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How to Motivate and Inspire Individual Contributors


As each contributor brings their personality to the table, engineering managers sometimes need to adjust their approach to motivate and inspire them when workload increases or pressures build up.

This article will explore five strategies engineering managers can leverage to inspire and motivate Individual Contributors.

Setting Clear Goals and Expectations

Using SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound can help guide Individual Contributors to deliver real value on time.

While project goals are important, personal goals are equally important. You must always be conscious as an engineering leader that individual contributors have ambitions to learn and master technologies that may or may not be related to the current stack they’re working on.

It’s worthwhile setting yearly personal goals so that they feel like they are working towards progressing their career objectives, not just the company’s business goals.

Providing Ongoing Feedback and Support

Feedback can be given daily, weekly or monthly through several activities such as:

  • Async check-ins on Slack
  • 1:1 Meetings
  • Quarterly Goal Realignments

Creating a solid rapport with Individual Contributors can help make this process smoother. Ongoing support can help Individual Contributors better understand their strengths and weaknesses and allow engineering managers to step into mentorship positions when and if needed.

The most important part of this process is keeping your word as a manager. Don’t commit to helping Individual Contributors meet their goals if six months go by and you haven’t spoken about it once. A level of trust and dependency should be held in the utmost regard. When things get tough, Engineering Managers must remain calm and guide Individual Contributors to the best possible outcomes.

Furthermore, sometimes Individual Contributors have bad days. Support, in this case, may have nothing to do with work and business goals. It may require you to show more empathy and understanding than usual.

Encouraging and Supporting Career Development

Company policies can go a long way to aiding engineering managers in such goals:

  • Professional Development budgets
  • Paid / Sponsored conferences and trips
  • Encouraging up-skilling in fields that benefit the individual and the company
  • Assigning them responsibility on projects that will help them develop their skills.

Whereas having conversations about career trajectories outside the current company may feel awkward and inappropriate, Individual Contributors will likely move on at some point in the future. Their position under your supervision will provide them with skills and experience that will encourage them later in life, so you should treat any Individual Contributor in a way that their tenure with you contributes positively to their career.

Recognising and Rewarding Contributions

  • great teamwork,
  • going above and beyond,
  • and making a concerted effort to improve, can all be recognised in a meaningful way.

Hard work and that extra 10% should always be respectfully valued as it highlights Individual Contributors who are passionate about their roles and responsibilities.

Fostering a Positive and Inclusive Work Environment

Encourage an environment of making mistakes that can be learned from and address team feedback as often as possible. Perhaps most importantly, if you, as an engineering manager, can establish a well-knit and robust community within your engineering team, it will encourage Individual Contributors to work hard and want to work.

These are the beginnings of great, grass-root company culture — something which is highly sort after in the tech industry and often separates good companies from great companies.


Furthermore, creating a positive work environment and celebrating success can help Individual Contributors feel recognised and valued.

This blog post was originally published on dainemawer.com. If you liked this article, please follow me on Twitter at @daine_mawer.



Associate Director of Front-end Engineering at 10up.com | Writer | Traveller | Surfer

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Daine Mawer

Associate Director of Front-end Engineering at 10up.com | Writer | Traveller | Surfer