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Strategies for an inspired workforce: 8 things to stop doing this year


What do fireworks, the Times Square ball drop and resolutions have in common? They’re all traditions that have become standard practice for starting the new year on a positive note. New Year’s resolutions, in particular, offer an opportunity for renewed commitment and focus. It’s the closest thing to a re-set button in life – your chance to set new goals and work toward personal betterment over the next 365 days.

But what about your business? Doesn’t it deserve the same opportunity for reflection and redirection as your personal life? Assuming you want your business to thrive in the coming year, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions for your business, strategies for growth and success are likely at the top of the list. Make no mistake about it – motivating your workforce to carry out your company’s mission is one of the most effective ways to grow your business and increase its success.

So, how can you encourage your employees to get on board with your vision for the company and do their part to help it get there? Empowering them and boosting their morale is a good place to start, and there’s no better time to put this into practice than right now.

Before you start wondering how you’re going to fit something else into your busy schedule, take a deep breath. This year, consider making your resolution less about doing more – and more about doing less.

Resolve to stop doing these 8 things this year:

1. Stop trying to develop good managers

We’ve been conditioned to believe that every company needs great managers. That’s true enough, but it lacks big-picture perspective. What every company actually needs is great leaders. Managing and leading are not the same thing. Managers make the rules – leaders challenge the rules and embrace change. Managers plan details – leaders set direction and pave the way. Managers execute culture – leaders shape culture.

The best leaders create purpose. They bring relevance to an idea or concept, so that it not only matters to them but also to their employees. They cultivate an environment where everyone feels a sense of ownership and believes that their contribution matters.

Say you’re implementing a new process that will redefine how your employees go about doing their work. You want them to embrace the new process and get excited about how it will improve efficiency throughout the organization, right? Consider the difference in how a manager and a leader might approach the situation:

  • Manager: “The new process will be implemented by X date. All employees will need to complete training on the new process and wrap up current projects prior to implementation. Any new projects will be initiated through the new process and system. Thank you for your patience during this transition.”
  • Leader: “This new process is going to help you work more efficiently and understand how your role fits in with the whole project. You’ll also have a say in how the work gets done and collaborate with your team to develop the best strategy for execution. The idea is to empower you to no longer be just a project order-taker, but rather a project stakeholder. Implementation will be completed by X date, so we’ll be working with each of you to help you wrap up current projects before then.”

Which approach do you think will get the best results?

2. Stop thinking communication solves everything

Business owners are bombarded with messages about the importance of communicating with employees. Ever heard the old adage, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it?” That couldn’t be more true in this case.

While there’s no denying your business won’t get very far without effective communication, communication alone isn’t enough. People don’t need more information. Most of us are drowning in it already. Instead, what people need is inspiration. Do you know the difference between information and inspiration? One tells you what you should do; the other ignites the fire within you to do it.

When you create messages that inspire your employees, you cultivate an intrinsic motivation within them. Their mindset begins to change from “I have to do this” to “I get to do this.”

Now, imagine how that difference in perspective can carry over into employees’ dealings with customers and each other. Ideally, the end result will be better products and services – and, ultimately, happier customers.

3. Stop believing you should always put your people first

No, this doesn’t mean the people in your organization shouldn’t be a top priority. They definitely should be. But in reality, your core customer promise should come before anything else. Keep it top of mind and build everything around it. When every aspect of your business is aligned with your mission and values, you’re better positioned to deliver on your promise to customers and employees alike.

For example, if your company’s busy season is the summer and you have several key employees request PTO during this time, you may want to consider asking them to stagger their time off. That way, customer requests will continue to get handled in a timely manner, and everyone still gets to enjoy their vacation time. Everybody wins.

4. Stop leaving your workplace culture to chance

Your workplace culture includes everything from your physical office environment to the collective assumptions, beliefs and principles of the people who make up your workforce. And it can make or break your business. Like most things in life, the office culture you desire probably won’t just magically happen on its own. Instead of “culture by default,” consider a “culture by design” strategy that allows you to create the environment that’s most conducive to growth and productivity. Plan your office culture with purpose and forethought. Cultivate a work culture that fosters competence and collaboration, allowing employees to build on each other’s strengths and propel their skills – and your business – to new heights.

5. Stop viewing performance as a once-a-year event

Sure, yearly performance reviews can help you track employee performance. But they should be part of a multi-pronged approach for evaluating progress, rather than a one-and-done method that only happens every 12 months. Research suggests that setting quarterly performance goals with monthly check-ins may be more beneficial for your employees and your business. The idea is to develop a model that fosters continuous performance development and creates a framework for ongoing improvement.

6. Stop working “in” your business

As a business leader, you wear many hats. It comes with the territory. But as your business grows, it becomes increasingly important to trust your managers and employees to do the jobs you’ve prepared them to do. Empower them and get out of their way, instead of trying to do everything yourself.

When you get lost in the weeds of minutia that could be handled by your staff, you’re not only cheating them of the opportunity to learn and grow – you’re also setting yourself up for complete collapse at some point. That’s not effective leadership. Your time is better spent on strategic initiatives, so leave the tactical execution to your employees. Instead of working “in” your business, spend more time working “on” it.

7. Stop trying to fit more into your day

Have you experienced the power of the word “no?” If not, maybe you should. There’s a lot vying for your time, and no matter how you slice it, you’re never going to have more than 24 hours in a day. Start being more protective of your calendar and being more selective of what you take on. Consider what’s truly essential to your company’s success and limit the time you spend on anything else. Do you really need to attend every chamber of commerce meeting, or can you delegate someone else to represent the company in your place? And what about all those meeting requests? Politely decline those that aren’t absolutely necessary for you to attend.

8. Stop thinking you need to have all the answers

You didn’t get to your level of success without knowing a thing or two. But that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to have all the answers. There’s nothing wrong with having to tell someone, “I don’t know the answer to that right now, but I’ll find out and get back to you.” Better yet, free yourself from the follow-up altogether whenever possible, and simply recommend where managers or employees can find the information they need themselves.

You can even apply this same logic on a broader scale and start asking a few questions of your own:

  • How are we doing as an organization?
  • What do you think we could do better?
  • Where do you want to go with your career?
  • How can I help you get there?
  • What suggestions do you have for me as a leader?

By regularly seeking your employees’ input and suggestions for improvement, you open yourself up to new opportunities to evolve as a leader. You also encourage two-way communication and show your company’s greatest asset, its people, that what they think matters to you.

Want to learn how a professional employer organization (PEO) can provide you with the administrative relief you need to simplify your workday and focus on more strategic business initiatives? Download our e-book, HR Outsourcing: A Step-by-Step Guide to Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs).