Running or managing a company is often stressful. You have to see the business through periods of ups and downs, and you usually have to do it with limited resources. You have plenty to worry about without having to be right on top of your staff every moment. So, how can you ensure that you are getting the most from your employees without needing to breathe down their backs or offering extravagant incentives?

In an atmosphere like this, it all comes down to the workplace culture. With a workplace culture that values accountability, respect and integrity, your employees will work hard, take responsibility, and truly commit to the goals of the company.

But building this kind of office culture does not happen on its own. You have to build the right kind of relationships between you and your staff in which there is an outlet for performance feedback. You also have to encourage employees to rely on each other, and hold each other accountable.

Establish Trust

It is true that fear can be a motivator. But fear doesn’t establish the right kind of motivation. When a person is acting out of fear, they are only doing what must be done to avoid consequences and negative reactions. This isn’t a type of motivation that fosters an individual’s commitment to the company or a desire to actually perform well.

Instead of trying to intimidate people and use fear as a motivator, it is better to build trust with your employees. Trust is one of the most important factors in accountability, and it promotes motivation in a way that is much more personal to the individual. You want to establish trust between you and your team, and you want to encourage employees to establish trust with each other.

Building trust can take time, but open communication can be a good place to start. Ask your team questions to see how they are doing. Get them to talk about their accomplishments, and encourage them to feel good about the progress they have made. Let them share their concerns, and try to help them when you can.

It Starts With You

If you want to create a workplace culture that is founded on accountability, respect, and integrity, it has to start from the top. Employees will only buy in as far as they see these qualities in their leaders. They might start out in good faith working toward these values, but if they don’t see it reflected in the company’s leadership, the workplace culture will erode over time.

To hold other people accountable, you must be willing to hold yourself accountable. Employees respect a leader that is willing to admit when they dropped the ball. If they see you shirking responsibility and evading your own tasks, they will likely follow suit.

You also have to make sure goals and expectations are clear. You can’t hold a person accountable for a goal that was not clearly defined. When a new project starts or new responsibilities are handed to an employee, you have to make sure they understand the expectations.

Even the best of employees can miss a target if they don’t know what they are aiming for. If you try to be too hard on them under these circumstances, it is going to have a negative impact on their motivation and morale. Instead, provide plenty of instruction and make it clear that you are available for any help and guidance.

Highlight the Positives

You should avoid the use of punitive measures as much as possible. Fear is not the right kind of motivation, and it can have a negative impact on employee performance.

Instead of taking negative actions when employees have failed in some way, try to motivate your staff by giving them their due when they have performed well. This does not mean providing excessive or lavish incentives. Instead, at the end of a tough project acknowledge the hard work they have done. If they have done a good job, let them know. You can even give out small (repeat, small) rewards when people have really exceeded expectations.

You might find that there are times when handing out some type of punishment is the only way to go, but it should not be your default strategy. By being positive and supportive, you can motivate your employees to perform better, and that should limit the possibility of negative interactions between you and your staff.

When you have open communication in a work environment that promotes the right values, your team is going to be more engaged. They are more likely to show up every day committed to the mission. But the foundation of this workplace culture is going to have to start with you. Hold yourself accountable, build trust with your employees, and keep things positive.

This is a guest post by our friends at 15Five.


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3 Ways to Jumpstart Employee Motivation