Startup Leadership - Tips for Keeping Your Team Happy and Motivated

February 2, 2022

Working for a startup is exciting. You’ll likely attract excellent team members based on that alone. The ability to build an organization from the ground up provides an exciting enticement for ambitious, talented workers. But this invigorating challenge can also come with stress.

As a result, startup employees (and founders) often face burnout. Given this risk, it is important to take steps to ease the situation. This article will give you tips to improve your leadership skills, and help you keep your team happy and motivated.

Why Do Entrepreneurs and Their Employees Experience Burnout?

The workload necessary to build a new enterprise can push you to the edge of your mental abilities. This situation can create a rush, allowing you to go beyond what you previously thought was possible. It can also wear on you if you try to push too hard.

One study showed that 8% of entrepreneurs suffer from burnout each year. That might not seem so bad, until you consider that the figure represents an annual rate and the number of entrepreneurs in the U.S. approaches 16 million people. As a result, something close to 1.3 million founders suffer burnout each year.

These factors also take a toll on employees at startups. The aggressive pace of business can undermine their mental health as well.

The Hidden Cost of Burnout

Burnout can create a major stumbling block for your startup. If you exceed your limits, you could jeopardize your chances at survival. Even if you can maintain a furious pace, too much pressure on your employees can undercut their efforts.

You can’t get as much done with stressed-out employees. Of course, you should press to make crucial deadlines. But you also need to maintain periods of relative calm.

A permanent state of panic saps your startup of its potential. You face:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Low productivity
  • Higher turnover
  • Potentially creating a toxic culture

How to Recognize Burnout

Preventing burnout requires early detection. If you see signs of trouble, you can take steps to sidestep the worst of the results.

With that in mind, here are some burnout red flags to stay vigilant for:

  • Anxiety/depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Declining performance
  • Increased moodiness
  • Physical symptoms

How to Prevent Burnout at Your Startup

Startups tend to have aggressive cultures. You have a financial incentive to rush to profitability. At the same time, you likely have a natural tendency to push things forward — that’s why you became a founder.

This brash and ambitious approach has many benefits. But it can use up enthusiasm quickly and create a stressful environment that increases the likelihood of burnout.

For that reason, it’s crucial to take steps to minimize the threat. Keep the ambition. Just counterbalance it with compassion.

It’s crucial to take steps to minimize the threat [of burnout]. Keep the ambition. Just counterbalance it with compassion.

Follow these tips to improve your leadership, keep your employees motivated and minimize the risk of burnout:

Stay Mindful (of Yourself and Others)

Mindfulness allows you to minimize stress and remain focused as your startup builds. These techniques call for you to stay in the moment and appreciate the success you're having, rather than continually focusing on what should happen to your startup.

A mindful attitude can keep your own anxiety under control. Beyond this, you can improve the overall atmosphere at your firm. You can use techniques of mindfulness to develop a happy, productive, innovative culture at your workplace.

Do this by staying aware of the mental states of those around you. Remain sensitive of your impact on others and the toll a furious workload can take. From there, you can enact the steps necessary to eliminate the worst symptoms of anxiety and avoid burnout altogether.

Provide Support Options

Give your employees options to deal with rising stress and burnout conditions. This starts with being willing to listen. Make yourself available to your staff to discuss their workloads and their schedules.

Take this further with additional support options:

  • Make mental health part of the discussion
  • Provide adequate vacation benefits
  • Choose health insurance with mental health options

This strategy is more than just the right thing to do for your employees. It also offers a strong return on your investment. One set of figures suggested that the median annual ROI for providing mental health programs for your workers reached $2.18 by the third year.

One set of figures suggested that the median annual ROI for providing mental health programs for your workers reached $2.18 by the third year

Encourage a Strong Work/Life Balance

Entrepreneurship can turn life into work. It's not uncommon for founders to put in 80+ hours in a week. Meanwhile, by setting this standard, you encourage your top employees to follow similar schedules (whether you mean to or not).

As a result, burnout becomes a bigger risk. Short-circuit this process by making a bigger effort to create balance in your life and in the lives of your team members. Enjoy vacations and remember your personal goals, taking time with friends and family. What’s more, encourage your workers to do the same.

Think Long Term

Burnout happens when you overemphasize short-term production at the expense of longer-term performance. You push to make immediate deadlines, calling for long hours and intense effort. This takes its toll on everyone’s physical and mental states.

But establishing your business requires a marathon. Don’t sprint out of the gate, get winded and then lose your momentum. Instead, you’ll do better by discovering your peak sustainable performance and then maintaining that over the long term.

Protect Your Startup from Burnout

Burnout is a real problem for entrepreneurs and their employees. But you can minimize the risk for both you and your team.

Start by controlling conditions at your startup to stave off burnout. At the same time, provide resources to deal with stress and heavy workloads. Combine these efforts into a happy, productive culture, one that can foster the growth you need while keeping stress under control.

With the tips provided here you can keep yourself, and your team, happy and motivated. This will set you up for sustainable long-term growth.