When you first started your business, you tackled almost every operational detail on your own. Hiring managers allowed you to step back from some of the day-to-day work so you could focus on growing the company.

It's not always easy to entrust important responsibilities to someone else, but when you have hard-working, competent leaders, delegation becomes a lot less scary and a lot more beneficial to you. It's important to let your managers know just how much you appreciate them for steering the ship under your navigation.

Below, eight entrepreneurs share some of the best and most effective ways to thank your leadership team and reward them for their efforts.

Celebrate the small wins.

"Most people get pats on their backs when they can prove results," says Blair Thomas, co-founder of eMerchantBroker. But what about the times your team put forth a ton of effort but didn't achieve the anticipated results?

"Showing that effort matters almost as much as results will motivate leadership members to work that much harder," Thomas says. "By focusing on even the smallest wins, you will be rewarded with loyalty and high-quality work."

Define clear career plans for them.

Aaron Schwartz, co-founder and COO of Passport, believes the best way to show appreciation to any employee is to give them a clear path to success within your company. Agree on goals, then acknowledge and reward the team members who meet or surpass those goals.

"Be clear on expectations and stretch goals, help them succeed and celebrate the growth," he adds.

Offer performance-based incentives.

Money isn't everything, but most employees won't turn their noses up at a little extra cash or a gift when they've done an outstanding job -- combined with verbal gratitude, of course.

"A performance-based incentive structure will motivate leadership teams to go above and beyond," says Michael Hsu, founder and CEO of DeepSky. "Even if you have this structure already in place, you should still show appreciation directly to your team in order to motivate them more effectively."

Implement a profit-sharing program.

In addition to performance-based incentives, you may also want to consider a profit-sharing program to remind employees that the company's overall success is their success, too.  

"I share a percentage of the company growth delta with my management team, to reward them for year-over-year growth in the company," says Rachel Beider, CEO of Massage Outpost. "This helps them claim ownership over the overall direction of the company."

Give them more paid time off.

Ben Walker, founder and CEO of Transcription Outsourcing, LLC, says his company has experimented with a number of different ways to reward its key leaders. Additional paid days off was overwhelmingly popular and appreciated among his team.

"It always starts with public recognition," he explains. "Then, when we get a chance to ask them privately if they would like a bonus check or days off, they almost always choose the paid days off."

Highlight their team's efforts during company-wide meetings.

Public recognition among a person's peers is a great way to make them feel valued and appreciated. Nicole Munoz of Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc. says this tactic is especially effective when you thank a key leader and their team members at the same time.

"Expressing gratitude sincerely is a very important marker of good leadership," she says. "It reinforces that the value of the work they do extends sincerely to the team they manage."

Make it personal.
Every employee is unique and values different things. A personalized gift can help you communicate just how much you appreciate the key leader in your company, according to Jared Atchison, co-founder of WPForms.

"Find out their hobbies and send them something that they will love," he says. "Send them a personalized note as well letting them know how valued they are at your company." 

Implement their ideas.

You probably already encourage feedback from your team, but how often do you put their suggestions and advice into practice?

"If your management team can see that you are prepared to take their counsel seriously, then they will feel that extra responsibility," explains Ismael Wrixen, CEO of FE International. "Don’t be afraid to give them the authority to form and enact plans."

Published on: Dec 17, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.