It's interesting the things that trigger a topic for a blog. A few months ago I picked up on a conversation between several old friends who were simply being beaten to death by their employer who wanted higher production, better quality, faster turnaround time - all the biggies any business has for challenges. I was amazed at his approach to motivate this terrific group of people. It took me back to a quote I saw years ago,
"The beatings will continue until morale improves!"
I absolutely accept you can't love everybody you work for, but what kind of leader are you? Whether you have a staff of a dozen people or just one employee makes no difference. In fact, if you don't have a staff at all, you still have vendors and their staff who support you. It's an easy question to answer: Are you a good role model for your staff? Do you motivate through support or intimidation?
I've been very lucky in my career. With the exception of only one person, I've always had managers who gave me enough rope to hang myself, but threw a chair under me if they saw the rope going taut. They've always been supportive and given me the confidence to learn that there's pretty much nothing any of us can't do when we believe in ourselves.
I don't mean to sound like I'm preaching. However, for those of you who find yourself staying up nights thinking about new ways to motivate that second shooter you just brought on board, the designer who's doing your website or the new assistant who's trying to develop a marketing plan for the year ahead - try these suggestions:
1) Keep your staff informed of everything you're doing. Meet at least once a week.
2) Try to never have lunch by yourself. Casual conversation over lunch will sometimes get you the greatest and most sincere feedback.
3) Encourage your staff to stop you from being stupid, acting stupid and doing stupid things! I always knew I was in trouble when my staff had that look on their faces that screamed "Hey Bozo - don't do it that way!" It took a while, but I learned to appreciate their honesty. I never needed people to tell me what I was doing right - I knew that. What I needed was people with enough backbone to tell me when I was wrong.
4) Include your staff in your own brainstorming sessions. They can't understand the pressure you're under if you don't keep them informed.
5) Have confidence in the people you hire. I'm reminded of Jaime Escalante, the teacher who was profiled in an old movie, Stand and Deliver. He never stopped believing in his students even though statistically they were at the very bottom of scholastic achievement. In the end they set record highs for scoring in A.P. Calculus in California. You've got exactly the same opportunity and it's what Sam Walton refers to in the opening quote. You've got to help your staff build their self-esteem and give them the tools to be confident in their support for you and your business.
And for those of you who believe you have to bring out the verbal and emotional bull whip each day, consider this quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower:
"You do not lead by hitting people over the head- that's assault, not leadership."
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