What Motivates You?

What motivates you? After a long, hot, sometimes 12+ hour day (especially now), what encourages you to get your feet on the ground and push forward again tomorrow? For you it may be one thing, but for the person sitting next to you it is most likely something completely different. If you’re feeling the stress that comes from running and/or operating the business, imagine how your employees are feeling in the departments. How are you going to motivate them? What are you going to do or say that makes them put their feet on the ground and push forward? It is critical that you think about this.

Motivation and teamwork go hand-in-hand. Lunches are great, popsicles on a hot day are awesome, “thank you’s” are heard… however, it is not often what we do to recognize, thank and motivate our team… it is more how and when that counts.

If you were to ask your employees, “What motivates you?” I think you would be surprised at their responses. Some answers may be typical. Most will be eye opening. I have come across bosses in our industry that are afraid to ask this question. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to hear the responses, they don’t think they can give an outcome the employee desires, or maybe, they simply don’t think they can afford it. If you’re afraid to ask… don’t be! Just because you ask, does not mean you have to fulfill each and every request. However, it will give you insight that you can build on. If you think you can’t afford to do it… I challenge you to remind yourself that you can’t afford not to. Resist the tunnel vision that allows you to be caught up in the day-to-day that you forget the big picture. Whatever your long-term goals are, your employees are a part of that goal. In fact, they are your greatest asset.

No matter what, you can motivate your team, and you can do it in a way that doesn’t necessarily cost you hundreds throughout the year in paid time off or pizza. It will however, cost you a few moments of time, hopefully, every week. When you walk into work, don’t go straight to your office, and work on the tasks that keep you busy. Schedule an extra 5 minutes a day and walk through your plant, stop in at a store, greet the delivery drivers…say “Good morning!” or “Thank you for being a part of this team, we appreciate you.” These words of genuine appreciation will put a smile on your employees’ faces. We as leaders often want to communicate at our speed and our comfort. This does not always work for your employees, and it certainly doesn’t help in the motivation department. Look into their eyes, shake their hand, or air high five them… let them know you genuinely care, and most importantly…be authentic!

Throughout my 18 years in this industry I have picked up, worked on and learned a lot in regard to teamwork, building culture and motivation. In my early years I was “too busy” for this or that. It resulted in a team that was also “too busy.” Too busy to get the customers’ full name, too busy to knock on a door and try to get a sale, or too busy to take the time to spot a stain from a garment. Your team will mirror your behavior. It is a two-way street. Once I realized the common denominator, I envisioned a culture full of motivated, happy-to-be-here individuals and team players. I consciously started working on recognizing and motivating others. I budgeted for team outings and met one on one with individuals. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I saw results. Not only with one person, but with all, all who wanted to be a part of the team. Everybody worked together. Everybody started motivating each other. If there was a bad seed… we communicated. Sometimes you may have an individual who doesn’t want to play ball… don’t ignore that when it happens. Talk about it right away.

Listening to your team is one of the best forms of motivation. It shows that you care for them, you value them and you’re open minded. Again, listening does not mean you have to execute all of their ideas. However, there will be times that someone suggests something great! When this happens and you do implement one of their ideas… they start to become an ambassador. They start to motivate others, and encourage them to think outside the box, and it spreads like wildfire throughout your company.

Results from your motivational communication won’t happen overnight. Slowly but surely and with your continuous thought and conscious awareness, your employees will realize and understand that this new “rising tide” will lift all boats.

Picture some of the greatest leaders in business, you will often find that they are the leaders who are not afraid to get their “hands dirty.” They are the ones who communicate with their team, listen, show them the road map of what their plan is, and work on it, as a team. A little progress each day will lead to big results.

Being a genuine leader is crucial, if you want a great team. More often you have to walk the walk…not talk the talk. Now more than ever we have had to get our hands dirty, elbows up to the counter and hands behind the wheel. While it may be tough for you day in and day out, your employees will recognize your hands-on approach and in return it will continue to motivate them. When you care, they care.

Motivation should be a proactive mission. When things are less stressful in the company, we can forget about the importance of recognition. We get distracted with other tasks or issues at hand. I encourage you to keep rewards and recognition a main focus. If you’re reading this and thinking “I could motivate my team more.” You are on the right track. It is never too late to start. People are all individually motivated by things very specific to them. If you need to know how to motivate your staff, I challenge you to simply ask them… Ask them and then listen.

A tip for you… schedule an extra 5 minutes in your next business day to walk around, say hello, handshake or air high five and communicate a genuine appreciation for what your employees do. That will be the start of a team comprised of motivated individuals.

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