How to Create an Inspirational Work Environment

Aside from building a thriving enterprise, a small-business owner’s most important responsibility is creating an environment that inspires and motivates employees. After all, any company that moves workers to perform at their highest levels will always fare better in the marketplace than its less-inspired competitors.

Here are six tips for creating an inspirational work environment.

1. Model the performance you seek. Inspiration starts with you. When you demonstrate enthusiasm and drive on the job, every day, your workers will feed off that energy and share your passion.

2. Share your goals and expectations. Your employees want to make meaningful contributions to the success of the business, but it’s up to you to explain precisely how they can do so. Be clear about your expectations regarding both performance levels and professional values. Set goals for individuals and spell out how their work benefits specific long-term business objectives. Employees who see the link between their daily responsibilities and the growth of the business are more likely to believe that they’re making a difference. Their sense of belonging will be strengthened, too.

3. Express confidence in your workforce. By sharing your goals and expectations (see #2), you’ll exhibit the confidence you have in your employees’ ability to perform at a high level. Wherever possible, create decision-making opportunities to demonstrate your faith in other people’s judgment.

4. Offer feedback that emphasizes the positive. The way you offer feedback can be enormously inspirational. Employees want to know how they’re doing, and they’re open to constructive feedback in areas where they’re not performing up to expectations. Frame any negative criticism in a way that focuses on their strengths and demonstrates your belief in their capacity for growth and improvement.

5. Be generous with praise and rewards. Everyone likes to feel appreciated for the work that they do. At every opportunity, acknowledge people for outstanding performance, particularly in a group setting where others can join in celebrating success. Create a reward system (pizza for lunch, movie tickets, gift cards, etc.) as an additional incentive.

6. Nourish a culture of innovation. Your employees likely have insights into how to improve your products or services that haven’t occurred to you. Some of their observations may lead to successful innovation; others may not. In any case, employees feel they have a stake in the business when you seek their input. Offer different opportunities for them to contribute — at staff meetings, in group discussions, via a strategically placed suggestion box, etc. Implement the best ideas, which will inspire employees to continue to speak up.

Making employees feel good about the work they do — in an atmosphere that’s creative and fun — is bound to translate into greater productivity and increased profits.

About Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning freelance copywriter and editor and a former Senior Writer for Vistage International, a global membership organization of chief executive officers. He writes frequently on issues and challenges faced by U.S. small businesses.
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