A leader’s job description can seem like an ever-growing list of bullet points, but the priority for CEOs, CFOs and staff managers alike is always the same: leading their team. The question is, “how?”
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As a chief operating officer, my goal has been to foster excellence at my company, N2 Publishing, which is home to a range of personalities, skills and temperaments. I searched long and hard for the key to effective team management, and it is simply this: inspiration.
Employees will have challenging days. To get through them, they’ll need motivation, which leaders can supply by creating an inspirational environment, all day, every day.
Finding ways to do this is not the easiest task, but it’s the right choice, always. Here are six basic steps to start motivating your staff:
1. Be future thinking.
If your organization believes in promoting from within, let that be known. Scant opportunity for growth means little motivation for employees to work to their full potential. I personally sit down with every new hire at our home office within his or her first week and discuss, among other things, our promote-from-within culture.
I encourage workers to not allow where they’re at today to dictate how they think about the future. I personally have that belief in the way I look at my own life as well as how I look at an individual or a company.
2. Share examples.
Speak of both failures and successes so your team can relate. At the annual sales conference for my company this year, I did not lead off by speaking of victories but rather of a time when I was unable to make a sale. This type of admission not only shows that I'm human, but also that my company doesn't gloss over struggles.
Share stories about people who have overcome adversity or obstacles and have succeeded. What one person can do, another can do as well.
3. Send messages designed to inspire.
You never know whom your words will touch on any given day. So every message, no matter how short, should have an inspirational component. When speaking with employees -- whether one-on-one, in small groups or at a meeting of more than 100-plus, use the opportunity to connect and inspire.
A word of caution, though: The ups and downs in an employee’s personal life can carry over into the office. This might impact the way an employee responds to even the most positive message.
4. Remember, good behavior is contagious.
As leadership expert Ken Blanchard says, catch people doing something right. As a leader, when you do catch someone doing something well, praise the individual where others will hear.
Tell staff members to behave like an owner. When one employee took the time do extra research before making a decision on office furniture, it resulted in a lot of money saved. So I shared the good news with the staff. Putting the spotlight on this kind of behavior has a way of catching on and creates a positive and motivational work environment.
5. Realize that consistency is key.
It's impossible for employees to build a relationship with a leader who changes from day to day. If you regularly promote positive, inspirational, motivational behavior, then that’s what you will see happening. This technique is the opposite of intimidation or manipulation, which are the lowest forms of management and leadership. Leaders must realize what they wish to promote and stick with that message every day.
6. Just ask.
What inspires one person might leave another cold. Make the effort to get to know your members of your team. For example, salespeople work on commissions. While many said larger paychecks motivated them, one team member found her inspiration in the things a paycheck would allow her to do (taking time off or going to the kids’ soccer games).
So ask employees, “What’s your why?”
You might not be able to use all of these steps in your organization, but by implementing even a few, you're telling employees you care. And that’s the best inspiration a leader can offer.
This post originally appeared at Entrepreneur. Copyright 2014.