It can be hard to really connect with your employees and inspire them to reach greater heights.
Especially when budgets are tight and professional development and team-building exercises are pretty much completely out of the question.
But the onus is on you, as a manager, to find a way.
If you start (or are already) doing the following, then you’re certainly on the right track.
Not every employee needs to be reminded to put in the hard work, but if they do then simply telling them to work more is unlikely to make a radical difference.
Instead, you need to give them a (good) reason to work hard!
If you shift the focus from “pleasing the boss” to supporting the team, this could well be the kick-start they need. (Most) people don’t want to hurt their friends!
How can you build this team spirit?
If you can show them that teamwork is its own reward, then your employees are bound to work harder.
“Employee engagement is about much more than this. It is about building trust, involvement, a sense of purpose and identity where employees’ contribution to business success is seen as essential.” ACAS
Employees like to feel as though they’re making a difference in the wider world.
We need meaning and purpose and not to believe that money is the only thing that matters.
If your employees feel that the company they work for are exploitative or unethical, they won’t identify with the mission, they’ll distance themselves from the brand and they certainly won’t feel inspired.
It’s no coincidence that the most iconic CEOs and company bosses of recent times, think Sir Richard Branson and even former US President Barack Obama, made a point of getting to know all of their employees, from cleaning staff through to the senior management team.
A good leader knows their people. (And that doesn’t mean just knowing their names).
They know their family’s names, they know what’s going on in their lives and they also know the unique qualities and weaknesses that make each person different.
Show that you understand how each of them can contribute to a specific project and show them that you have understood their own particular skills.
When a worker feels understood and appreciated, they’re well on the way to becoming inspired.
If you really want to inspire your employees then foster an environment where they can flag up improvements and work on solutions without any pressure.
Make sure you know the tools, software packages and training they need to go that little bit further.
For example, in the 1980s, VW gave its engineers some space and the freedom to work on cars with no real promise of a reward. The result of a few engineers putting in extra hours for their own entertainment was the Golf GTi, one of the most iconic cars of all time.
Give your staff support, financial backing if they need it and the freedom to run wild in their spare time.
You don’t always have to actively inspire your team. If they’re smart people, sometimes you just need to get out of their way.
We mentioned purpose earlier and this point is along the same lines.
Simply telling staff that if they hit target X, they will gain £Y won’t truly inspire them. The numbers are pretty much meaningless.
However, if you show your staff members how their work has affected the rest of the company, as well their own gain, it adds even more significance to those targets.
People like results.
So, for example you could show your salespeople how, because of their great sales record over the year, you have been able to hire 3 more researchers to support their team.
Add significance and depth to the basic pass/fail nature of targets and you’ll be surprised how much of a difference that makes – it’s about adding more and more meaning to the job. It’s not just a paycheck.
Your employees, for the most part, want to progress. They want more money, they want to take on more responsibility and they want to feel like they’re moving forward.
Don’t be insecure about that.
Help them grow, learn and develop; mentor your own team and campaign for outside training and other personal development.
If the company won’t go for it, then a small gesture can make a massive difference. Even if it’s simply giving your team a book that helped you, offering them a couple of hours a week for personal development or paying for a simple course yourself.
People often pick up on the subtle cues that suggest you don’t really believe what you’re saying.
So, if you tell people you trust them and then attempt to micro-manage, they will lose their faith in you.
The best way you can really inspire people is to actually believe in them.
Give them a challenge and force them to step out of their comfort zone. Give them the chance to prove you right. If you have shown faith in them, your staff will often go above and beyond to repay that.
There is no magic button that will suddenly inspire your employees and boost their productivity and output! It takes time to build an atmosphere of respect and mutual support…
So you might as well start now!
Be consistent, be dependable and show your staff you believe in them.