Creating a high-performing environment

Leaders play an important role in creating a motivating work environment. They set the tone by demonstrating respect, valuing employees, and creating a supportive and encouraging atmosphere.

While you can’t really motivate someone, you can create the conditions that encourage people to be motivated to perform at their best.

While money is important, it isn’t the most powerful or effective motivator. People want to be paid fairly, but it isn’t the force that generates discretionary effort. The following factors, when employed on a day-to-day basis, go a long way to creating an environment of high performance.

  1. Make work meaningful — show significance. Everyone wants to feel like their job makes a difference. They want to perform meaningful work, add value, and contribute to the success of the organization. It is important to show employees that what they do is significant (to the organization, the customer, the bottom line, and their coworkers). Create a line of sight from individual tasks/jobs to departmental and organizational strategies. Educate employees about how their day-to-day tasks have a direct benefit to the organization. In doing so, you help to demonstrate the importance of even routine tasks. This can energize employees and increase overall commitment.
  2. Increase knowledge, skills, and abilities — build competence. Employees want to do a good job. They don’t wake up in the morning hoping they can make mistakes, lose customers, and/or cost their company money. They want to be successful at what they do. Help employees increase their knowledge, skills, and abilities so they can be successful in their current role. Provide challenging work that stimulates and excites. Support ongoing employee development that builds competence and allows employees to continue to grow and develop.
  3. Push decision-making down — give control. Give employees the freedom and authority to do their jobs without being micromanaged. Give enough support so people can be successful, but also enough autonomy so they can make things happen. Clearly set expectations and then get out of employees’ way. Leaders support autonomy by giving employees real control over various aspects of their work. Be careful not to unknowingly strip control from employees by stepping in and taking over when it is unnecessary.
  4. Acknowledge employees — show appreciation. Results from employee surveys often suggest that many employees get feedback from their manager only when things go wrong. They seldom hear words of acknowledgement or appreciation. Strive to show appreciation for a job well done and/or progress made along the way. Seek out people doing good work and acknowledge them for it. Take the time to pass along a word of encouragement and demonstrate support for employees on an ongoing basis. When showing appreciation, strive to be specific. Point out the observable behavior and its impact. Behaviors that are recognized are more likely to be repeated so it is useful to be specific about the behavior instead of just saying, “Thank you.”

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