5 Ways to Keep Your Small Business Team Motivated

You Can Have an Impact on Much That Affects Your Team

You’ve probably listened to motivational speakers like Tony Robbins, who focus on how to make a better you. But, in your small business, you need to know how to motivate a team—not just yourself. And you need to help focus their motivation on factors that will allow your team to work together successfully. It’s not about self-actualization; it’s about success for your team and your business.

Here are five ways to keep your small business team motivated.

1. Understand the Team’s Specific Carrots and Sticks

When you’re working on motivating a company of 2000 people, you have to work with generalities. But when your team is five people, it is easy to learn what things they really like. (You should actually avoid sticks if at all possible.)

For instance, a big catered lunch from everyone’s favorite restaurant may be a great way to celebrate the successful completion of a project. But, if your five-member team consists of one vegan, one person with religious diet restrictions, one with allergies to seafood and soy, one with gluten intolerance, and another one on a keto diet, a group lunch sounds implausible.

Bonuses, praise, and time off are common carrots, but you need to determine what is specifically wanted by the group to choose the most effective carrot. You can approach motivation creatively but also ask your team members what they find motivating. Their answers may surprise you.

2. Become a Great Manager to Motivate Your Team

Becoming a great manager is a serious challenge for most individuals. Very few companies offer effective management training, which means that you probably need to pursue training on your own. Gallup polls found that 75% of voluntary turnover is due to factors that the manager can influence. If your team members have one foot out of the door, they are not going to be motivated, so it’s time to get training.

You can learn how to become a great manager by finding a mentor, taking a formal class, or hiring a coach. You can also read management books and apply what you’ve learned. No perfect answer exists that will work for every manager. But, when your team knows you are there for them—are supportive, honest, and have their backs—their motivation will increase.

3. Share the Big Picture to Motivate Your Team

A lot of work is, well, work. You need to write reports. You need to file tax returns. Payroll runs every other week, rain or shine. Sometimes your team may only see their own portion of the job and their outlook can become depressing. Make sure your team gets the big picture view and knows how their piece fits in with everyone else’s.

They need to understand why their work is necessary for the success of the whole team and the whole business. They need to know what happens to their work after it leaves their desk. Knowing how work coalesces is important for the good of the team, the clients, and the business as a whole. Understanding the big picture can help motivate your small business team to do a great job.

4. Fire the Bully to Motivate Your Team

A Tiny Pulse study found that the number one way to get employees motivated to “go the extra mile” for the team is good camaraderie with their peers. You can’t force friendships, although you can encourage team building. More importantly, you can get rid of the people who tear their teammates down, or who work hard to put themselves at the top by stepping on everyone else.

A good manager stops the bully in her tracks. Sometimes coaching can fix the problem, but other times you may need to fire the bully. No matter how good the bully is at her job, if she’s damaging the team, that person needs to go. Your team will become far more motivated if all of the team members practice positive workplace interaction.

5. Make the Physical Environment Pleasant to Motivate Your Team

A team manager may have difficulty influencing the work environment the team experiences. You may find that the environment is out of your reach—if a manager above you is calling the shots. Acknowledge that this is tough but try to identify factors that you can affect.

The Harvard Business Review found that access to natural light and views of the outdoors make employees happier with a better sense of wellbeing in the office. Happier employees are more motivated to perform productively.

Likewise, an open office plan can actually make employees less effective, less collaborative, and less motivated. Another Harvard study found that people in open offices spend:

  • 73% less time in face-to-face interactions
  • 67% more time on email
  • 75% more time on instant messenger

This does not sound motivating or effective for your employees. Any physical environment where they don’t feel comfortable will affect their motivation. Make sure that your employees have space and the resources they need to do their job.

The Bottom Line

Overall, employee motivation comes and goes, so don’t panic if your team is having a dull day. As the manager of a team, you’ll need to keep motivation in the forefront. If your team isn’t working well, knowing how to motivate the team—and specifically your team—can make a world of difference.

Get to know your people; provide support, praise, and resources; get rid of the bad apples, and you’ll find that your employees are motivated and effective.