“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu
As a small business owner it is very important to get the very best out of your employees; human resources are expensive and you need to see a return on your investment in people every bit as much as making a profit on the goods and services you sell.
It is up to you – in fact it is part of your job – to create an atmosphere of positive energy, enthusiasm, excellence, and professionalism and lead by example in all these areas. If your employees see that you are dedicated to the company, that you strive to excel at what you do and demonstrate high levels of professionalism, then they will mirror these traits. The reverse is also true of course; if you swan off to the golf course three days a week, what message do you think that gives?
Motivating your team however, goes one step beyond just setting a good example. Empowering your employees both through their successes and failures is vital to motivating them to do better. If they succeed at something let them know they did a good job, and give them more responsibility, or a more important task/project/role – demonstrate you have confidence in them. If a team member fails to do a good job encourage them to do better and help them see what they could have done to improve the outcome. Show them you still have faith in them by providing a second chance for them to prove themselves. You are in a position to empower those that work for you, and with you by your words and actions.
Let’s take a look at a few ways you can motivate and empower your team. Having enthusiastic employees will ensure the return on your human resources investment pays off.
Being awesome is contagious. Set an example of the kind of attitude and professionalism you want to see in your team. Just as children mirror what they see, regardless of what they’ve been told, your employees will take their cue from you, and will model the kind of energy, values and ethics they see demonstrated by you.
Understanding the people who work for you can really pay off. There is a lot of information on the Internet about this topic and an hour or so studying personality traits will open your eyes as to why certain people behave the way they do, and how you can relate to them better. Your team is not a “one-size-fits-all” entity. Each person is unique in how they communicate, work, and receive feedback, and in what motivates them. Use that information to troubleshoot problems, deal with productivity, AND motivate them according to their specific motivators!
You haven’t got time to fight every battle. You have to decide when to confront a situation, or a team member, and when to let it go. Some things just aren’t that important – don’t micro-manage. If you’re the type of manager who likes to maintain control – you may have some difficulty with this, but if you can learn to pick your battles, you’ll decrease your stress level overnight and win the war. One more thing, if you decide to let it go – REALLY let it go, don’t harbor any lingering resentment.
You don’t have to be overbearing, or overly bossy, but you do need to make sure your team understands that they will be held accountable for what they commit to, or the things you have asked them to do. Empowerment comes with responsibility and your team members need to fully understand and buy into that. Don’t let things slide – deal with problems right away. If your team knows you will hold them accountable, they’ll work better and be stronger.
I am sure you appreciate the work your employees do for you, but do you always remember, or have time, to thank them properly? Simply recognizing effort can have a huge motivational impact. One of the biggest complaints employees have is that they do not feel appreciated or valued. It doesn’t take a more than a minute to drop someone an email, or clap them on the back and say thanks. Employees who feel valued are far more likely to be loyal and that will show in their productivity and attitude toward others in the workplace.
The more you sincerely concern about your employees the more motivated they will be to support you, your company, and your customers. People respond to care and concern. Take time out to ask them what’s going on in their lives, find out and talk about their hobbies and what they are passionate about. Learn a little about their families, their worries, and their concerns. Many years ago when I was in a senior management position responsible for business development of a fairly modest business, I had a boss who asked me what would make me happiest, what would take the most pressure off my shoulders, I replied, “owning my own home” to which he said, “What’s stopping you?” When I replied that my wide and I had been saving for some years but were still about $15,000 short of having a deposit, he took his cheque book out of his pocket and wrote me a cheque for that amount. He told me that this was an advance on commission he knew I would earn over the next year. I was flabbergasted; it was like I had won the lottery. Of course I earned it back and then some – I was so dedicated to the company that I increased sales by 80% that year; the company enjoyed its best year ever. In the end the owner of the company didn’t actually GIVE me anything, but it sure felt like it!
Competition can be healthy when directed positively. Bring your team together and talk about how you want your company to be better than the other companies competing in your market place – more than that you want your employees to be seen to be better than those of the competition. There are many customer review sites out there that publish reviews of products, services and companies. Check out what people are saying about you and use that as a way to incentivize your employees to provide better service and get more stars, or whatever way good service is rewarded. www.yelp.ca is the most popular site in Canada, unless of course you are in the hotel, or attractions industry when you should visit www.tripadvisor.ca
Great teams are great because together, they have a shared vision of being better than the other team! Tap into that and get your team fired up about how you can be better than your competition. Set goals that will give them benchmarks to strive for, and victories to celebrate.
I’m not talking about bonuses here, although they do have their place in motivating employees, I’m talking about celebrating success in simple terms at various stages of a project. Sometimes a box of donuts, or some specialty coffees can bring so many smiles, and create such a positive attitude that it will outweigh the cost and effort a hundred times over!
Rewarding success is about boosting morale – everyone loves surprises and what could be better than the boss going out of his, or her, way to bring treats? It shows your team that you were thinking of them, that you care.
A word of warning: with this motivational technique, a little goes a long way. You don’t want it to become an expectation and you don’t want the team to feel you are trying to buy their hard work and loyalty.
You know you’ve got a great team. Now step up your leadership and motivate them to even greater heights. It’s good for business!