How Do I Motivate My Staff?

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By By Sandra L. Wiley, Boomer Consulting

April 15 is in site and you are pushing for a strong finish. Now is not the time you want to put much of your time and effort into motivating your staff! In only 2 weeks they will be planning their vacations, looking forward to the summer and moving on to other projects that they have been dreaming about. So, why would I mention motivation now? Because it is the one thing that you CAN do in the near future to guarantee your employee's will remain loyal and on task for the rest of the year. Read now… and then implement in 2 weeks… it will be worth your time and energy.

Here are 10 things that you can do over the next year to motivate your staff and get the returns that you deserve in your firm.

  1. Provide Clear Goals – Sounds simple doesn't it? Everyone knows the goals of the firm and how their position plays a part in the overall success of those goals. If I called your firm today, I could walk up to your Director of First Impressions and ask how their job ties to overall firm goals and they would happily tell me. Right? If you are thinking to yourself that they would have no idea, then it is not the staff that has a problem, it is you! You must provide the roadmap in order for the staff to know which way to go or they will be all over the map instead of on one common trip!
  2. Give Prompt Feedback – Good or bad, your staff deserves to hear praise or reprimands as soon as the event happens. Just remember the rule that you should “Praise often and in front of others” and “Reprimand in private and quickly.” The interesting thing that I am finding is that reprimanding seems to be where we focus our time with our staff! When is the last time you told one of your staff members that they did a good job? If you have to think about this longer than about 5 seconds… then you have not done it often enough! Positive feedback breeds positive actions… negative feedback can do the same… So it makes sense that you spend more time in the “praise” mode when you are relating to employees.
  3. Reward Performance Quickly – Your team just completed a GREAT tax season; clients expectations were met and in many cases exceeded; revenue is up; mistakes are down… so don't wait until October to have a party!!! Do something right now to reward the outstanding efforts that you see. Nothing will mean more to a staff member than to have their hard work recognized immediately after the expectations are met.
  4. Treat Them Like Winners – When someone wins a contest or race… how do we treat them? Usually with cheers and “high fives” right? Well, when an employee wins a big client, or delivers a project that they have been working on in superb fashion, how do you treat them? Some firms say, “That is just a part of their job.” They don't treat them like they are special. Big Mistake! If your staff does not feel like you believe they are winners, they might just find another team to win for! You will lower your turnover and strengthen your loyalty by treating your staff like the winners that they are.
  5. Involve Them In Decision Making – Firms today are spending more time and energy on strategic planning than ever before – at the management level. While I applaud the process, I must say that the sooner you get the entire staff involved in the process, the better your firm will be in motivating your staff. If they feel that all the decisions are made at the management level and their only job is to carry out what they are told to do, they certainly will not feel that they are important and therefore will not perform at a level that you might expect. If they are involved in the decision making process, they are more likely to push toward the outcome that you are expecting.
  6. Seek Their Opinions Often - People like to know that what they think is important; what would make you believe that your staff is any different? As you are working on projects and goals in your firm, seek the opinions of others on the team and mold them with yours to make a better solution to challenges. A team decision is almost always better than an individual decision.
  7. Hold Them Accountable For Results – Accountability is key to driving a performance based, motivated team toward a profitable outcome. If you don't take the time to tell your staff what is expected of them; what they will be responsible for and then hold them accountable for the outcome, what is their motivation to accomplish anything? Your staff has a desire to know what you want and they need the structure of accountability; don't disappoint them. Have a system in place to evaluate and hold them accountable for the responsibilities you give them.
  8. Tolerate Impatience – What? Tolerate impatient behavior! Absolutely; impatience means that they are anxious to move forward. You will need to communicate about what the staff is being impatient about and then have a plan in place to take advantage of the opportunity, but don't automatically dismiss every new idea as a bad one. Listen to what staff members are saying and accept the fact that sometimes they are right. Don't cut them off too often or they will simply remain quiet the next time and start looking for someone to listen to them. That someone just might be outside of your firm.
  9. Provide Varied Work Opportunities – Everyone, no matter what their personality, likes variety in their working experience. One of the best motivators is giving your staff the ability to work on new and stimulating projects. Redundancy in anyone's job will eventually lead to “de-motivation” and the production level for that position will diminish. Look for ways to provide change in your staff's job or, better yet, ask your staff for ideas on ways to change their job to make it interesting to them.
  10. Keep Them Aware of Upcoming Challenging Goals – Keeping staff in the dark is not the way to keep them motivated. The more they know about the challenges the firm is facing, the more likely they will be to assist in the solution! You hired exceptional people; now use them to your advantage!

