Boosting and Maintaining Team Morale

Rackspace’s Lesson for Managers

There are several great takeaways from Lorenzo Gomez’s, “The Rack We Built: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of Creating Company Culture.” The advice most often mentioned though is:

Everyone wants to be a valued member of a winning team on an inspiring mission.

According to Gomez, when you and your team feels the above is true, there will be high morale, loyalty, enthusiasm, collaboration, and ultimately improved business outcomes.

Let’s examine each of the three main parts:

1) Team Members Want to be Valued

Nobody want to be a disposable cog in a machine. They want to be a valued member of the team. People feel valued when they have their input considered, a competitive salary, respect as a professional and as a human being, the trust of management to take on challenging tasks, and more. Leaders should determine via one-on-ones, etc how each particular person on their team feels valued and how they like to be rewarded.

2) Team Members Want to be Part of a Winning Team

Any sports fan knows that morale, enthusiasm, and energy are all higher when the team is winning. The same goes for companies. When the company is on an upswing and is growing in revenues having victories in the press and in the community, the team members naturally feel a sense of pride in the organization and an attendant morale boost. Winning large contracts, favorable press, and other internal victories let the teammates know that the organization is winning.

3) Team Members Want to be on an Inspiring Mission

Although, in a sense, all employees of for-profit organizations are working to increase the wealth of the company, they don’t want to consider that their primary mission. The most loyal and enthusiastic team members will be the ones inspired by their organization’s mission be it “make humans a multi-planet species” or “organize all the information on the internet,” an inspiring mission will give strength to the team during the myriad challenges encountered by all organizations, especially startup teams.

Personal Addendum

I think the above advice is great, but I would add one footnote. I argue that it is the leader’s duty to actively convey these 3 things to the team members on an ongoing basis. Even if teammates are valued, the team is winning, and the mission is inspiring, morale could still decline if you don’t, as a manager, make efforts to keep that perception alive in the team’s mind. Team members have to perceive that they're valued, perceive that they're on a winning team, and perceive that they're on an inspiring mission for the team to have the morale boost and all the benefits that go along with it. Managers would do well to incorporate discussion of these three areas in their one-on-one meetings with the team members and even keeping a morale metric for each.

This as only one of the many pearls of wisdom in Gomez’s book. I especially like how he delved into the ‘ugly’ side of the Rackspace culture story rather than just sticking with the rosy bits. I recommend the book to all startup leaders as a guide to building solid teams and a cautionary tale regarding the dehumanization of employees as a consequence of their organization’s success.

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Zachary Keeton

Zachary Keeton

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A 15th-year Web Dev/Engineering Manager. Formerly building products and leading teams at Plus One Robotics in San Antonio, Texas, USA