but the effort speaks volumes.  If you want to make things a little more interesting consider creating friendly, but competitive games to encourage productivity.  Just make sure your team stays focused.  

Motivating your product development team is critical to increasing productivity.  Use these tips to encourage better productivity from your core group.  Once you find a healthy rhythm you will start to notice positive changes in other aspects of your company’s culture.  Stay on top of your product development team by working with them.

If you’d like to learn more about product management or talk more about the services I offer as a product management consultant please our NxtStep website or reach out to me directly at sean@nxtstep.io.  Keep disrupting.

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