The Magic Words One CEO Uses To Get The Best From His Employees

"You can turn somebody from being a lazy person to being the most committed person."

Duolingo CEO Luis Von Ahn has a specific strategy when it comes to motivating employees who are underperforming. Instead of giving them a strict talking to, the founder of the language learning app, currently valued at $700 million, says he reminds them of the value of their work

"You can turn somebody from being a lazy person to being the most committed person if they honestly believe that the company and you, as a leader, think what they're doing is important," von Ahn said in a recent interview with the Financial Times.

Von Ahn has been open about his strict approach to hiring and recruiting new employees. In 2017, he told Business Insider that his team undergoes a strict vetting process, relying largely on reference checks to ensure that prospective hires aren't bad fits.  


He also makes sure to seek out people who are driven by interest in the mission rather than a certain paycheck. Reminding them of the importance of that mission can make all the difference, according to Von Ahn. 

"It's amazing how motivating it is to sit with somebody and say, 'What you're doing is really important.' I use that a lot," he said.

The CEO's method in hiring and motivating employees may sound unconventional, but it's well-supported by research. A 2016 study conducted by LinkedIn and Imperative found that 73% of "purpose-oriented professionals" claimed satisfaction with their jobs, as opposed to 64% of non-purpose-oriented employees. 

Duolingo website

Meanwhile, a 2017 survey by Globoforce's WorkHuman Research Institute and IBM's Smarter Workforce Institute, concluded that meaningful work, in which employees understand the value of their work and their organization's mission, is the single largest contributor to a positive employee experience.

While it's normal for everyone to feel frustrated with their jobs from time to time, caring about the work you do will naturally make you feel happier and more driven to excel in the office. Von Ahn's statements serve as an important reminder not only to job-seekers looking for more satisfaction in their careers, but to bosses looking to create a happier, more productive environment.   

Cover image via Shutterstock /  Monkey Business Images.


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