Leadership and Motivation – Getting the most out of your employees
Regardless of the size of your company—even if you only employ one other person—you have to consider employee motivation to keep quality. If you are going to spend time and money training a new employee, you should also spend some time and effort in keeping that employee. Regardless of what industry your business is in, you are in the people business. The way you treat and motivate your employees determines the way your employees treat your customers. Your job as a leader is to inspire your people to do their best.
There is a distinct difference between a small business manager and a small business leader. A college advisor once said that “you manage resources and you lead people.” In a small business, you may very well be both a manager and a leader in the course of your business day. You may have to focus on a budget or purchasing decision and then focus on helping an employee solve a personal problem. Both managers and leaders are necessary for success.
The key to leadership, regardless of the size of your company, is to get the most out of yourself and your employees. You accomplish this by inspiring your employees to do more than they think they are capable of doing. One of the largest tasks you will face as a leader is to motivate your employees into accomplishing the mission and enjoy doing it.
Motivation and morale are joined at the hip. Remember the old cliché, “The beatings will continue until the morale improves?” There are a number of companies that still believe that adage. The truth is that there are better ways to improve morale. General Bruce Clark once said, “Ten pats on the back for every kick in the shins is a good ratio for leaders.” Motivation does not require a big budget to be successful. A pat on the back or a simple “well done” goes a long way.
One of the best ways to get the most out of employees is to get to know them as people. Once you have established your credibility and concern, you are then able to coach, teach, mentor, and counsel your employees to develop them into a world-class team. In small business, coaching, teaching and mentoring are critical. In a perfect world, you could hire superstars for every job. In the real world, you have to develop your team.The smaller the business, the more critical this becomes.
Many companies believe the best way to improve employee motivation and morale is through higher pay – so, salaries and wages are increased and the employees’ motivation remains the same.Why?If you look at the studies of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, pay only meets the basic needs of most people.There are employees in today’s free agent economy that are totally motivated by money, but most of those are in professional sports which do not qualify as small businesses.
Here are some techniques to improve the motivation of your employees without raising wages and in most cases without any additional costs at all.
1.Get to know the employee and find out what interests them.How do you get to know your employees?You can not do it from behind a computer screen and a desk. You have to get out and talk to them, what are their interests, what is their family like?You may find out that you can converse with them about their interests and just knowing that you care will provide an extra motivation to excel.Once you get to know them, show a genuine interest in them.
2.Pats on the back go a long way.Too many managers and leaders today have gone away from this simple but effective tool.And a public pat on the back or recognition in front of peers is a great motivator for employees.
3.When I was in the Army we had a rule known as the “59 minute rule.”This rule allowed me to let my civilian employees to leave 59 minutes early.The use of this rule allowed me to reward employees with basically an hour off.After the word spread about the use of the “59 minute rule,” employees worked harder on projects in hopes of being recognized and rewarded with the 59 minutes.Such a rule is an easy program to implement and as long as you do not over do it, it is relatively inexpensive and it works.
4.Hold a monthly or quarterly session with your employees to see what problems they have that you can fix or mitigate.A simple luncheon setting works very well and lets the employees know that you are concerned about them and their working conditions.Plus this helps you get to know your employees.
Once you know your employees and their backgrounds and interests, team development depends on the application of teaching, coaching, mentoring and counseling to keep the team focused and motivated. Is there a difference between coaching, teaching, mentoring, and counseling your employees?Although these terms are used interchangeably in many situations and papers, but they are different.The remainder of this article will look at the differences and how to use these tools to lead and motivate your employees.
A recent US Army manual on Leadership defines leadership as “influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation – while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.”The effective application of the tools of coaching, teaching, mentoring, and counseling will enable you to provide motivation to your employees, improve your organization, and assist you in accomplishing your missions.
The first step is teaching and training of the employees.The better the quality of the training an employee receives before starting the job, the better prepared they are to do the tasks that you expect of them.Once they are trained, the leadership responsibility of teaching comes into play.As a leader, either a first line supervisor or the president of the company, your job is to teach your employees in those areas that may have been missed in the initial training or how to handle new situations or new missions that may not have been covered in their initial training.Teaching is a critical link in improving employee self confidence and morale.The more self confidence your employee has, the better they can take care of your customers.The more satisfied the customers are with the quality and completeness of their treatment by your employees, the more the word of mouth publicity for your company grows.
How do you coach your employees?The role of a coach is two-fold.A coach serves as teacher, but the coach also serves the role of keeping a person motivated and focused.On the football field this comes in the form of designing plays, running the team through practices, rewarding the players the work the hardest, and encouraging a player when something goes wrong.How many times have you seen a coach bench a player because he or she made a mistake on the field or on the basketball court?In middle school and high school ball this happens all to often.If the coach substitutes for the player and sits the player on the bench without talking to them about what went wrong and how to improve on it, then the coach is not coaching but merely running a group of players through the motions trying to win.Your employees are the same as these developing athletes.If they make a mistake the role of the leader as a coach is to talk with the employee about what should have happened, what happened, and how to correct it in the future.Back to the sports analogy, the corrective action may mean additional training or additional practice in a particular skill.As a leader, if you determine that an employee needs additional training, then talk with the employee and schedule the training.
What is mentoring?From my perspective mentoring is one step past coaching.You coach your employees to perform better right now.Mentoring is a long term association.The goal of mentoring is to prepare your employees for promotion to jobs of more responsibility.Using the football analogy again, a defensive coach coaches the players, whereas the head coach mentors his assistant coaches to prepare them for future jobs as head coaches.Mentoring does not stop when the employee leaves your company. You may very well find yourself providing guidance to former employees for many years.Mentoring comes from having a relationship and enough confidence in a person in a similar profession to be able to call at any time to ask for advice and guidance.Regardless of what profession you are in not only should you be mentoring employees on professional development, but you should have a mentor that you can turn to for advice in your business.
Counseling is usually seen as something that has negative connotations.Counseling is also a way to provide feedback to your employees when they have done a good job.Counseling can take the form of a pep talk for an employee that you know has the potential but is not meeting that potential.In this form of counseling a plan should be developed and mutually agreed upon to assist the employee in improving their performance.This is the link between counseling and training.
Motivating employees comes from combining teaching, coaching, mentoring, and counseling.A leader provides motivation to his or her employees by demonstrating loyalty, honesty, integrity, ethics, and a genuine concern for their employees. When the tools of teaching, coaching, mentoring and counseling are combined with these five attributes of leadership, the result is motivated employees.