8 leadership tips to motivate your team

By Anne Sutton, Generation Next Governor at Large Curry Supply

This article was originally published in the June 2021 issue of Generation Next Edition.
Making the jump to the work truck industry after 15 years in healthcare has been a good challenge. I have had to learn about and how to do several new things. I am becoming more familiar with industry knowledge, and I am tapping into my marketing skillset and tweaking it as needed.
While juggling all this change, one area in my career has fortunately remained constant—my satisfaction in being a people leader. I have had the privilege (and still do) of leading great teams, full of genuine, hard-working people. Through my personal experience, I have gathered eight of my favorite leadership tips when thinking about motivating employees.
1. Avoid confusion – set clear goals up front
The last thing I want to happen at work is my team not understanding what is expected of them. This is why I work to set clear goals for completing a project and I make sure my team agrees with those goals, and we set a deadline together. I have found this makes employees feel more involved in their work, which ultimately makes them happier. It also boosts productivity and prevents wasted time going back and re-doing projects.
2. Know your people – find out what motivates them
One of the first things my mentor ever shared with me as a gateway to success was to “know your people.” And 15 years later, I wholeheartedly agree. Take some time to understand what gets your team members out of bed each morning. What are their interests? Aspirations? They will vary from person to person, and you can pick up on cues that will personally motivate each team member. I’ve often asked my employees what projects at work interest them the most and if there are projects they wish they could work on to gain more experience.
3. Leadership starts at the top – lead by example
I give myself a daily reminder that people are watching. It’s not meant to be a scare tactic or to make me act a different way than normal. In fact, it motivates me on a personal level to always try to do the right thing. Leading by example is a powerful motivational tactic for your team, too. I work hard, show professional integrity, and bring a can-do attitude to work that I hope my employees will model. My goal is to demonstrate the actions and values I expect from my team to inspire them to do the same. 
4. Provide the resources – give employees the tools and equipment they need to do their job
It’s never a bad idea to ask your team what they need to do their jobs better. I have found it’s largely motivational if you act on something you uncover. Maybe someone needs more flexibility in their work schedule or better equipment or more access to information. It’s a simple question worth asking.
5. Words and actions count – be optimistic, positive, and inclusive
This goes hand in hand with leading by example. Having a positive outlook, even when things look bleak, can inspire your team to adopt the same attitude. I’ve always attempted to react appropriately to given situations. If something goes wrong, for example, find the balance of sharing how the problem could be avoided but also share it’s not the end of the world—this can keep your team focused and motivated to do better next time. I also involve my team in decision-making, asking them their opinions and working toward collective wisdom. It’s important to show them I recognize that leadership doesn’t just travel one way.
6. Show recognition – give praise and compliments
This takes practice. My best advice is to make sure any positive feedback is genuine. I have found when praise is forced, it doesn’t have the same motivational effect on employees. True praise can encourage someone to work even harder and motivate others to work harder to receive the same compliment. Subtle nods to a job well done during a team meeting and handwritten thank you notes are some of my favorite ways to give praise. 
7. Have open communication – prioritize one-on-one time 
One-on-one conversations are a great motivational tool. This helps build solid relationships with your employees. You get time to hear their suggestions and ideas or help them navigate issues they are having. I always try hard to protect these meetings on my calendar. Employees are encouraged when you make regular time for them. Outside of these meetings, it’s also important to keep the communication channels open. Employees will feel motivated when you show you value their feedback as well as the projects they are working on.
8. Empower employees – remind them they’re part of the team
I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s been my experience that people want to feel influential in whatever role they are in. This is why empowerment is so important. You should avoid being a micromanager in your leadership position. Give your workers the proper support for them to feel confident in their roles but also the proper autonomy for them to flourish under your guidance. Show your trust in them by delegating certain tasks or decision-making. I’ve also found it highly motivational to bring employees into special, higher-level projects when you can.
No matter the industry, being a leader is a huge responsibility. By developing and honing my own leadership skills, I have witnessed my team’s performance, productivity, and morale improve. I hope you are able to take away some tips to give your own teams a boost.
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