Dealing with real people is probably the most difficult part of running a business. From the outset, it might not appear as the most critical—building products and selling services would normally take that title—but people management will be far more important in the long run.
As a CEO, founder or manager, one of your key responsibilities, especially when leading a small team, is to motivate the people around you. Your duty is to bring the very best out of your colleagues.
The importance of motivating employees
People will always do better work when they feel that they have a good reason to do so. In general, a motivated team will always outperform one that lacks an inherent sense of purpose. As a business leader, you want your team to be getting positive results and continually striving to make a positive impact on the company. If your colleagues lack motivation, then that will be much more difficult to achieve.
Humans are social beings and therefore often behave with a pack mentality. If you can successfully motivate one or two employees, then it is very likely that the rest of the group will follow. Because we seek to copy one another, motivation is something that can spread through a team or an office.
By motivating your team-members, you will also change the environment and culture of your workplace. There is something tangibly different about a room full of motivated, eager and engaged employees when compared with a team of disinterested and unmotivated individuals. This environmental change in motivation will therefore affect your organisation’s ability to both retain and hire new team members.
Harnessing motivation in the workplace
One of the best ways of motivating employees is to hire individuals with the right mental profile. Motivation, that go-getter, forward-looking, initiative-taking mindset, is a fairly intrinsic quality. Some people will display it more than others. So if you want to have a motivated team, you should look to source and hire a good number of people who already display those traits. However, do not make the mistake of hiring everyone according to this criteria. An entire team of hyper-motivated individuals could be pretty exhausting, if not nearly impossible to manage.
When trying to work out whether someone is suitably motivated during the recruitment process, you should look at both how they present their history as well as how they describe their future. When going through their CV or talking to them during an interview, ask yourself what they have done in the past that really shows them going the extra mile to reach a goal they have set for themselves. This could be apparent through the achievement of sporting excellence, the pursuit of an independent project while at university or simply the path they have chosen in life. In a similar vein, ask them about their ambitions and goals. What do they want to make happen or change in their life? If the answer is unclear or they do not seem to be the sort of person who has a clear goal in mind, then they might not be the most motivated individual.
When you are worrying about how to think about motivation, remember that none of the techniques used to motivate employees are unique to this particular problem. These are all strategies and processes that any good manager should already be practising.
Never forget about hygiene factors like reviewing employee salaries, offering great personalised perks, making sure the office space is looked-after and organising enough social events. As before, being on top of all of these things will contribute directly to there being a positive environment in the work-place. This in turn will have a snowball effect on employee motivation.
Set goals and articulate your vision
Make sure you clearly articulate and repeat your vision to the rest of the team. If there is no carrot being dangled in front of them, then it is very difficult to assume they will know what exactly they are pushing themselves for.
Outside of company-wide goal-setting however, it is important to allow your employees a healthy degree of autonomy. Human beings do not like to feel controlled, so make sure you let all your employees feel like they are the masters of their immediate futures. This means giving up some degree of decision-making in order to maintain employee motivation.
Give your team a sense of ownership
Indeed, part of giving employees autonomy is making them feel like stakeholders in the business themselves. As well as giving them a sense of ownership, encourage your colleagues to give feedback. When they do so, make sure you listen to it. People want to feel like their voice matters and that if something needs changing, they can be part of the process of making that change happen.
Ultimately, employee motivation is about helping your team-members to pinpoint and then reach the next step in their personal and professional development. At every opportunity, try your best to encourage the establishment and adoption employee learning schemes. If you can help your colleagues grow, then they will be more likely to want to help the company grow. The more they know and want to learn, the more you can achieve as a business.
You can also perhaps read more about happiness at work with Samantha Clarke.