Motivating people for business success

People work hard for people not companies. So how are you motivating people to drive up performance? It is vital that you are positive about the company and its reputation, that you do not make negative comments about the management team, and positively embrace challenges as the norm.

Those leading and managing need to be in agreement with each other and demonstrate this in front of staff. There will always be difficulties and problems, but engaging with staff to find solutions will help motivate in the hard times.

How would staff describe you as a manager? Attitude has the most significant impact on staff motivation, so take a look at yourself: if you come across as knowledgeable, positive, understanding, responsive to new ideas, available to your team, trusted, happy in your work, honest and decisive, you can more realistically expect staff to be motivated.

When you need changes to happen

Change is inevitable, but to avoid demotivation, you need to actively support people through it. It is the essence of management and leadership, not only to identify the change that needs to happen but to enable and equip your staff to achieve new outcomes. If staff who are currently capable and confident in their work are going to be impacted, think through the consequences, their reactions and anticipate how you need to help. Clear communications on the need for new ways of working or outcomes, and how people can do this in practice needs to be part of any change plan, building in sufficient time for staff to adapt.

Managers have comfort zones, as do team members, and dealing with people issues can go onto the ‘too difficult list’. Not dealing with people issues can antagonise and quickly lead to demotivation.

If you are running your own firm, engage with your managers and give them ownership of actions. Avoid undermining the management team by clear delegation to them. Be available to support, but do not compromise them by undisciplined intervention.

Reality and working relationships

In the real world, you cannot like everyone, but in managing a group, you must have empathy and a preparedness to work with all types, and be the oil that keeps the organisation moving forward. It costs nothing to be affable and approachable. Do get to know the people who work for you and let them get to know you. However, becoming good friends with staff members can make management difficult and be aware of not stepping over a line which could cause problems later.

Do stop gossips and whingers who drag down their own and others’ performance. Speak to them one to one in private– not by email! Identify any real issues that need resolving, and communicate the impact of their negative behaviour, and that it needs to stop.

What performance do you value?

Acknowledging and thanking people for the key things you need them to do is essential if you want them to carry on doing them well. The fact that you are paying someone to do the job is the main basis of your contractual relationship. It is not what will put a smile on their face and make them want to go the extra mile. If you do not praise solid performance of the main job, it will not be perceived as valuable. Time for some self-awareness on your part: if you approach a member of staff at their desk mid-morning, are they likely to look apprehensive, because they anticipate a problem or workload dumping?!

If you are going to praise someone, don’t compromise. “Well done for getting that bid in on time!” not “well done but make sure that happens every time”.

Celebrate and enjoy!

Celebrate events or achievements however minor – passing tests/exams work related or not, new babies, sporting achievements, end of a project, a new client or target met. Just publicly acknowledging these is good – although cakes, ice creams all round, a team beer on Friday, or a picture in the weekly newssheet are all feel-good actions.

Does your workplace have a fun aspect? There are many possibilities, from a low-budget rollout golfing green with balls and a club, to encouraged charity fundraising events, or a table tennis table or giant jenga in the office or external space, so when people are having a lunch break there is something light hearted available. Fun is part of what makes us tick. We cannot all run to the Google workplace experience, but think about your premises and the small things you can do. An enjoyable space can overcome some of the negatives that will crop up in the day job.

Sometimes it has to be Goodbye

Staff must be enabled to do their job, but if you have recruited suitably qualified people, identified the minimum standards that need to be achieved, and after internal training and support they do not perform, then goodbye is the likely route ahead. The alternative is frustration and demotivation for you and high-performing others, and poor organisational performance.

It can be a sign of success that staff grow, perform and develop over a period of time with you, but then start to become demotivated if there is no higher position available to move into. If organisational growth cannot support their retention, this can mean that it is time to move on.

There is a right way and positive approach to goodbye – but that is another piece altogether!

Chris Keates Lewis is HR Partner at Tuffin Ferraby Taylor LLP, one of the UK’s leading building and property consultancies, where she oversees all HR and employment issues across all TFT offices. She is a driving force in policy development and continued training for all staff.