The Secret to Motivating Your Employees

Motivating your team starts with WHY

Why do you do what you do? Is it to make the most money or impact people’s lives? Is it to beat the competition or to contribute to the world in a meaningful way? The truth is that everyone needs a reason to do what they do. And while everyone may need a job to pay the bills, money isn't the core motivating factor for most people to do quality work. In fact, it rarely is.

The question agents who lead a team often ask is: How can I motivate my employees? Well, here’s the secret: you can’t. People can only motivate themselves. What you CAN do is create an environment that aligns with your employees’ "why" so that they can be excited to come to work inspired to put forth their very best effort.

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Creating “family values” within your team

They say you can’t choose your family. Luckily, you can choose your team! In fact, building the perfect team is one of the best aspects of being the boss. When assembling your dream team, do you hire based on skills or culture? Do you favor technical know-how over a better overall fit?

We’re big fans of author and speaker, Simon Sinek, who knows that when you improve culture you improve productivity because a successful team is essentially a family. So how do you develop a spirit of cooperation on your team? How do you engender the respect, trust, and pride essential to building a productive “family unit”?

With your team in place, your job as a leader is to create an environment where the people on your team can thrive. That means being patient at times and giving credit where credit is due. Offering employees compensation commensurate with their experience is important, but what they also want is for you to give them a sense of purpose, belonging, and security. Provide your team with unconditional encouragement and support so that they are empowered to achieve the best results possible.

Great leaders recognize the talent in others and  give them the opportunity to shine. Acknowledge and reward hard work often, and push your employees out of their comfort zone. For instance, if your assistant is a talented writer, then give them autonomy when crafting letters or developing marketing campaigns. If they’re energetic speakers, have them take the lead on team meetings. And if your clients frequently mention how helpful your assistant is, find ways to let them shine and dazzle clients more often!

Understanding your employees’ personal values

Keeping talented employees engaged (and keeping them on your team) means connecting with their values. Do you know what your assistants truly value? Do their job tasks connect with these values?

If you don't know why your employee chooses every day to work for you, or what is really important to them, you might try to motivate them using the wrong incentives. You may offer them a huge bonus thinking they’ll be thrilled, when what they’d really like is a few extra days of vacation time so they can finally go on that dream trip to Europe. If you don’t know what your employee really wants, you could end up losing them despite your best intentions.

Another tip? Ask for their opinions and feedback frequently. Ask them what they want out of their role. Ask what they think of your team’s processes, its communication methods, its current challenges. As the team leader and possibly a new boss, you may feel as though you should always have the answer, but in all likelihood you don’t. You’ll learn a lot about your employees’ mindset and values this way, and you’ll likely learn a lot about your own business as well. And, of course, they’ll feel a greater sense of ownership and personal investment in the business.

Creating universal value

Everyone wants to matter. And employees want to feel like their work matters. If you can’t answer the question, What are we all working five, or six, or seven days a week toward? you’re in trouble. You need to know this to be a source of inspiration to your team, and your employees need to know this so they find meaning in what they do.

Give your employees a cause they can believe in. Articulate HOW your work is impacting people’s lives. All companies seek growth. You should be able to answer WHY you want growth. Boil this message down to a core mission statement that your team will understand.

A mission statement should be no more than a couple of sentences, and it should hone in on your core messaging. What is your team all about? What is the client experience? How does the team work to achieve it? Maybe your team specializes in short sales and helps homeowners avoid foreclosure. Maybe yours is a boutique agency that thrives on building long-lasting personal relationships. Try to convey the essence of your “family values” with a few choice adjectives. The more specific the better.

Remember, your accountability should always be to people first and the bottom line second. Employees want to know that you put them ahead of profit margins. Numbers simply aren’t enough. We can’t care about numbers. We can care about people.

Leading with communication and contribution

Building relationships builds accountability, and solid relationships always begin with communication. How your culture is defined all boils down to how your team communicates. Good communication means being present and honoring your team meetings and one-on-one reviews. It means soliciting your team’s input and showing interest in their personal lives.

Celebrate your successes, talk openly about your failures. Acknowledge birthdays and personal successes, like a team member running a marathon. The amount of time and energy you are willing to give to your employees will impact their motivation.

You’re in this for the long haul, but are your employees? What gives them a sense of mission and security in their job? A company’s sustainability depends on continued collaboration of its team members. If you want your team to grow with you, cultivate a relationship of trust that will sustain your tribe over time. As Simon says, a company isn’t like a family. It is a family.