Inspiring Employees is not Cheerleading

We all want employees who are excited to come to work. We want them to be inspired to give us and our clients their best work. To forge new ground and make our clients happier than they’ve ever been about doing business with a company like ours.

How do you get employees to that stage, though? How do you lead employees so that you’re helping them grow to be more than they were when they joined your company?

Tough Love

Have you seen Coach Carter? If not then you’ve surely seen movies with a similar plot.

Coach Carter is a movie about a coach who takes over the basketball team at his old high school, located in a bad part of town. Statistically speaking, most members of the team are destined for either jail or an early grave. The graduation rate among the players is low, and boy are they bad at basketball.

In the movie Coach Carter steps in and immediately raises expectations — asking more from his team than anyone has ever expected from them. He wants them to not only learn to play basketball well, he wants them to do well in school. It would be sad for them to look back on a high school basketball year and have it end up being the ‘best’ year of their life.

He sets high expectations and holds them accountable. At one point in the story, he locks his players out of the gym when they don’t meet the academic standards he’s imposed.

He does this because he loves them, and this is a situation where soft love won’t work. In fact, whether you’re dealing with troubled teens in a bad neighborhood or normal kids in a safe suburb, when training and teaching, the best kind of love is often tough love.

Do you have that type of love for your employees? Can you set boundaries and hold them accountable to them? I’m not talking edicts around profit and butt-in-chair time, but real goals that focus on results that you let them set.

You’re not a cheerleader (though you should be praising your employees) — you’re a coach. You’re the leader. You’re there to make them into a better version of themselves which means being tough sometimes.

Freedom

How much does freedom affect the quality of your employees? Turns out that freedom is one of the biggest things that the truly good people look for in a quality job today.

They want to set their own goals and figure out when they work the best. They want to be judged based on results, not butt-in-chair time. But don’t just set goals for them and expect them to dive in with smiles — get your employees to join you in setting the goals. Let them know the overall direction of the company and the goals of your department (which they should have had a hand in building) then get them to put together individual goals that contribute to department goals, and the overall goals of your company.

Once they have their goals, give them freedom to figure out how to accomplish them best. Don’t track the time it takes, track the results. If they hit their goals then they did an awesome job and you should celebrate that.

Giving employees some tough love and freedom will go a long way in building a business where you don’t take on the role of a hall monitor. That’s not how you should be spending your time. As a business owner you have a whole host of other awesome gifts that you should be exercising instead of just monitoring butt-in-chair time.

photo credit: kwl cc

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