'If you want something doing well do it yourself' seems to apply around here. Why can't my staff be as enthusiastic and dedicated as me?

You own the business and the staff are employed by it, so it is not realistic to compare the two. However, getting the best out of staff and others around you is a valuable and necessary skill for a leader.


Notice I said skill, because this doesn't happen automatically. I can go to two similar sized businesses with similar wage costs and staffing and find one team much more productive, happy and enthusiastic than the other. There are a lot of things that can effect staff motivation; some are outside of your control such as personal problems, but all of the work related things are within your control; and people with personal issues can still be highly motivated at work with help and understanding. After a long career in retail, which is a very people intensive business, I can tell you with certainty that staff quality and morale is a reflection of the manager, and that applies to your business also.

Even as sole trader you need to think about how you motivate people around you as there will be times when others are involved in helping you grow or in actuality doing the work.

So what is the secret?

For those of you with a team try thinking about what demotivates people by thinking about some of the things that have demotivated you in the past.


too hot, too cold, messy, disorganised systems, hygiene, noise levels;.


being unclear about what to do, poorly trained, poor communication from manager, unsure about level of responsibility, not clear about standard required, unrealistic standard required, not feeling challenged or stimulated;


unfriendly working atmosphere (which in itself is a symptom of poor motivation), the boss quick to blame slow to praise, occasionally it's the other way round - when people are praised but they know it's not deserved, inconsistent approach to managing people.

There are lots more, but you get the picture.

I understand that, but how can I get to the issues that affect my own people's level of motivation?

There is no magic involved here; you could take a few minutes and list the things that you think could be affecting their motivation up as well as down; you could get individuals to talk to you about their jobs to see if you can pick up any signals; you could even produce a staff satisfaction questionnaire.

At least you might get closer to understanding what is motivating your team or not. In the end though you need to take action, and here are some common traits; well motivated teams tend to have the following:

  • Their work is recognised fairly;
  • The boss / managers communicate well;
  • People understand the goals of the business and feel that they are contributing to the bigger picture;
  • As much variety as possible is introduced into the job;
  • People clearly understand the standards required of them;
  • People are regularly told how well or otherwise they are performing against a clearly understood and realistic standard;
  • People are fully trained and supported in order to achieve the tasks required and the standard set;
  • People are stretched and challenged, but within their capabilities;
  • Poor performance is dealt with promptly through training or ultimately through a fair disciplinary procedure;
  • People feel in control of what they do;
  • People are given clear direction and instructions;
  • The work that people do and the tasks they are given are achievable;
  • People believe the boss is firm but fair.

Even when you get it right you have to work at it, the key is to be consistent.

That's all for this month.

Peter Mulhall
Business Adviser

Business Link - the place to go for business support

Online: www.businesslink.gov.uk

Discover more