April 15 is in site and you are pushing for a strong finish. Now is not the time you want to put much of your time and effort into motivating your staff! In only 2 weeks they will be planning their vacations, looking forward to the summer and moving on to other projects that they have been dreaming about. So, why would I mention motivation now? Because it is the one thing that you CAN do in the near future to guarantee your employee's will remain loyal and on task for the rest of the year. Read now… and then implement in 2 weeks… it will be worth your time and energy.

Here are 10 things that you can do over the next year to motivate your staff and get the returns that you deserve in your firm.

1. Provide Clear Goals – Sounds simple doesn't it? Everyone knows the goals of the firm and how their position plays a part in the overall success of those goals. If I called your firm today, I could walk up to your Director of First Impressions and ask how their job ties to overall firm goals and they would happily tell me. Right? If you are thinking to yourself that they would have no idea, then it is not the staff that has a problem, it is you! You must provide the roadmap in order for the staff to know which way to go or they will be all over the map instead of on one common trip!

2. Give Prompt Feedback – Good or bad, your staff deserves to hear praise or reprimands as soon as the event happens. Just remember the rule that you should “Praise often and in front of others” and “Reprimand in private and quickly.” The interesting thing that I am finding is that reprimanding seems to be where we focus our time with our staff! When is the last time you told one of your staff members that they did a good job? If you have to think about this longer than about 5 seconds… then you have not done it often enough! Positive feedback breeds positive actions… negative feedback can do the same… So it makes sense that you spend more time in the “praise” mode when you are relating to employees.

3. Reward Performance Quickly – Your team just completed a GREAT tax season; clients expectations were met and in many cases exceeded; revenue is up; mistakes are down… so don't wait until October to have a party!!! Do something right now to reward the outstanding efforts that you see. Nothing will mean more to a staff member than to have their hard work recognized immediately after the expectations are met.

4. Treat Them Like Winners – When someone wins a contest or race… how do we treat them? Usually with cheers and “high fives” right? Well, when an employee wins a big client, or delivers a project that they have been working on in superb fashion, how do you treat them? Some firms say, “That is just a part of their job.” They don't treat them like they are special. Big Mistake! If your staff does not feel like you believe they are winners, they might just find another team to win for! You will lower your turnover and strengthen your loyalty by treating your staff like the winners that they are.

5. Involve Them In Decision Making – Firms today are spending more time and energy on strategic planning than ever before – at the management level. While I applaud the process, I must say that the sooner you get the entire staff involved in the process, the better your firm will be in motivating your staff. If they feel that all the decisions are made at the management level and their only job is to carry out what they are told to do, they certainly will not feel that they are important and therefore will not perform at a level that you might expect. If they are involved in the decision making process, they are more likely to push toward the outcome that you are expecting.

6. Seek Their Opinions Often - People like to know that what they think is important; what would make you believe that your staff is any different? As you are working on projects and goals in your firm, seek the opinions of others on the team and mold them with yours to make a better solution to challenges. A team decision is almost always better than an individual decision.

7. Hold Them Accountable For Results – Accountability is key to driving a performance based, motivated team toward a profitable outcome. If you don't take the time to tell your staff what is expected of them; what they will be responsible for and then hold them accountable for the outcome, what is their motivation to accomplish anything? Your staff has a desire to know what you want and they need the structure of accountability; don't disappoint them. Have a system in place to evaluate and hold them accountable for the responsibilities you give them.

8. Tolerate Impatience – What? Tolerate impatient behavior! Absolutely; impatience means that they are anxious to move forward. You will need to communicate about what the staff is being impatient about and then have a plan in place to take advantage of the opportunity, but don't automatically dismiss every new idea as a bad one. Listen to what staff members are saying and accept the fact that sometimes they are right. Don't cut them off too often or they will simply remain quiet the next time and start looking for someone to listen to them. That someone just might be outside of your firm.

9. Provide Varied Work Opportunities – Everyone, no matter what their personality, likes variety in their working experience. One of the best motivators is giving your staff the ability to work on new and stimulating projects. Redundancy in anyone's job will eventually lead to “de-motivation” and the production level for that position will diminish. Look for ways to provide change in your staff's job or, better yet, ask your staff for ideas on ways to change their job to make it interesting to them.

10. Keep Them Aware of Upcoming Challenging Goals – Keeping staff in the dark is not the way to keep them motivated. The more they know about the challenges the firm is facing, the more likely they will be to assist in the solution! You hired exceptional people; now use them to your advantage!

I did not say that this would be easy! It will take some time and it will take some attention, but the rewards in staff loyalty and motivation will be amazing. You have 2 weeks until busy season is over. What are you waiting for? Start planning now for a more motivated and productive staff than you ever thought possible.

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