Rise to the Top: Empower Your Team and Uncover Your Leaders
Being a “good guy” to employees is an extremely effective motivational tool and encourages a sense of belonging among staff. As small businesses serving the construction industry seek ways to survive the current economy, many owners are finding that motivating and empowering their crews helps get the most out of their payroll investment. Once the entire staff is motivated, it’s then key to pinpoint “star” employees and transform them into team leaders to more effectively carry out your company goals and vision.
As many bosses have found, the personal touch is required here, says business expert John Hanes, author of Change Focused Leadership.
“Creating closeness to others increases everyone’s sense of connection,” says Hanes, who also runs the consultancy firm Effectiveness Dimensions International-based in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. “You need to demonstrate that you understand your employees’ dreams and objectives. You need to take great pains to show them how your company can help these employees reach their dreams.”
This level of employee motivation doesn’t arrive overnight. It takes foresight, proactive planning and effective execution. Here are some key goals that owners must strive to achieve as they seek an inspired, empowered work force:
Employees must “buy in” to your vision
A worker may resist the various big picture concepts management conveys. They simply may be too focused on the short-term deadline to understand the need for best practices for the long-term like cleanliness, courtesy, customer follow-up.
“It’s your job to win the hearts and minds of your staff,” Hanes says. “One thing you can do is personalize your vision. They may not relate to a phrase like ‘provide optimal customer service.’ But they can relate to specific, concrete examples, like going beyond their regular duties to resolve an unanticipated project issue on the spot.
Then, Hanes says you should publicly praise and reward employees who have clearly "bought in," with spot bonuses or giving notice in your business newsletter, or a blast email.
Recognize individuals—each with distinct strengths
One employee may be a whiz at interpreting and even improving upon a design while another may be savvy at reducing waste. You need to distinguish who’s good at what—because you can’t do everything.
“You need to think of yourself as a coach first,” says Joe Crisara, a former construction-industry contractor who now consults in Los Angeles. “The coach does not step on the field to play. Be clear as to how you see them as taking on the work you’re delegating. Encourage them to take notes even. But then step aside. You may be surprised to find that they do the job collectively better than you could on your own.”
Create an atmosphere that instills pride
Look at your office, trucks and equipment. The impression made by workplace surroundings has a direct impact on morale.
“Winners function best in first-class surroundings,” Hanes says. “Your facilities should be clean and neat. The walls should be freshly painted. The carpet should be clean and the lighting should be bright. Stock the employee break room with good snacks, a nice refrigerator and even a game table.”
Leaders must be found and cultivated
It’s not that difficult to pinpoint emerging leaders in your workforce, but you need to cultivate and grow their leadership skills to gain full advantage of their talents. Designate these employees as senior staffers to empower them with leadership, and provide them with additional training to help them achieve their goals. Give these employees a greater voice in the day-to-day and long-term direction of your business—more so than you allow to the average employee.
“NFL coach Mike Holmgren would form a players’ committee made up of team leaders,” Hanes says. “He’d meet with them on a regular basis and ask for their input on team rules, the design of training camp, practice schedules and other matters. Then, he implemented their suggestions, motivating them further with a sense of ownership.”