It is said that if you want to be successful, you must surround yourself with great people. One of the most challenging aspects of running your own business is finding great people and then keeping them.
For those of you who run businesses larger than just yourself, you know how hard it is to create that special energy where everyone is working together harmoniously and smoothly. Challenging though it is, there is nothing more important than the continuity and energy of your team. These are the people who represent your brand and deal with your customers. One of the most important things an owner or manager must do is invest in the team members on an ongoing basis. Here are some tips to help you with that investment.
1. Be Encouraging and Appreciative. Everyone likes to be encouraged. Some simple, yet valued, ways to be encouraging are to take a moment to recognize a staff member for an act of excellence and to send your staff a daily e-mail or voice mail with an inspirational message. Catch people doing good things and give them immediate verbal praise—this is a great way to boost confidence and energy, which are vital for the success of your employees. In a recent 10-item poll by organizational development expert Ken Kovach, PhD, entitled “What Employees Want,” the number-two response was “full appreciation of work done” (number one was “interesting work”). Don’t neglect some easy yet effective ways to show appreciation, such as giving a simple “thank-you” or verbal recognition for going above and beyond. A handwritten thank-you card is powerful. A gift certificate is a great idea. A birthday card is a nice touch, as it shows that you remembered someone’s special day. Simple deeds go a long way.
2. Give Rewards. Everyone likes to be rewarded for doing something well and for doing good. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean a financial reward. Money isn’t always the prime motivator. Public forms of recognition, such as praising a staff member in a group e-mail, providing an employee with more responsibility along with greater potential reward or asking a person for input on key situations are all ways to give a reward.
3. Create Opportunity. Employees often want to know that there are growth opportunities within the organization they work for. Provide those opportunities. This could mean involving staff in creating company products, developing a program, taking ownership of a certain task or assisting management with a specific need. Whatever the scenario, know your employees’ strengths and give them opportunities to grow and expand. Guide them, steer them and provide resources that help them succeed, yet let them “spread their wings” a bit when deserved. Then stand back and let them do their jobs.
4. Provide Feedback. For an employee to develop and expand, you must provide performance feedback. Feedback has been called “the breakfast of champions.” While formal, structured annual reviews are important, frequent spontaneous feedback is also vital for the success of your team. As Jack Welch mentions in his book Winning (HarperCollins 2005), great leaders know the value of giving candid feedback on an ongoing basis. Even a 3- to 5-minute conversation can help an employee grow and develop.
Communicate your expectations clearly, provide resources that help get the job done and provide feedback. These are “musts” if you want to build a great organization. Too many times we have expectations of our employees that we fail to communicate. And in The Power of Ethical Management (William Morrow 1988), Norman V. Peale and Ken Blanchard warn against being a “seagull” manager who just goes in and dumps on people. Once again, the advice is to catch people doing great things and praise them in public (criticize them only in private).
5. Be a Great Listener. All of us are extremely busy, but that doesn’t buy us the excuse that we are too busy to deal with our staff. There is nothing more important than listening to your own people. They often know the pulse of an organization better than the manager/owner, so give your team members time to talk. A great leader listens to people and makes decisions that incorporate their recommendations. People want to feel they have a voice in the organization. Part of your job is to listen and then to act on what you hear.
6. Celebrate Success. If your team wins, celebrate. If you have a great quarter or year, or you get word of a fantastic accomplishment, celebrate with your team. All people like a celebration, whether that means a catered lunch or an extravagant weekend retreat for your team. Celebrations boost spirit and energy.
7. Provide Team-Building Events. Time away from the office can be a great way for employees and even their families to connect and build camaraderie. Examples might include a team softball game, a day at the beach, conference attendance, a motivational speaker who facilitates a day of personal development or even volunteering time to a needy organization for a day.
8. Provide Personal Development. Our employees love to have “coaching” facilitated. I enjoy taking my staff through different exercises to help them in their personal growth. In 2006, we had a “Growth 2006” program with meetings every 3 months to facilitate personal growth. Last year, we had “Transformation 2007” meetings that were focused on personal and business transformation. In 2008 we had “Connect 2008,” which gave our staff the opportunity to connect their personal and business goals with the company’s strategy. Programs like these are powerful and provide clarity for employees as they move in a positive direction.
9. Have Successful Meetings. The team needs to hear from you on an ongoing basis regarding the status of the business. One meeting a quarter is appropriate, but be sure to keep the meetings short, provide food and spend the time productively. Share your mission and vision at every meeting, bring your team up-to-date on events and opportunities, go over safety items, recognize outstanding employee efforts and client success stories, and be sure to listen to your people. This is a time to connect, and it is important that all voices be heard. I love to include an educational and motivational piece so that people leave meetings full of energy and passion.
10. Be a Great Leader. Great leadership is critical for the success of an organization. Great leaders provide energy, motivation, vision, feedback, communication, teaching and mentoring, and they lead by example. Read books on leadership and management, and spend time investing in your leadership skills. Every great team typically has a great leader and great individuals. By taking the time to mold and grow your team in alignment with a common mission and vision, you create a special environment in which the team can thrive. Take an action step today—determine two or three things that you can do this month to be a better team-building leader, then do those things.
It takes a lot of time and energy to lead an organization. Invest the time in doing what is necessary to keep your team growing in the right direction. There is nothing more valuable than this, as your team either enhances or detracts from the culture you have worked to establish. Most important, your clients will recognize the unique energy, environment and culture fostered at your business and everyone will reap the benefits. n
Troy Fontana owns and operates Fontana Fitness,
a 2,300-square-foot state-of-the-art personal training studio in Reno, Nevada. He leads an inspiring weekly 1-hour meeting with his
nine staff members and does a great job making his people feel special with two programs he’s created:
1. Superstar Stickers. Fontana awards these stickers to his staff members for acts of integrity, great customer service or going way beyond expectations. For example, one of his staff members recently helped a handicapped person recover his wheelchair out of the lake adjacent to the facility. That employee was recognized at the weekly meeting for doing a great service in the community.
2. Building Champions for Life. A portion of the weekly meeting is spent on sharing life lessons on topics such as work ethics, patience, listening, burnout prevention, passion and a host of other great subjects. Staff members get to listen, then share insights and thoughts, which is motivating to them and helps them feel connected to the business. Fontana says that “empowerment and motivation are critical for keeping the staff inspired.”
Trina Gray is the owner/operator of the 10,000-square-foot Bay Athletic Club in Alpena, Michigan. She leads 43 instructors, trainers, daycare employees, fitness assistants and massage therapists. She has created several unique programs to help lead her team and make them feel like a million bucks:
1. Seasonal Leadership Retreats. Ten of her teammates went on a ski-weekend retreat as a way to encourage communication. This past summer they went to a water park and had fun splashing in the water and just relaxing as a team.
2. “Out of the Blue” Spa or Golf Days. Gray will surprise her managers several times a year with either trips to a spa for pedicures or 18 holes of golf. Besides enjoying the afternoon off, these managers get to do an activity they really enjoy.
3. Continuing Education Vacations. Nothing unites a group more than a classic “road trip.” Since opening her business 3 years ago, Gray has offered financial assistance and time off to any instructor, trainer or manager who wishes to attend any of the IDEA fitness conferences.
She believes in the mantra that “you need to keep motivating and inspiring your staff.” “The more you give, the more they give, and everyone prospers,” she says. “Most importantly, the client has a great experience because of the renewed vigor and enthusiasm of the trainer or staff member.”
As these two people illustrate, it doesn’t take a million bucks to make someone feel like a million bucks!
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