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3 Steps for Motivating Your Team

Successful businesses are built around people, not ideas. Here's how to keep your team motivated and working toward a common goal.
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While many of us spend time searching for the "right idea," most entrepreneurs recognize that what really makes businesses successful is the right team.

Great leaders excel because of their ability to create and motivate teams. So how can you better motivate your team to deliver lasting results? Here are three methods that have worked for us:

1. Create a community of ownership.

As small business owners, or leaders in any organization, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that people are resources to plug into your vision for success. In reality, people have their own visions and ideas and the key is to embrace the individual, their ideas and their ambitions. Think about your employees like professional relationships and look to give before you receive.

Seek out ongoing conversations centered on helping your people to achieve their vision and find new ways to increase their sense of ownership. Spend the time discussing how you can jointly structure your efforts to achieve shared objectives--and then get out of the way. This is what great managers do.

By helping your people to achieve their ambitions, they will support and enhance your business vision.

2. Ensure that your business has a purpose.

Unless you're a non-profit, you're in the business of making money--or at least trying to make money. Of course, so is your closest competitor and the 10 after that. Absent a clear purpose, your employees will struggle to differentiate your organization from other businesses in your space. Purpose, however, makes your organization distinct and is a great way to continue to motivate your people.

A core purpose is something that employees can rally behind and helps them to crawl out of bed on those mornings when motivation is low. Ford's purpose is to democratize the automobile, Starbucks' (which has a great leadership story of its own) is to nurture the human spirit, and The Economist, as only our British friends could articulate, was created to take part in "a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress."

So, what's your purpose? Does it excite your employees? Do they really believe it is a differentiating factor? Empower your team to feel that they are part of something special and constantly remind your team of its purpose.

3. Stay positive.

A positive environment improves productivity and creativity, so find a way to stay on the sunny side. Don't be disingenuous--and don't sugarcoat real problems--but always look for reasons to be optimistic. When challenges arise, be forthright with your team and quickly transition to the opportunities created from any obstacles that arise. Do we now have time to spend time on a new idea? Can we double down on an existing customer?

Staying positive is particularly important when someone shares a new idea with you. Even if you don't like the idea, focus on the positive aspects of it. Peel back the onion and find the helpful thinking embedded in the idea. Remember that shooting down someone's idea might also undercut their willingness to share their creative genius down the road.

Ownership, purpose and a positive environment are Grade A fuel for a successful business. Please send us your thoughts at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners.com

Avondale's Bradley Hoos contributed to this article.

Last updated: Dec 18, 2012

KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART | Columnist | Co-founders, Avondale

Karl Stark and Bill Stewart are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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