Your goal is always sales.
Even if you have noble ambitions and a socially responsible mission it’s always – always – about money.
Your business goal is like a race where the finish line is a healthy profit. But the course is not a straight line on a main road. You get to travel any path you want to make it to the end of the race. You can run your team like a dictator, be a cheerleader, or give them complete autonomy. It’s completely up to you how you motivate your team.
If your leadership style is more Pete Carroll than Bill Belichick, here’re a few innovative and underutilized ways to energize your team.
Make Work Fun
And I don’t mean this:
Although I’m not opposed to Google’s company culture, there are not many of us who can afford to invest in this level of fun. When I say “make work fun,” I’m talking about real ideas that those of us outside Silicon Valley can dream up.
There’s an old saying that work is work. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean work can’t be enjoyable. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said:
“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”
Depending on your company culture, industry, workforce location, and budget, you’ll need to figure out what kind of fun is appropriate for your business. Perhaps you can gamify an aspect of your business or create a competition in one department. Your salesforce is an obvious and easy choice, but there are other viable options as well.
For example, employee advocacy platform Smarp’s gamification feature allows colleagues to compete against each other on a leaderboard, so they can collect points that they can redeem for prizes or for donations to a good cause. Managers can customize scoring systems according to the types of social media activity that help the company most, such as sharing your latest blog posts on LinkedIn. The rewards are just the icing on the cake – sharing industry-relevant content helps position team members as thought leaders themselves as well.
Perhaps you’re passionate about social causes like I am. Our business adopts endangered species and raises funds for our local animal shelter. Have a fun run, BBQ, or bottle drive to raise money for your cause. The key to making it enjoyable is to get your team members engaged in the process and let them decide what they want to do.
My team chose the rhino as our next adoptee on our Facebook page:
Start a softball team, have an ice cream social on Fridays, or let them listen to music while they are working. Every business is unique, so choose something they think is fun and it will ultimately lead to a better working environment.
Create a Healthy Environment
I knew my health wasn’t getting better. A few pounds here and a few more back pains as the years went by. Little did I know that sitting for hours straight, day after day, can be as deadly as smoking a pack of cigarettes each day. It’s what many people call “death by desk.”
Good health is more than a personal issue. It’s actually a work issue, and it can directly impact your bottom line. Employee wellness programs have been around for a long time, but it goes far beyond offering a Zumba class in the evening. It’s an overall incorporation of healthy practices into your team’s work day. In fact, good health is contributed to a 62% increase in productivity and a 60% increase in overall performance.
Your goal is to create a healthier environment and there are many innovative ways to do that. Start an office stretching program, a walking club or try something like the Pomodoro Technique. It’s where you focus on one task for 25 minutes without interruption, and then get up and take a break for at least five minutes. It discourages multitasking, but it also helps reduce eyestrain and gives time for walking, stretching or yoga. I’ve used this for years, and it’s worked wonders for me.
All you need is a cheap kitchen timer to get started, but there are plenty of apps that make it even easier, including the free TomatoTimer web app, which interrupts you with push notifications when it’s time to stop working on whatever you’re doing. More sophisticated tools can even integrate with your project management platform and time tracking platform of choice.
Ditch the Doughnuts
Are Twinkies from the vending machine your team’s preferred office snack? Instead of sugary, fatty options, offer healthier things to nibble on. No idea what kind of healthy snacks to offer? Try Snack Nation’s 121 Delicious Healthy Snacks For Every Type of Snacker:
And don’t forget that the best way to create a healthy work environment is to lead by example. So that means you may need to trade your Fritos for a Fitbit.
Listen and Be Empathetic
This one may be the most underutilized idea in leadership, probably because it highlights the differences in generations and feels kind of like an “everyone gets a trophy” policy. But we can’t pretend that our business and personal lives are completely separate. The fact is, they are intertwined. We are all humans, and sometimes our “feelings” get mixed into our business days.
In 5 Reasons Empathy is Becoming the Number One Leadership Skill, Harvey Deutschendorf explains:
“Have you ever noticed that when someone close to you notices how you are feeling or tells you much they appreciate something you have done for them? You automatically have the urge to do more for them. In terms of employee engagement, it is known that when leadership demonstrates to employees that they care, the reciprocity reaction kicks in and they want to put in more effort.”
There are many ways to show that you care or that you appreciate someone’s work. It can be as simple as telling them or sending a quick “good job” email. You can take your team out for a celebratory lunch when they meet a goal on time or send someone flowers for a job well done.
Do what makes you most comfortable and fits into your team’s culture. Just remember that a kind work of appreciation can go a long way towards reaching your goals – and it’s a nice thing to do.
Your Path, Your Way
Going back to my analogy that your business goals are like a race on a course you create, it’s time to design the best way to motivate and energize your team.
And it’s probably not Friday pep talks or motivational memes.
But it is your race, and you get to design it any way you want. You can be any kind of leader and use any kind of motivational technique you want. And if that doesn’t work, you can always try something else.
Because in the end, the best leaders understand that you may need to try (and fail) a few times until you get to your finish line.