Imagine having a team of rock star employees who care about their work as much as you do. Sound like a fantasy? You wouldn’t be the only business owner to think so. Only 34% of the workforce in the U.S. is motivated and enthusiastic about the work they do, according to a 2018 Gallup survey.1 And believe it or not, that’s tied for the highest percentage Gallup has ever recorded!
So, how do you motivate your employees? Before we share some EntreLeadership practices and principles that will fire up your team, let’s get real for a second: You can’t motivate team members who aren’t willing to change. It doesn’t matter how many Ping-Pong tables, free lunches, vacation days or any other perks or benefits you offer. They’ll never get off their butts or improve their attitudes. You’re treating a symptom. People who aren’t interested in the mission of your business won’t be persuaded by a perk to care more.
Now, maybe you just hired the wrong people in the first place. But there are also legitimate reasons why your employees might be underperforming—and these issues can be fixed. Here are eight ways to motivate your employees, create better company culture, and build a team that’s bought into the work they do.
1. Cast Your Vision
Have you ever noticed that when someone tells a great story, you can’t help but place yourself in it? Casting a vision for your business is nothing more than sharing a story—the story of your business’s future, why you work, and where you want to take your company. Last year, our vision for Ramsey Solutions was to serve and provide hope to 3 million people. You can bet that got our team fired up!
Keep in mind that your vision doesn’t have to be on such a massive scale. As a business owner, you’re serving others—making their lives better—no matter what you do. Drive that point home and share it with your team members constantly. Repeat it until they have it memorized. Your team will naturally see the part they can play, and it will help them feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.
2. Develop a Mission Statement
A mission statement brings clarification and definition to your vision. It tells others, including your team, what you’re about. It’s a strong motivator because it rallies a team around a shared purpose. A mission statement also serves as an out-of-bounds marker—it will show your team what your business is not about.
That’s why it has to be right. If you don’t have a mission statement (or you need to redo the one you’ve never really used since the day it was written), it’s time to get to work. Check out our Mission Statement Mapper to get started.
Once you have your mission statement, take every opportunity to remind your team about it. This is what you stand for. At Ramsey Solutions, every team member has our mission statement memorized:
We provide biblically based, commonsense education and empowerment that give HOPE to everyone in every walk of life.
3. Share Clear Goals
Goals are visions and dreams with work clothes on. They convert your vision into energy and help you move forward in every area of life. If you haven’t done so yet, your first step is to create goals for yourself and your business. For goals to work, they need to be:
Get down to the nitty-gritty with your goals. Just saying you want to grow your business won’t cut it. Instead, try writing, “I want to increase profits by 2% in the next quarter.” Having an exact target makes creating a plan of attack easier.
Make your goals measurable so you can track progress, adjust your strategy if needed, and celebrate when you reach a milestone!
Without time limits, goals can turn into tasks on the to-do list you’ll get to “eventually.” Setting a time limit gives you a clear finish line. This will make sure you and your team dedicate time and resources to making progress.
Have you ever worked on a project that seemed totally pointless? You probably didn’t give it your best effort. If you want to reach a goal, it needs to be something you actually want to accomplish.
Something special happens when you write down specific goals. Seeing your goals in black and white will help you hold yourself accountable and track your progress along the way.
Once you have your goals, your next step is to share them with your team to get them on board. Because without your team’s buy-in, goals aren’t goals at all—they’re quotas. And nobody likes quotas.
So, what happens if your team doesn’t hit a goal? Great coaches know that failure is the best opportunity to grow. Figure out together why you didn’t quite hit that goal and how you can improve in the future. That builds a lot of trust and unity with your team.
4. Create a Culture of Recognition
Ever gone out of your way to do something nice for someone only to have the effort go completely unnoticed? Or have you ever worked extremely hard on a project and not even gotten a thank-you? It kind of sucks.
Well, your employees feel the same way. Like it or not, we all want approval and appreciation! And nothing will kill your team’s morale faster than not being recognized for a job well done. In fact, according to a workplace study by Gallup, employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.2
If you want to motivate your team to do their best work, acknowledge them openly and often. Our CEO, Dave Ramsey, is known to walk through our building looking for people doing good work—and then he lets them know what a great job they’re doing. A thank-you or a compliment can set you apart from the majority of employers out there who don’t even bother to learn their team members’ names.
One way you can make this a part of your culture right away is by creating rituals for recognition—something your team does to celebrate wins together—and make them routine. There are plenty of simple and inexpensive ways to show your appreciation for your team’s hard work. Check out this guide, 43 Easy Ways to Recognize Your Team, for a few ideas.
