I get it. You want to be an effective manager of your small business with the very best team you can find to help support you and build your dream. You want your team to love coming to work and you want them to be productive, creative and happy. Whether you manage employees, consultants or simply have awesome colleagues in your current position at work, here are four ways you can inspire productivity and creativity in your small business.
Being a good leader is as much about the human touch as it is about building a successful business. Create an environment where your team can feel comfortable approaching you with concerns as well as great new ideas. Also, encourage informal brainstorming sessions on creative ways to increase business, such as a new ad campaign or streamlining a service. In these sessions, make sure to stay impartial and don’t veto or approve ideas on the spot. Keep your cool and encourage calm and rational discussion. Take each suggestion into consideration—even after your team has gone home.
Employees are much more likely to stay at a company where they feel they are always learning—after all, how much do you enjoy being stuck in a rut? At the start of employment and throughout their time with you, examine new and creative ways to train your people. There are many different training methods, like mentoring, web-based training, classroom or conference style training, videoconferencing and collaborative training. Computerized games are even making waves in employee training. How much fun is that?
Publicly recognizing your team is a very important way to get the best performance. Congratulate your team and recognize extra efforts as often as possible. If you receive positive feedback about a team member from another team member or a client, let them know about it. Be sure that each person feels their hard work is recognized and show them how their contributions have a direct effect on the company’s growth.
It’s important to not only recognize your team for their achievements, but to also hold them accountable for their slipups and letdowns. I know you hired the best people, but we all work differently. Some function better with lots of structure to their job and others (like me!) value open space with few guidelines. (Don’t worry—I’ll deliver!)
Have the most important guidelines for the smooth operation of your business clearly set out. For example, it’s important to me that our team jumps into meetings on time. If not, this means I may have to reschedule the meeting or rebook a second meeting because we didn’t get through our agenda. Boo.
In your employment contracts, outline the most important conditions. While you don’t want employees to feel like you are constantly looking over their shoulder, you also want them to know what you expect from them. There is a fine balance between being too harsh and unapproachable, and being too easy going and letting things slide.
I have a very open and friendly management style. However, I realize that being too friendly at work can undermine my authority. It may also hinder getting important deadlines met and new ideas launched. Find an even ground, where you can refer back to established standard operating procedures (SOPs) and continually earn respect from your employees.
Even if you don’t run a strictly “creative” business such as a design agency or photography studio, you can still encourage environments of creativity in the workplace. Time spent thinking can still be productive time—empower your team to use a certain amount of time to let their creative juices flow. I LOVE a great brainstorming session—as long as that is part of our agenda for that particular meeting. Otherwise I’ll set up a specific meeting just for this purpose and let the original ideas fly!
I often pitch ideas and ask for feedback—with no ideas being shot down. This creates a safe and honest space for open discussion. I often come away from these meetings with fresh energy and insight.
Recent theories on motivation have suggested that it’s the need to learn and create that is behind motivation to work in a particular business, rather than simply making money. Allow your team to come up with innovative solutions to create a great place to work AND a strong business. They’ll see your leadership as one that values both their brains and who they are as a person. They’ll love coming in to work every day and helping you drive your business forward.
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