Lead and motivate your staff
Strong leadership and a sense of direction are hallmarks of almost all successful businesses.
People are motivated not only by personal gain but also by feeling part of the business and contributing to its goals. Therefore, if leaders engage effectively with their workforce to build commitment, employees are motivated to improve the quantity and quality of their output, which improves the business.
Good leaders motivate their staff using a variety of skills, learned through training and experience. You can develop these skills to get the same results.
This guide shows you how to lead and motivate your staff in order to improve business performance.
It also highlights the range of leadership training and support that is available in Northern Ireland.
Advantages of leading and motivating your employees
For a business to be successful, it has to not only offer products and/or services that meet customers' needs and wants, but also have staff who are loyal and committed.
However, to gain your employees' loyalty and commitment you need to do more than just pay them well. In a competitive job market, you also need to consider people's social and psychological needs - and this means leading and motivating your workforce properly.
Read more on what motivates employees?
Benefits of leading and motivating your staff
There are a number of benefits for businesses that lead and motivate their staff including:
- higher staff retention - helping businesses reduce staff turnover and leading to a reduction in recruitment costs
- absenteeism will be minimised leading to higher levels of productivity
- more innovation and creativity - staff may be more inspired to improve processes and quality of products you produce
- higher profits
- a better reputation - among suppliers, customers and potential employees, helping to make it easier to recruit the best workers
- improved industrial relations with trade unions - see work effectively with trade unions
What motivates employees?
Before you can create a motivated workforce, you need to understand why workers may lack motivation in the first place.
Indicators of low motivation
Some of the indicators of low motivation for your employees could be:
- high staff turnover
- low productivity
- a poor workplace atmosphere
- a lot of employee grievances to deal with
Low motivation among your employees could be caused by:
- monotonous work
- lack of praise
- individuals feeling ignored
- a poor reward structure
- little opportunity for promotion or advancement within the organisation
Motivation: job satisfaction
The way your employees feel about their job and their workplace determines how motivated they are. There is a clear link between job satisfaction and productivity.
However, job satisfaction also depends on the culture of an organisation. This means the things that make your business distinctive and make the people who work there proud to do so.
How to motivate your workforce
You can motivate people with:
- varied and interesting work - perhaps giving the opportunity to travel
- demonstration of trust - delegating key tasks can empower employees and stimulate innovation
- high-quality training and development - eg encouragement to study for professional qualifications
- an 'open door' culture in which managers are approachable
- consistent and genuine leadership
- helping them to feel part of a team - giving them a sense of belonging and loyalty to the other team members - see how to build and manage an effective team
- respect for a good work-life balance - eg offering the opportunity for flexible working - see promote good work/life balance in your business
- fairness at work, including promoting equality and diversity
- proactive and regular communication
- regular appraisal and positive feedback - restating business objectives and recognising your staff's contribution - see managing the performance of your staff
- requests for feedback, either in person or via staff surveys, on how employees feel about their roles, the support they get, and improvements to the business - see employee engagement
- the chance to socialise with colleagues at organised events
- recognition and reward for performance - set clear objectives and celebrate employee achievement - any reward should be seen as fair and transparent to all staff - see rewarding good staff performance
- encouragement - if someone's standards fall short, help them to get back on track or offer more training if needed - see implement staff incentive schemes
Be sympathetic to the needs of your employees. For example, you should have appropriate policies for compassionate leave and time off. Read more on allowing time off work and how to set up employment policies for your business.
Becoming an effective leader
Effective leadership is more than just management - it builds on managerial skills. A good leader offers direction to people, gets them to share their vision for the business, and aims to create conditions for them to achieve great results.
Skills you need to be a good leader
In order to lead your staff, you need to be able to communicate:
- a vision of what the business stands for and where you want it to be
- values and priorities across the organisation
- what you as an individual intend to do to realise that vision and reflect those values
- what individual employees can do to realise that vision and reflect those values
You can show leadership to staff by:
- involving them in decision-making
- providing personal encouragement
- recognising and rewarding good performance
- helping to build their confidence to use their own initiative
- inspiring them with a vision for success
- ensuring good two-way communication
The skills learned by effective leaders can be grouped into five main areas:
- planning/strategic focus
- customer focus
- team management
- change management
You will need to use different skills at different times - there's no 'one size fits all' approach to leadership.
In addition, the right leadership style will depend on your business and your own character. A softer, mentoring style of leadership may be appropriate - or you may opt for a more directional approach.
Leadership and your senior management team
If you have a team of senior managers, it's important that it also shows leadership qualities and helps to engage staff.