5. Prioritize Work-Life Balance
A sure-fire way to make people hate working for your company (and probably you) is by not respecting their work-life boundaries. News flash: Your employees have lives outside of your business. They have families, friends, hobbies and even side hustles they want to get home to every night. Don’t demand or expect your team to work insane hours every single week. In the long run, it’ll lead to burnout and a lot of resentment.
Sure, sometimes your team will need to be all hands on deck until the work is done and the deadline is met. But if it’s crunch time all the time, that’s a problem. Living in a constant state of urgency where work always trumps other areas of life isn’t healthy for you or your employees. So, you need to lead by example—when you’re at work, be at work; when you’re at home, be at home. And encourage your employees to do the same.
6. Practice Servant Leadership
People want to work for leaders who are in their corner—leaders who support their team’s work, not demand it from them. That’s what it means to be a servant leader. You’re not being weak. You’re looking out for the best interests of your team and your organization.
This means you need to be humble—willing to get out of the corner office and help your team. Here are three things you can do to show your employees that you’re all in this together:
- Keep an open-door policy: Be approachable. Make yourself available and actually take an interest in your team members’ lives.
- Walk around the office: Take 15 minutes each day to walk around the office and chat with your team members. Find out what they’re working on and ask how you can help.
- Lead by example: The EntreLeader knows that running a business is very hands-on and mechanical. Don’t be above getting your hands dirty. Show your team that you’re willing to jump in and get things done for the good of the team.
7. Give Your Team Ownership
Are you a control freak? Listen, you probably have the best intentions, but nobody likes working for a micromanager. People want to be treated with dignity. Be sure to delegate and empower your employees to do their jobs. This is super important, because it allows your business to grow beyond what only you can do. After all, you’re only one person. Remember, though, delegation done right is not easy. There’s a lot of misunderstanding around delegation, and it’s easy to get wrong. To learn how to delegate the right way, check out The EntreLeader’s Guide to Delegation.
8. Follow the Golden Rule
Simply put, treat others how you would want to be treated. Don’t be so focused on results that you forget that the people who are working shoulder-to-shoulder with you are exactly that—people. Where you would expect a raise for a big idea, give a raise. Where you would expect praise for a major sale, give praise. Where you would expect guidance on a tough project, give guidance.
Defend Against These 5 Demotivators at All Costs
So we listed some steps you can take to boost motivation. But we would be mistaken if we ended this discussion without pointing out the common practices that destroy morale. These five enemies of unity are to teams like kryptonite is to Superman. They’ll take down even the mightiest of companies.
1. Poor Communication
Lack of communication will lead to distrust, which will destroy unity. So share as much as possible with your team, whether good news or bad. We have a saying at Ramsey Solutions: “To be unclear is to be unkind.” Not sharing leads people to assume the worst. But by communicating clearly, you can all get on the same page and move forward together.
2. Lack of Shared Purpose
Like we said above: Without a clear picture of what your business is about and how you go about it, your team members will become confused, disinterested and frustrated. You have to align your team with the vision and mission of your business. Talk about those two things so often that your team knows what you’re going to say before you say it.
Negative chatter has the power to destroy everything you’ve built—killing unity, loyalty and your culture. And it’s contagious, like a stomach virus on steroids. You need to stamp it out now, or it will infect your entire company culture. Require your employees to bring negatives and pain points to leaders who can actually do something about it, rather than to their peers at the water cooler.
4. Unresolved Disagreements
You can’t work with people and never experience conflict. It just isn’t possible. As a leader, it’s your job to act quickly and decisively when you become aware of disagreements. Work to find resolution. Sit everyone down in the same room and figure it out. If not, the tension will get worse, and your team will grow apart.
5. Sanctioned Incompetence
Whether it’s related to social interactions or performance, you can’t allow incompetence to go unchecked—it’ll drag the rest of the team down. Leaders deal with underperformance and unacceptable behavior early and often.
So, now that you know what to look for, be on your guard! And if these five demotivators have already taken your company culture hostage, don’t despair. You can turn things around, and we can help. Sign up for our free online training, 5 Fixes to Get Your Employees to Act Like Owners.
Now you know how to motivate your employees, and it all boils down to this: Care deeply about the people who work for you, and they will care deeply about the work they do. Put these principles into practice and avoid the five demotivators like the plague. And remember, people only allow themselves to be led when they feel valued and when they are treated with dignity.