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3 research-proven ways to inspire and motivate employees
Team members say these three things will pick up productivity and excite enthusiasm.
As much as we love our jobs and co-workers, all of us come to work for one reason: money. Gotta' pay the bills, sock away some savings, and hopefully enjoy life a little while we're at it. We all know money motivates us to go to work, but can more money motivate us to work harder once we're there? I surveyed 120 veterinary team members to find out.
I distributed a simple survey to query the team members at 10 veterinary practices I work with, asking what motivates them most. The results are good news to anyone trying to increase productivity without breaking the bank—or trying to be satisfied working at a practice without the budget to offer large salaries. Competitive pay certainly attracts and retains the best employees; however, when it comes to motivating performance, money can fall short.
Finally! Proof that handing over—or getting—a wad of cash isn't the only way to get a job done. What really fuels team members' fire on the job is less about economics and more about emotions. Managers, to take your team from average to all-star, pay attention to the following key motivators that came up repeatedly in survey results. Not a manager? This study teaches you something too: If you're feeling unchallenged or underappreciated, you can break out of that rut and shine.
1. Notice unique contributions
When asked about past job success, 93 percent of polled employees said they invested themselves most in jobs that were strongly suited to them. In these jobs, the employees viewed their contributions as unique. The tasks came with tangible goals, the jobs were clearly valued in the workplace, and the employees were singled out by others for earnest appreciation.
Managers: This means you need to find the right person to complete each task. Make sure that when you assign a project to someone, she's enthusiastic about it. Give it start and end dates so she'll have a finish line to cross. Check in with her frequently to see how it's going. Procrastination is not always a sign of laziness. It can also act as a good barometer for whether the team member feels suited to the task. Is this extra work? Yes. But the time you spend will pay off in improved results.
Team members: Don't be shy about letting your supervisor know your strengths. The task that you find is a snap may be someone else's weakness. When you're assigned jobs you excel at, your quick success will be a boon for your practice manager—and that makes you both look good.
2. Get out of the way
A whopping 95 percent of veterinary team members said they'd work harder if they felt their efforts were worthwhile and would be appreciated. They added that feeling ownership of a task would also boost their performance.
Managers: Once you find a person who's well matched to her assigned task, let her run with it. Acknowledge to the staff that this individual leads in this area and should be the go-to person for questions. At my practice, we found a staff member who paid strict attention to clients' bills, so we asked if she wanted to help with accounts receivable. She set up her own reminder system for payments and now has a small office in one of our reception areas. She owns her role as our "money maven" and is very proud of it.
More important than allowing team members to own tasks is to stop coming up with answers for them and start asking questions. Solutions that come from your employees will go further and faster than yours. Once they provide you with their ideas, help team members polish them into clear, straightforward plans of action.
Team members: If you'd like to head up a certain project, ask. To make your manager more comfortable, you could suggest that he or she monitor your work at certain checkpoints along the way. Also remember that many tasks are more enjoyable when you share them. If your boss delegates a job to you, request that another team member work alongside you. The buddy system might mean you'll have more fun and get the task done faster.
3. Keep it positive
When asked about times when performance suffered, 78 percent of surveyed team members blamed an overly critical manager for deflating their enthusiasm. They also reported giving less effort to a job they considered busywork, as well as to tasks that were spread out among so many people that individual efforts seemed to get lost.
Managers: Don't pull a Tom Sawyer and try to trick your staff into white-washing fences. They know busywork when they see it. If there's good reason for completing a mundane task, then let it be known. Discuss the true merit of third-time reminder calls, hospital cleanliness, or other tasks that might seem dull or demeaning. Then earnestly ask the right individual to help. With third-time reminders at our practice, we showed team members the additional revenue the calls brought in. It turns out the calls generate tens of thousands of dollars. Now every team member enjoys renewed energy to complete the calls because they see the value in them.
Also be careful of squashing efforts. Don't be the one your team members avoid because you always have something negative to say or some correction to give. Work at becoming a leader your team members trust and approach for advice. Coach for loyalty and reliance, not just for performance.
Team members: Many practice owners and managers have a keen sense of detail that enables them to excel at their jobs. However, that attention to detail can seem like nitpicking, which can be debilitating. At one of my hospitals, an owner was so critical that her comments shut down the whole team. We solved it by working within our project group to counteract the negativity. We pumped each other up and acknowledged that the owner's behavior wasn't personal, it was a general pattern. We also acknowledged whatever truth was in the commentary, learned from it, and adjusted our project accordingly. So work with your fellow team members to solve problems. And instead of looking to an overly critical boss to make or break you, look at your own personal growth and accomplishment as proof that you're succeeding and winning.
Tie it all together
In my career, I've been privileged to work closely with many hospitals. Even when encountering possible staff terminations, I rarely find a team member who's an inherently bad worker. In almost every case, broken trust and communication failures have pushed managers into one corner of the practice and staff members into the other. They no longer share the same perspective and they no longer work together to solve problems.
Don't let that happen at your practice. Begin working on these common-sense approaches to motivation today. The work you put into motivating your colleagues will do more than improve your practice's performance. It will change you for the better and enrich your relationships with managers and other team members. And that's a pay-off everyone can enjoy.
Bash Halow, CVPM, CVT, is the hospital administrator at Princeton Animal Hospital and Carnegie Cat Clinic in Princeton, N.J. He's also president of Halow Consulting, a group of advisors who work with veterinary practices to discover affordable options for team building.