In order to achieve this, the team must be unified. If not, being disjointed could put off anyone involved with your business, eg employees, customers, clients or suppliers, and lead to the business' failure.
Having a strong management team is particularly significant if:
- your business operates in more than one location
- you are in more than one type of business/industry
- your business has more than one culture - or the culture is changing, eg following a merger or acquisition
You may need to consider whether you - and other senior managers if you have them - could benefit from some kind of leadership training.
You can develop your leadership style by aiming for a recognised standard of competence. Competency frameworks use performance indicators to help you measure your progress.
Two of the most widely used frameworks are:
Sources of leadership training
If you manage staff, you could benefit from leadership training, ie training designed to help you maximise your own and your business' performance.
Benefits of leadership training
Leadership training will help you:
- inspire your team
- influence others
- bring about positive change in your business
Leadership training is as much about personal development as it is about learning set skills through formal training.
Types of leadership training
Mentoring is an informal, generally unstructured process in which a mentor, usually someone very experienced in business, spends time developing the inner resources of the mentee. It is not a teacher-pupil relationship. Rather, the mentor is more of a guide and somebody against whom ideas can be safely sounded out.
Networking is another important type of skill development for business owners and directors. A wide variety of business networks exists - including those for new businesses, young owners and women owners. These allow you to learn from people running similar businesses and facing similar obstacles.
For both networking and mentoring, your local chamber of commerce and your local Enterprise Centre are useful initial points of contact. See Chambers of Commerce in Northern Ireland.
In addition, find out more about leadership and management training in Northern Ireland.
Leading your staff through change
The ability to cope with change is a basic requirement for many small businesses. Mergers and acquisitions may be prevalent in your sector, and technology is changing the way businesses work all the time.
It's important that change should cause as little disruption to the business as possible. This means your staff should be prepared for it and not fear the consequences. If their concerns are ignored or mismanaged staff will feel vulnerable and demotivated and the quality of their work may suffer.
Helping staff adapt to change
Whatever the nature of the change, leadership during this time is built on good communication. Therefore you should try to:
- Eliminate uncertainty - be honest and upfront from the beginning of the change process. Give as much information as you can about the change, and the impact it will have on people and ways of working.
- Be visible - try to give the key message face to face. They'll appreciate hearing it from you in person.
- Match the mood to the message - the way you communicate is almost as important as the message itself. If you have got bad news, give it sensitively.
- Delegate - you can control the information you give by using managers who know their staff and know how best to communicate it.
- Encourage employee input - Give people the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. Make sure this isn't just a cosmetic exercise, they may just have the solution to your problem.
Try to see change as an opportunity, rather than a threat. Because it requires more leadership, it's a chance for you to grow in the eyes of your employees. If you earn more respect it will increase their motivation to work for you.
Read more on how to inform and consult your employees.
Lead and motivate staff: five top tips
The following top tips will help you to enhance your leadership skills and motivate your staff
The business benefits of strong leadership and motivated staff include staff retention, improved productivity and increased profits. Here's what you can do to enhance your leadership skills and motivate your staff to drive your business forward.
1. Recognise the signs of low motivation: Before you can create a motivated workforce, you need to understand why workers may lack motivation in the first place. Some indicators of low motivation could be: high staff turnover; low productivity; a poor workplace atmosphere and employee grievances. These could be caused by: monotonous work; lack of praise; a poor reward structure or little opportunity for advancement. See what motivates employees?
2. Take steps to motivate your workforce: There are a range of ways to motivate people including: providing varied and interesting work; demonstrating you trust staff; good training and development opportunities; proactive and regular communication; creating a good work/life balance; fixed appraisals and feedback; and recognition and reward for performance. You should also have appropriate policies in place, including working time and time off and flexible working. See set up employment policies for your business.
3. Become an effective leader: A good leader offers direction to people, encourages them to share their vision for the business and aims to create conditions to achieve great results. You can show leadership to staff by: involving them in decision-making; encouraging them; recognising and rewarding good performance; helping them to use their own initiative and ensuring good two-way communication. You will need to use different skills at different times and it will depend on your business and your own character. See becoming an effective leader.
4. Ensure senior managers show good leadership: If you have a team of senior managers, it is essential they also help to engage staff. This would be particularly important if your business is in more than one location, you are in more than one type of business/industry or your business has more than one culture eg following a merger. See becoming an effective leader.
5. Continue to develop your leadership skills: You could develop your leadership style by aiming for a recognised standard of competence eg Investors in People: see Investors in People: the Standard for people management. You could also improve your leadership abilities through various mentoring and networking opportunities. See sources of leadership training.