Inspiring Your Staff from Top to Bottom

Posting inspirational quotes in the staff kitchen is a nice gesture, but it won’t sustain your employees forever. A comprehensive system that combines motivation, honest evaluation, information dissemination, and rewards will do more to inspire.

Some managers still try to rule by fear, but these days “management by intimidation” has become not only unpopular, it has also been found to be immensely ineffective. No one wants to work for a tyrant, so why would you lead like one? Instead, you’ll reap more benefits by becoming a leader people want to please.

Here are six proven ways to inspire your staff from top to bottom:

  • Start at the top. Can you inspire yourself? Absolutely. Think about your business plan. Consider the quality of life of your employees and what the company means to their livelihood. Think about why you started your company and what moved you to want to be successful in the first place.
  • Ask questions. People feel valuable when they’re asked about what’s important to them. Find out what’s meaningful to your employees and what inspires them to do good work. Make sure they know you’re sincere, too. Sending out a broadcast e-mail or memo is probably not appropriate here; instead, try to be more spontaneous, informal, and personal. Weave your questions into conversations and then make and keep good mental notes. Write down what they say if necessary and then do what you can to create an environment that supports what you’ve gleaned through your “research.”
  • Add some fun. All work and no fun make for a pretty boring workplace; it doesn’t do much for inspiration either. Infuse your office and the lives of your employees with some fun. Celebrate small milestones like the completion of half a report or an employee’s newfound skill as the go-to person for help with the copy machine. Present cupcakes to employees having a birthday. Bring in lunch occasionally or serve your staff ice cream at the next meeting.
  • Recognize and reward. Nothing inspires people to work hard like a public pat on the back. Expressing your happiness with a job well done is important not only for the person receiving the praise but for colleagues, too. Public expression of kudos makes people feel good and motivates others to work hard so that they too will be recognized for their contributions.
  • Start a speaker’s bureau. You’re not the only one who can benefit from the wisdom of a motivational speaker. Consider bringing in experts who know how to get people on their feet. Many companies hold “Lunch and Learn” sessions during which a speaker talks about a specific work-related topic during the lunch hour. Find local speakers willing to talk for nothing or a modest fee by inquiring at your local chamber of commerce, asking around at various networking events, and just by some general snooping. You’d be surprised at the level of talent in your own backyard.
  • Listen to gripes, whining, and bad news. If you consistently ignore the complaints — and you’re bound to have them — your people will lose faith in your ability to lead. Listening to bad news is actually a perfect opportunity to inspire. Once people know they’ve been heard, they are often primed for something positive. Acknowledge their concerns, thank them for having the courage to speak up, and then try your best to do something about it. A cheerleading squad is essential in the workplace, but the players also need an opportunity to think and regroup.