Your last department update meeting said it all. When you went around the room asking for an update, the most common response by far was: “Nothing new here.”
Nothing? Not a challenge to face, a problem to solve, a conflict to discuss? Not even a nagging “people problem”?
Either your team is firing on all cylinders – or it’s sputtering.
Don’t be surprised if it is the latter.
While not feeling appreciated is a top reason good employees head for the door, a close runner-up is boredom. They may have even checked out.
So how can you best keep the fire lit under your team without burning them out?
Here’s what some of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs revealed in a survey to Inc. Magazine.
1) Let Your Team Establish The Goals
Self-goals are more powerful than ones set by someone else – even a boss. Employees who set their own bar have something to prove.
Just as with resolutions people give themselves every Jan. 1, there’s something inherently motivating about having a mission and a plan to accomplish it.
Offer some parameters, but otherwise let your employees decide among themselves what works, what doesn’t and how best to accomplish their duties.
“If you let them know you trust them, they’ll fill those shoes sooner than you think,” says Ayelet Noff, CEO of Blonde 2.0, a global PR agency. “A vote of confidence can go a long way … trust them to do the best job possible and they’ll rarely disappoint you.”
2) Toss Out A Challenge
Think about it – when was the last time you did this? If it was sometime during the FIRST Obama Administration, it’s time to shake off the hurdles and get your employees jumping.
Issue a challenge: “I need 10 solid marketing ideas for our new education products by the end of next week; the top 5 idea-makers get a surprise! Who’s in?”
The idea of beating someone else to the punch can stir the competitive spirit in your team. And the competitive challenges are limited only to your imagination.
“We’re developing a feedback system that rewards employees for … learning how to use our application via our training videos,” says Blair Thomas, founder of EmerchantBroker, specialists for high-risk merchant accounts. “A proven motivator is earning a badge or points for committing to certain tasks.”
3) Shuffle The Deck
Do you always rely on the same people assigned the same tasks for the same projects? Well then, it’s past time to let other employees take a stab at it.
If you’re overseeing a recurring activity that’s easy to learn, tell the employees who did it last month/year to give the materials needed to do it to others. Trading tasks on a project or within a department not only allows employees to learn something new, it also gives them an opportunity to teach someone else the ropes.
Not to mention, it keeps everyone on their toes, wards off stagnation – and even helps you learn what makes your employees tick.
Find out what each employee likes (and doesn’t like) to do, and invest in their professional growth, offers Heather McGough, co-founder of Lean Startup Company in San Francisco. “Do one-on-one check-ins and listen to their ideas, because [that tells them] they’re the best at what they do,” she says.
4) Brag About Them
Nothing spurs employees on more than their esteemed manager singing their praises – and promising more great work from them!
Take advantage of workplace bulletins or monthly or yearly newsletters to let others outside the department know what your team has been up to and their future goals for success.
And enforcing group goals and incentives helps ensure everyone on your team wants to work toward a common goal. Make sure your employees “have a clear, personal understanding of how working together benefits [both themselves] and the company,” says Ross Resnick, CEO of Roaming Hunger, an online food truck/catering service.
Once everyone knows how great they are, it’ll motivate them to keep up the good work!
5) Point Out Individual Strengths
Yes, your employees work well in a team – but that doesn’t mean their individual abilities should be blended all the time.
Sometimes stoking a fire simply means focusing on what each employee brings to the team and pointing those strengths out. This is especially key for your more introverted employees who are reluctant to toot their own horns.
In many cases this could be a catalyst for those employees to recognize their own worth and step up to prove it.
“[We have] every management meeting start off with each department lead recognizing someone from their team who has gone above and beyond for the company or a client,” says Christopher Kelly, founder of Convene, an online meeting service.
The positive feedback not only motivates your employees, but also helps hold management accountable for staff recognition.
6) Reward Them. (No, Really Reward Them)
The promise of a satisfactory performance review and a thumbs-up from the top boss doesn’t cut it anymore. To really have an effect on motivation, you as the manager should be responsible for awarding performance in a demonstrative way.
An open acknowledgement in front of the entire team – with a suitable amount of fanfare – goes a long way in making employees feel directly appreciated, which in turn will light a fire to maintain that level of appreciation.
Hold a small luncheon or reception in the employee’s honor of breaking a sales record or achieving a similar hard-to-reach goal, and include a plaque, trophy or poster announcing the honor to display.
There’s even an app for it: Stephen Gill, founder of 50onred.com, developed Valuebot, an app that calculates how many times each employee was praised. Whoever garners the most kudos wins various awards and recognition, Gill says. “The positive energy we create helps us attract and retain talent.”
After all, that warm, fuzzy feeling of pride we get when we’re recognized for great work is addictive. Not to mention that green-with-envy feeling other co-workers might feel, which will motivate them to work harder for that reward!
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What’s your go-to method to get your team fired up? Share ideas in our comments section.
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