If it is within your power to stop these demoralizing practices, do it. If you cannot, then find ways to subvert them so they do not impact the Team’s motivation. Doing that is called a culture hack. Culture hacks are a powerful tool when used properly and judiciously, but they come with serious caution: don’t culture hack yourself out of a job.

So maybe you don’t want to be a hacker. What else can you do to help motivation?

BE A SERVANT LEADER: The day-to-day practice of many of the core competencies of Servant Leadership – putting people first, being a skilled communicator and compassionate collaborator – will directly improve the Team’s motivation. Be present when speaking with people and truly listen. Show care and concern when interacting with others. Help people identify their animating purpose to serve. Even something as simple as saying, “Thank you,” will go a long will to improve motivation.

FOCUS ON INTRINSIC MOTIVATION: Many organizations believe giving people more money, more perks, and more fringe benefits will motivate them. It is true that improving rewards and compensation (extrinsic motivation) works, but at some point this stops working (check out the book Punished by Rewards for more information on this topic). Dan Pink, author of the book Drive, feels that organizations need to spend less focus on extrinsic motivation and more time exploring and stoking the intrinsic motivation (what he calls autonomy, mastery and purpose) of their employees. Watch his ten-minute famous video that explores autonomy, mastery and purpose.

SCHEDULE A RETROSPECTIVE ON THE TOPIC: Many Retrospectives focus on the events that occurred during a Sprint and their impact to the product and the Team. However, people forget a Retrospective can also be used to explore what is restraining the growth of the Team. I recommend using the Retrospective to explore what motivates (and demotivates) the Team with an activity called Start, Stop and Continue. This technique is super easy technique to facilitate and with a prompt question of, “What do we want to start doing, stop doing and continue doing that will increase our motivation?”, will yield many specific, actionable items that you can implement right away that will make a real difference on the Team’s motivation. A special thanks to Mike Cohn for offering the details of how to facilitate their activity.