5 Ways to Give Your Team a Raise Without Paying Them More


How do you retain your best team members when you can’t pay them more?

That’s an easier question to answer than you might imagine.

First, I believe every employer should pay their team members well. I’ve always tried to pay my staff a living wage—well enough that your team doesn’t have to worry about whether they can make rent or the mortgage payment, can eat well and provide for at least a normal standard of living.

Not only is that the right thing to do, but being cheap is more expensive in the long run.

Stressing out your employees by paying them poorly not only makes their life hard, but it dramatically increases turnover and makes it hard to attract and keep great people.

But that said, is pay the only want to motivate people?

When I was starting out in leadership, I thought it was. Apparently not. As studies increasingly show, money isn’t the motivator most of us think it is. Once you have your needs met, and especially if you make $75,000 a year or more, money stops being a powerful incentive.

So what really motivates people?

There are at least five other ways you can and should motivate your team that don’t involve money. Here are 5 things that can increase motivation and deepen engagement.

It’s a little like being able to give someone on your team a raise without paying them more.

Cheap is more expensive in the long run. Click To Tweet

1. Freedom and Autonomy

You know what most workers want more than anything? Freedom and autonomy.

Talk to most workers under 40 and what they deeply desire is freedom.

Freedom from the 9-5.

The autonomy to set their own work hours and locations (coffee shop, home, the back porch, a beach).

The desire to be evaluated not on the process (did you stay till 5?) but on the outcome (did you crush that project?).

Guess what? It’s 2019. You can give that kind of freedom.

Sure…there are common meetings and moments where everyone needs to be physically present at the same time. But the idea that everyone has to work at the same place at the same time 40 hours a week becomes more outdated by the month.

Many white-collar organizations, businesses and non-profits operate as though the internet never happened.

15 years ago you had to go to the office because everything you needed to do your job was at the office—the computer, filing cabinets, the database, and even the office phone system.

Now, all of that is sitting in your hand or on your laptop. Smart employers realize that.

You used to go to the office. Now the office goes to you.

Many white-collar organizations, businesses and non-profits operate as though the internet never happened. You used to go to the office. Now the office goes to you. Click To Tweet

Younger leaders understand that and want the freedom and trust to be able to flex in their work schedule.

When you give great leaders freedom, most will give you back far more than you expected in return.

Control them, and not only do you stifle them. They eventually just leave.

Want to motivate your team? Give them some freedom and flexibility.

When you give great leaders freedom, most will give you back far more than you expected in return. Click To Tweet

2. Gratitude

Most people feel under-appreciated at work.

There’s an actual debate online about whether bosses should thank their employees for doing their job. Personally, I don’t even know how that’s a debate.

Of course you should thank people for doing a job well. Sure, you don’t want to be syrupy sweet or reward under-performers, but if someone showed up, tried hard or is doing a good job—thank them.

It’s a good idea to think about how people like to be appreciated.  In this interview, Gary Chapman makes a strong case that the five love languages actually apply at work.

While you have to be (very) careful with physical touch, verbally thanking people whose love language is words of affirmation, buying a gift for someone who loves gifts, making more time for a team member who appreciates quality time or doing something meaningful for someone who’s love language is acts of service can really go a long way toward increasing employee loyalty and performance.

Gratitude from a leader improves the attitude of the team.

Gratitude from a leader improves the attitude of the team. Click To Tweet

3. Empowerment

Empowering your team is one of the best ways to motivate your team AND reduce your stress as a leader at the same time.

One of the reasons leaders struggle is because too many decisions still cross their desk. If that’s happening to you, it’s a sure sign your team isn’t empowered enough.

At the same time, one of the great demotivating factors for team members is the feeling that they aren’t empowered enough to do their jobs.

Releasing the team to do more actually not only deepens their engagement, but it also increases the likelihood they’ll stay. It moves them from thinking like renters to thinking like an owner.

Owners tend to stay. Renters leave.

Empowering your team is one of the best ways to motivate your team and reduce your stress as a leader at the same time. Click To Tweet

4. Clarity

Strangely, clarity can also be a gift to your team.

Often, if you’re a founder or the CEO, far too much of the mission and vision lives in your head and not in the minds and hearts of your team members.

