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How to inspire employees to give their best performance


Do you know how to inspire employees?

We all know that happy employees are more likely to stay with the company, take good care of customers and do what their boss needs. Sometimes it may feel like developing engaged employees is impossible. However, satisfied employees don’t have to be mythical creatures, sighted as frequently as unicorns in the forest.

With care, hard work and intentional employee encouragement, you can create a workplace environment that supports employee happiness. And inspiring employees may not be as difficult as you think.

The key is for you to recognize the difference between being a manager and being a leader. A manager plans, organizes, assigns and follows-up. A leader influences, motivates and encourages.

Your job as a company supervisor requires you to excel at both skills to be successful. The leadership component means you must build good relationships with employees in order to influence, motivate and encourage.

How to inspire employees

1. Pay attention

It’s been said before, but it’s hard to overemphasize the need for managers to show concern for their employees as people. That means taking the time to ask about their holidays and families, their hobbies and interests. It also means giving them a chance to get to know you.

You don’t have to reveal anything deeply personal. On Monday morning when everyone’s talking about their weekend, mention attending your daughter’s school play and watching the big game. Or talk about how hard it is to see your parents struggling with ill health or having to explain to your toddler why the family dog died.

When there’s too much work to be done in too few hours, it can seem like taking time for personal interaction is wasted energy. However, knowing your team members, their interests and stresses both inside and outside the office can be a powerful ally in helping you find the best ways to encourage and influence them to optimum productivity.

This doesn’t mean you have to be your employees’ best friend. In fact, other employees may see it as favoritism if you do, which can lead to bitterness and a lack of motivation. Human beings perceive interest as caring. Managers who make employees feel their boss cares about them as more than a cog in the wheel engender loyalty and motivate employees to work harder. That’s the key for how to inspire employees.

2. Meet them where they are

Like it or not, we all bring our socialization from childhood into the workplace. You, as team leader, must recognize your natural style and adjust to what each employee needs.

Say you come from a strict, command-and-control military family and are comfortable with overt displays of authority. To be effective, you must recognize some employees may come at their work differently. Adjusting your style to fit your team’s needs shows flexibility and engenders respect.

Analyze each team member’s natural style. Are they an introvert or extrovert? Good at one-on-one interaction? Naturally gifted at customer service or numbers or presentations?

Through this understanding, you can help employees commit to business goals in a way that fits their abilities and motivations.

By playing to their strengths, you are more likely to engage their hearts, not just their minds. Employees who are truly engaged are less likely to find roadblocks to the success of their projects, to go the extra mile when it’s needed.

3. Communicate expectations

Want your team to roar past their goals? Explain the big picture, why they are doing what they are doing and set clear expectations. Your employees need to understand how they fit into the company, why their job is important and what they must do to help the company reach its goals. Plumb deeply to make sure team members understand how they contribute to the overall company.

Say the company has a year-end sales goal of X. Your employees need to know what they can do every day to help meet that goal. Stick to one or two tasks so you don’t overwhelm them.

After setting clear expectations, you must hold people accountable by checking in weekly or monthly to see if goals are being met. Don’t forget to recognize success publicly and coach privately if there’s a problem.

Be positive as much as possible during these communications. People want to work for positive people, especially when facing the challenges that naturally come about in any project.

4. Establish trust and autonomy

A thriving team will have many individuals doing their jobs well — because they have each been given the space to tackle problems independently and find solutions creatively. So how can you begin to grow this kind of self-motivation in your people?

To invest in your people, quit micromanaging. Instead, foster an increasing sense of personal responsibility. Rather than constantly watching your team members with an eagle eye, delegate tasks to them to manage on their own. As they handle projects effectively, you can gradually increase their responsibilities — and watch them thrive in the process.

Likewise, incentives can foster self-motivation for the employees who need a little push to take on new challenges. One effective method of employee encouragement toward autonomy is rewards, whether bonuses or other incentives, for meeting specific deadlines or goals. As workers see their efforts pay off, they’ll be more eager to take on new projects and work faithfully.

Being in a place where you can trust your team members to take responsibility for assignments is a game changer. Not only does it boost productivity, but also morale. Managers feel freedom to get more done, and workers enjoy the confidence of being good at what they do.

5. Develop positive work culture and work-life balance

Every employee is also a person with a life outside of work, often with responsibilities and relationships that demand their time. By working with, instead of against, this reality, you can benefit as a business.

Modern technology has expanded the ways companies can give employees better work-life balance. Could you provide flexible work scheduling, for example, which allows for earlier or later hours? Is working from home an option? These kinds of scheduling benefits not only improve employee satisfaction and work culture, but also help you attract better personnel when you need to hire.

Other perks that can improve employees’ experience at your company include various extras. Providing snacks in the office, for example, does make a difference to workers. When they aren’t hungry, they’re better able to focus. When the snacks come from the office, they feel appreciated. Likewise, wellness perks such as discounted gym memberships or weekly massages can go a long way. Also, investing in the aesthetics of your office impacts workers, too. Being able to work in a bright, functional, attractive space makes a job much more pleasant.

Overall, when it comes to a positive work culture, management directly impacts the vibe of a workplace. Speak positively. Be encouraging. If you need to vent concerns or negatives, talk to a counselor or someone outside your team.

6. Show gratitude and recognize achievements

Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Good leaders recognize this and work to foster a culture of recognition and respect. Honor hard work. Reward accomplishments. Call out the people who are doing a particularly good job. When you’re the kind of manager who often pulls aside employees to say, “Well done!” that impacts their experience at your company. You empower them to feel satisfied and motivated in their jobs.

One effective way to begin motivating and inspiring employees is with an incentive program in which workers earn rewards for certain accomplishments. You could do quarterly bonuses, for example, or provide better commissions than your competitors do. Whatever the case, when people know you reward good work, they are naturally more motivated to do it.

On the flip side, when you ignore incentives or recognition, you discourage the kind of behavior you’re looking to promote. When workers realize no one cares if they put in long hours or hit new targets, what’s their motivation to keep putting in the effort?

As you implement various rewards programs, you’ll know they’re working by tracking results. Likewise, you can solicit feedback via surveys or interviews. Keep an eye on their performance and attitudes to see if your approach is having the right effect.

7. Be open and available

Don’t forget about servant leadership. As described by James Hunter in his book The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle, servant leaders makes themselves available to help employees when it’s needed.

Hunter wrote: “How we behave as the boss at work today affects what goes on around the dinner table in other people’s homes tonight. Anyone who has ever had a bad boss can certainly relate to what I’m talking about. I believe this is where servant leadership begins. We need to reflect on this awesome responsibility for which we signed up and recognize that our choices and behaviors are impacting lives.”

Say someone missed a goal because they had trouble getting the right data. By checking in regularly with your staff, you’ll be able to troubleshoot, encourage when it’s needed, answer questions and generally help your staff accomplish their short- and long-term goals.

If you’re in the trenches with them, you’ll be seen as a respected team leader rather than a distant tyrant. You’ll also be able to keep emotional commitment high and nurture employees’ great ideas at the source. Remember to be open to feedback too.

Finally, get out of the way and let your employees shine. Give them opportunities to position themselves as subject matter experts. For instance, if you have a presentation to executives, give your key players the chance to co-present.

By giving your employees high-profile growth opportunities, you will make them feel valued and appreciated. Lead from the heart, invest your heart in your people and let them grow along with you. By inspiring employees to better performance, you’ll create relationships that can benefit you both for a lifetime.

For more strategies on how to inspire employees and build your best staff ever, download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.