As a small business owner, you are the boss. But being the boss doesn't mean that you have to act like a tyrant to get things done. When it comes to motivating your employees, it really is true that you can get more done with a carrot than with a stick.
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The art of employee motivation really boils down to learning and practicing people skills. Your ability to interact with your employees on a relational level will largely determine how effectively you are able to motivate them to make your business a success.
(1) Demonstrate enthusiasm
In many ways, you set the tone for your employees. If you are unmotivated, expect your employees to be unmotivated, too. Likewise, if you demonstrate enthusiasm for your work, it will carry over to your employees.
(2) Interface with your employees
It's important that you interact directly with your employees on a regular basis. A prolonged pattern of distance between you and your employees creates the perception of a cold, uncaring autocrat rather than the caring, compassionate leader you want to be. Step out from behind that desk periodically and let your employees interact with you face to face.
(3) Celebrate accomplishments
Take time out to celebrate accomplishments as a company. When you've asked your employees to go the extra mile to complete a major project, it's not unreasonable for them to expect to celebrate a little bit. This can be as simple as ordering a pizza or as extravagant as organizing an annual holiday party outside of the office. What you do isn't as important recognizing a job well done.
(4) Offer incentives
With incentives, cash isn't always king. Sometimes the best incentives require a little creativity on your part. In addition to offering flex time for employees who demonstrate outstanding service and performance, you can do things like offer theater tickets or restaurant gift certificates to the "employee of the month". Part of the fun is creating an atmosphere where your employees don't know what their reward will be until they have achieved their goal.
(5) Treat your employees with kindness
Kindness and understanding on your part will go a long way toward motivating your employees to help you achieve your goals as an entrepreneur. Unexpected events such as sick kids or other personal crises can interfere with the daily flow of the workplace. But no matter how many problems these occurrences cause for you, you can be guaranteed that they have created many more problems for your employee.
As much as possible, try to give your employees the space they need to care for their families. The result will be happier employees who are more likely to give you all they've got once their family crisis has subsided.
Above all else, listen to what your employees' have to say and let them know how much you value their input. The loyalty it inspires in your employees will make it well worth your while.