Leadership 101: How to Inspire Your Employees
The Business Journal (Phoenix)
You can lead a horse to
water, but you can’t make him drink.
Similarly, you can make
your employees work nine to five—the basic requirement for earning a
paycheck—but coaxing them to greatness is another matter.
These days, we all need
to get the most from our resources, and for most small businesses, human assets
are their #1 asset. So how do you motivate those #1 assets to perform at a
important, but it isn’t everything. Admittedly, a salary satisfies some very
basic human needs, because it pays for food, shelter, and life’s essentials. But
humans are more complex than that. Beyond basic survival needs, people have a
need to feel valued. When you appeal to that need, you inspire your employees to
raise the bar.
Sure, you can manage through power
and intimidation, but demeaning people won’t inspire their loyalty. Quite the
opposite. It’s preferable to manage through genuine leadership. How do you do
that? By treating employees with respect and creating a gratifying
Six Ways to Motivate Employees
Motivating employees doesn’t mean
popping out of your office every few months and giving a rousing appreciation
speech. That’s fine, too, but it’s in the daily back-and-forth that we show our
true colors. In other words…
Recognize and reward good
performance. Develop a formal recognition program. It doesn’t have to be a
dollar bonus. Present an “employee of the month.” plaque, reserve a special
parking space, honor your people in front of their peers. Corny? Maybe.
Give credit where credit is
due. If someone shares a good idea, attribute it to them (even if you modify
it to put it into practice). This encourages employees to wear their
thinking caps, and that keeps them engaged.
Open Up Communication Lines
Everyone knows good communication
is essential, but it’s surprising how often we forget in the midst of day-to-day
Make sure you and your employees are on the same
page. When a worker tells you something, repeat it back to him/her. (“Is
this what I heard you say…”). Similarly, when you share important
information, ask your listener to summarize what he or she just heard.
Don’t be mysterious about the
business. Employees want to know what’s going on; they have a stake in the
business, too. When you have a big success—say, a major sale—celebrate it.
Spring for cake or pizza; make an announcement.
When times are tough, be
truthful, but frame it in a positive, reassuring light. Don’t let the rumor
mill run wild. When morale plummets, so does productivity. Leadership means
Schedule monthly or quarterly
status meetings, to keep workers in the loop. Create an environment where
employees feel comfortable sharing with you, even when it’s bad news, so you
can nip problems in the bud.
Be open to criticism, but don’t
let meetings turn into gripe sessions. Encourage critics to meet with you
privately. Then check out their complaints and report back. By being open
and responsive, you’ll earn your employees’ trust.
Remember, only 20%-40% of what
we communicate is verbal. The rest is expressed through our body language
and facial expression. So pay attention to what your body is conveying, and
note what employees’ silently convey as well.
In summary, a dictatorship is not
leadership. If you want your employees to go the extra mile, lead them
there—with respect, good communication, and unfailing appreciation. When people
follow you willingly, you can take them almost anywhere.
Ray Silverstein is president of
PRO: President’s Resource Organization, a network of small business peer group
advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. The author of “The Best Secrets of Great
Small Businesses” and a columnist for Entrepreneur magazine online, Ray invites
you to a local PRO meeting. He may be reached at