How to bring passion into a team, one that lasts forever

pradeep thiruna
Aug 12, 2018 · 7 min read

Maslow’s Hierarchy @ work

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Team is one of the most difficult things to build and even more challenging is to make them high performing.

If you have a billion dollar market-cap disruptive idea, chances are your idea will be turned down by 9 out of 10 VCs’. Whereas if you have a great team and a simple idea, chances are 9 out of 10 VC’s will fund you.

Execution trumps ideas every single time, and with a high performing team, a simple idea transforms into a revolutionizing product.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs @ work:

The needs of employees have evolved over the decades. If Maslow were to redefine his hierarchy today it would look something like this

Trust . Culture . Salary. Mission . Passion

If a company targets to build disruptive, game-changing product then the company at its core, should satisfy Maslow’s needs at work. In order to provide valuable products to customers, the company should realize that its employees’ values needs to be respected and satisfied.

Trust & Engagement

Trust is a two-way lane — in order to gain trust, one should express it first. This is the most important free asset that a company can provide to its employees.

Listen & Be the last to talk

Speech is silver but silence is golden. The importance of silence (i.e) to listen is a hidden gem that most leaders fail to recognize. When a manager speaks, the team stops thinking and innovation is killed at the very instant.

When a manager speaks first, his/her experience and authority will eclipse every other opinion in the room. To avoid conflicts with manager, majority of the team agree with him/her.

Also, managers envision themselves as architects and live in the fallacy that they are responsible to provide solutions when the team faces a crisis. It should be vice versa, manager should encourage the team to solve tough problems (design/ solutions) and support them by all means with time, resource, materials.

A managers opinion should never translate into critiques while reviewing a design or solution. He should rather act as a guiding force, share his experiences to fill the gaps in the solution.

Let emplopyees set their Goals

Companies should never combine performance appraisal and goal setting as part of the same discussion. Ideally, performance appraisal document should be prepared by managers. It’s after all their duty to track all of their employee’s accomplishments and gaps.

The goal setting should be an employee-driven process. Employees should discuss with their managers on which projects they would like to work on to grow their skills. It would be beneficial to include learning & leadership qualities as part of goal setting. Often, these are overlooked by employees which are critical for their long-term growth.

In this model, employees hold themselves accountable for what they have committed. At the same time, managers are also accountable to provide resources, time and support to employees in achieving their goals.

This process where employees set their goals with the help of their manager’s support will provide ultimate satisfaction, pride, and trust in the appraisal system.


Once employees gain the trust of the management, they are in the lookout for validation and respect from their peers.

Often, in life, its the small choices we make that impacts us the most. Small choices that each individual makes in a company contributes to or even forms the culture. Few examples would include constructive code reviews, 👍 👏 appreciate good design pattern, 👊 call out concise code logic/documentation 📓.

Greeting the same engineer every morning irrespective of having seen him around for 3 years is a sign of great culture. The mere act of exchanging greetings is in itself a validation and recognition that an employee is noticed and valued as part of the community.

Be Thankful

Amazon, Facebook, GrubHub and other e-commerce giants have made us expect everything quick in life.

Nowadays companies have acknowledged the power of instant gratification and started rolling out weekly or monthly recognition, just to keep the morale of the team up.

Sadly, this strategy is not serving its purpose. The reason being that recognition is a double-edged sword, it boosts the morale of one but demotivates the rest. Worst of all, if done, just to please employees, it will soon turn into a cliche and lose its value.

The truth is when it comes to work, there is no instant gratification.

An individual’s hard work, good design, and problem-solving capabilities are always craving for a pat on the shoulder from team-members. A genuine hand-shake from CTO and managers is far more gratifying than a formal award at a monthly team event.If the work of the individual is exemplary then the manager should reward an instant bonus instead of postponing it till the year-end.

It’s like winning the race but receiving the gold medal only after a year, it’s an utter death of joy.

Work from home

The moment a company prioritizes its employee’s personal obligation, the employees will happily consider company’s priorities as their own. An employee after being at his/her kid’s school softball game is sure to bring huge enthusiasm to work the next day.

Strive to achieve work-life harmony, not balance — Jeff Bezos


Money vs Time

Universally, time is valued more than money and it is this time that an employee is trading for a decent paycheck. When an employee truly believes in the product and dedicates his time and effort into building the product he becomes a true investor, not the VC firm kind that pumps only money (not time) into the company.

Factor the cost of Attrition

Engineers in Bay Area switch job once in every 2 years which is far less than the number of years an average US resident lives in a rental home ie anywhere between 3 to 6 years.

It’s a known fact that people hate to move out of their comfort zone. This is especially true in software engineering where preparing for & attending interviews along side managing the current job is extremely tiresome.

The time spent to train a new hire and loss of human hours during the vacancy amounts 100% — 200% of an employee’s annual pay. This data point is often ignored by HR to re-enforce the importance of retaining an employee.

A better solution would be to negotiate the pay and retain the employee if he/she is worth the skills.

The big fat paycheck

CEOs earn about 300x more than the average employee, which is an exponential rise from a traditional 20x about half a century ago. There is no science that proves that high paying CEOs build a high growth company.

It’s a hypothesis that if CEOs are offered huge compensation in the form of stocks, they will be motivated to increase the valuation of the company.

Today, a CEO’s strategy has fallen to a new low of short-term thinking wherein companies operate like car dealerships with visions lasting from month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter.

Employees build the product, employees form the culture, employees innovate amidst full-filling their daily work but yet rewarded the least.

Mission & Values
The mission and value statement of a company will resonate in the ears of an employee only after first four Maslow’s fundamental needs are met.

It is only then the employees will start to imbibe company’s values and engage in innovation, disruptive product design and work towards the greater cause of improving the society.

Only when all the above criterias are met, will employees reach the pinnacle of extreme productivity and zeal.

It takes time and effort to reach the pinnacle of the pyramid and even more challenging is to sustain this passion. Even a small mistake can kill the passion and one has to start the process again.

Eternal success is when a company can retain its workforce in the top tier of the pyramid for at least 6 months. This gestation period is when a radical and permanent change happens — a HABIT is formed, something that is irrevocable lives and dies with the company.

Leaders are not born nor found, they are made from individuals who’s passion fuel their vision.

Maslow’s hierarchy at work creates opportunities and empowers employees to emerge as successful and passionate leaders.

A workforce operating at the top tier of Maslow’s pyramid becomes autonomous and executes with minimal supervision and guidance — a high performing team.

A little background about me, I write code 💻 most of the time which ends up reaching people in 0s & 1s. Now, I am trying my luck for the first time with ASCII📖, hope you enjoy it.

I believe and follow a profession where work is fun, responsibility is empowerment, quality is discipline and agile process is a habit.

pradeep thiruna

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freedom is the ability to live your dreams… !!

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