And guess what happens when your team doesn’t have clarity? They end up doing things you don’t want, not because they’re bad people, but because you weren’t clear.

When that happens, it’s easy to try to become a control freak, which demotivates your team even more.

Poor leaders substitute control for clarity.

Here’s why. If you don’t know with absolute clarity what your organization is, where it’s going and how it’s going to get there (in other words, if you’re fuzzy about your mission, vision and strategy), you can never truly align a team. And as a result, you will always want to control it.

You will default to control because, in the absence of clarity, you worry that leaders will take your church or organization to places you don’t believe it should go. And the truth is, they will. Because you haven’t been clear.

In so many cases, the real reason you can’t ‘trust’ people of even stellar character is not because they aren’t trustworthy, it’s because you haven’t stated the mission, vision and strategy clearly enough that it’s repeatable and reproducible for anybody other than you. In the absence of clarity, well-intentioned team members end up going rogue, not because they’re trying to be disloyal, but because you never clearly defined the destination.

Healthy people usually only run in the wrong direction when their leader never made it clear what the right direction is.

The more clarity you have as a leader, the less you will feel a need to control anything, and the more grateful your team will be.

5. Listen

Think about the bosses you’ve had. Chances are, the people you think are the best bosses are the people who cared the most about you personally.

That goes a long way.

Years ago my friend Jeff Henderson shared a brilliant idea with me that I implemented right away. When you meet with one of your team members, spend the first part of your time together asking how they’re doing before you ask what they’re doing.

This makes such a big difference.

Imagine if work was a safe place not just to talk about work, but to talk about life? I’ve helped so many staff get clarity around personal issues, life issues, relational issues and so much more. And no, I’m not a trained counsellor.

Mostly what I do is just listen. In a noisy world, listening is becoming a spiritual discipline. And being listened to is rare enough now to make it valuable.

Leaders who value their team listen to their team.

By the way, if you listen to more of their personal story, you’ll be listening to a lot fewer complaints about work. Try it. You’ll be amazed at how true that is.

Leaders who value their team listen to their team. Click To Tweet

Free Up the Time You Need To Be a Better Boss

Find posts like this overwhelming because it leaves you wondering how on earth you’ll find time to do any of this?

Let me help.

My approach to life and leadership changed radically for me over ten years ago when I figured out how to get time, energy and priorities working in my favour.

I’d love to help you free up hours each day to do the same thing. And I’ve helped over 5000 leaders do just that.

If you’re trying to find the time for what matters most in life, my High Impact Leader course, is my online, on-demand course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day.  That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.

Here are what some alumni are saying about The High Impact Leader Course”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing the course again. It has absolutely made an impact in my life and family already that I can’t even describe.” – First Priority, Clayton County, North Carolina

“Just wow.  Thank you, thank you.” Dave Campbell, Invitation Church, Sioux Falls South Dakota

A game changer.” Pam Perkins, Red Rock Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reflect, rest and reinvent yourself?

Click here to learn more or get instant access.

Any Other Free Raises?

So please…pay well, and value your team.

But you can also do other things that really make work a far better experience for the people on your team.

What are some other things you’ve done to help give your team a raise, even without paying them?

5 Ways to Give Your Team a Raise Without Paying Them More


  1. Dean Pollard on June 10, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Any practical steps out there for how to transition a church staff to this model?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 12, 2019 at 9:08 am

      Hey Dean,

      Dillon here, Carey’s assistant. I am pleased to respond on his behalf!

      Here is a podcast that might have some helpful insights for you: https://careynieuwhof.com/episode175/

      I really hope that helps!


  2. Kevin Neville on June 10, 2019 at 11:44 am

    Vacation time!!!! Most high capacity leaders that I know work hard at covering themselves so their presence is not missed too badly when they are away so the impact to the church is not extreme. However the impact to the family is worth its weight in gold. A church that can’t pay the wages they “wish we could pay you” can make it up by giving them the high end of vacation time each year!

    • Bill on June 10, 2019 at 11:46 am

      Maybe the church should also evaluate what they are spending their funds on in order to make their ‘wishes come true’.

  3. Bill on June 10, 2019 at 11:33 am

    I’m a firm believer in providing good quality tools for people to do their best work. Give someone the tools you would want to do the job. Maybe even better quality if you are a miser.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.