How do you motivate your staff to work hard, so that you get the best out of them?

Traditional notions of management are great, if you want compliance. If you want engagement, self direction works better. – Dan Pink

I’ve written a lot lately about things like company mission statements and staff appraisals; these are important aspects of running any business. When running a fast-growth, ambitious business you can’t afford to have hangers on who are only in the job for the money; you need A grade players who are in it for the long haul, because they believe in what you are doing. They may not always agree with all you think and say –  and you should be grateful for that as you pay people to use their brains and to challenge your thinking and that of the brand direction. It is brave to employ people better than yourself, but so very priceless for fast growth. It’s also important to trust these people to be the best they can be.

It is not enough to just run a rigorous hiring process, then sit back and expect your staff to just keep pushing your company forward, without any input from you. As leader, your job is to maintain their motivation through the tough times as well as the fun times. Without a motivated and engaged workforce, no company can succeed. I see myself as serving my staff whom in turn serve the customer. The more impediments and hurdles I take away to allow them to succeed and exceed customer expectations the better we are as a meaningful business with sustanable performance at its heart.

I watched an interesting Ted Talk by Dan Pink a while ago which explains the problem with motivation quite well:



You might think that incentives and rewards are the best approach, and in many cases they can be very effective. In his talk, Dan Pink points out that rewards work well for simple, straightforward tasks – so if you need your staff members to make more calls, pack more boxes or do other uncomplicated tasks with a single outcome, offering a reward will work well.

As small business owners though, we need our staff to do more than just pack boxes and make calls; we need quality as much as quantity. We need our staff to think creatively to solve problems, and as leaders we need to encourage them to do that. When it comes to tasks requiring creative thinking, incentives and rewards are ineffective. So how can we motivate our teams to keep pushing forward?

In his talk, Dan Pink makes the distinction between extrinsic motivation – rewards for hard work – and intrinsic motivation – where the desire to work hard comes from within a person, rather than from the chance of gaining a reward. In small business we need this intrinsic motivation in our team members; many of us cannot afford to offer the big bonuses and rewards that larger companies do, but also as mentioned in the talk, it has been shown that these actually don’t work very well in motivating staff to work hard.

Pink talks about a new operating system for business, focusing around three main building blocks: autonomy; mastery and purpose. We need autonomy, to feel that we are in control of what is going on. Mastery is about working hard to become better and better at a particular thing, and purpose refers to working in service of something larger than ourselves. We need our team members to have all three of these building blocks; they need to want to work hard for us, or no amount of promised reward will force them to do so.

Here are four straightforward things you can do to get your staff motivated and invested in your company:

  1. Include them in decisions. People support what they feel a part of, and help to create. When they feel a part of the process, and feel that their opinions are valued, they want to work hard. Rather than come up with new ideas, procedures and directions for your business which you then dictate to the masses, involve them in the decision making process. Ask them what they think; encourage them to make suggestions; listen to what they say; act and report back on progression through great ideas executed, or allow them to activate new proposals and give credit where credit is due. (Remember: some people like public congratulations where others do not. Congratulate individuals in the way they prefer to be congratulated and rewarded.)
  2. Show each individual you appreciate and value them. A simple, hand written note can work wonders for boosting morale and showing someone you care. Ask after an employee’s partner or child; give them the afternoon off for sports day or buy them flowers on their birthday. You don’t need to spend a fortune to show your team that you care about them as people – but if you show that you care, they are more likely to want to work harder for you. A sales trip I recently went on reminded me of the importance of shared working practices and experiences and the importance of business elarning from shadowing collegues.
  3. Give individuals more autonomy. In his talk, Pink references more than one company that allows staff members autonomy to go off and develop their own ideas. That might seem completely alien, and something that you’re not able to implement in your own business, but try hard to think about how you can give your staff more autonomy. Do you really need to have staff in a physical office from 9 til 5 every week day? Does it really matter when the paperwork is done? Could you allow your staff to work from home or to set their own hours as long as the results come in? Allowing your team members the autonomy to make their own decisions about how, where and when they work can have a massive positive impact on your business and you may find that they end up working more hours and achieving greater results when the archaic notion of 9-5 goes out the window. This is the way of the future; the sooner you get to grips with it the better your business will thrive and survive, holding on to good people.
  4. Talk to team members about your bigger picture. Right now you might be just starting out and a relatively small operation, and unless you tell them your plans your team members have no reason to think that will ever change. They might think the business is plodding along selling one or two products to a handful of different outlets, and that’s all you intend for it to do. If you want to achieve more, you need your team on board, and it is so important to communicate to them exactly what it is you want to do. Let them know that within five years you want to treble your turnover, or that you want to start selling to different countries. For all you know you have a sales person who is thinking about leaving your company because they are desperate to go and experience life in Asia, not realising that your intention is to open offices in Asia within the next few years. Can you afford to lose brilliant team members because they don’t know just how big your dream is?

With a motivated and productive team beside you, you can achieve so much more in your business. It is vitally important that you motivate your team in the right way to get the absolute best from them.

Written by Vicky Charles

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