The modern business world runs on crunching numbers. Everything needs to be quantified. Big Data. Conversion rates. CPC and CPA and ROI.

I will grant you that business is about numbers. Specifically, it is about making profit.

But the long and winding road from getting up in the morning to counting your shekels at the end of the day takes you through a few twists and turns that can’t be quantified.


You can’t run a business without humans. They are your staff. They are your customers. They are also the people you outsource to, the people who clean your washrooms and the people who prepare food in your cafeteria. As Tech-I-M LLC CEO Paul Menig says:

“Business is of the people, for the people, by the people.”

Humans are not so easily quantified. As so many movies like The Matrix and iRobot explore, human emotions and psychology are both our strength and our weakness.

The challenge for you in your company is to maximize human strength and minimize human weakness. This is generally called “motivation”.

There is a right way and a wrong way to do this. Calling your staff “media hog”, “incompetent” or “the worst city manager we have ever had” is the wrong way.

Employees follow leaders they respect and trust

The right way is to treat people with respect. That’s not so hard to do. If you can’t treat everybody with respect, you should not be a manager or running a company. That’s a minimum requirement to manage people. And to live in society, for that matter.

People will move mountains for people they like and respect. Respect your staff if you want them to move mountains.

But there are other ways to motivate employees, beyond the basic respect.

Following respect comes trust.

People will also move mountains for people they trust. They’ll trust you if they respect you and if you show that you have their backs. If you turn on them when they mess up, they will fear you. If you focus on helping them not mess up the next time, working with them as a team, they will trust you.

That is leadership. When you help employees improve instead of attacking them for their failures, you are leading them forward. People follow leaders. They fear tyrants, but they follow leaders.

“Your employees are probably more likely than you realise to take note of your behaviour and will quickly notice if you are saying rather than doing (or vice versa).”

Consistency is also important. When staff know what you expect from them, when they can predict which choice you would prefer, they can make decisions with confidence. Employees who make decisions are a lot more productive than employees who are constantly seeking approval and asking questions.

A supportive workplace culture not only motivates employees, but it keeps them from leaving:

“A supportive workplace culture can go a long way to improving employee satisfaction and reducing turnover, according to a Gallup survey on reducing employee churn.”

Sometimes, the leader has to make the call. Sometimes the employee can make the call. To get the most out of your staff, empower employees to make the call as frequently as possible. If you give them clear guidelines to follow and they don’t fear the repercussions of a less-than-optimum choice, they will feel empowered. They will give you their best.

When an employee makes a decision, she feels more than empowerment. She feels ownership. We all take better care of things we own. We polish our own cars, not the cars of strangers.

Empowering employees to make as many decisions on the job as possible is one way to give them a sense of ownership. An even better way is to give them a voice in how their environment is organized. Keeping employees engaged is how you can get them to perform 200 percent better than if they just do the minimum to get their jobs done. Flexible work hours, flexible dress code, customized work area…all these things help them invest in your business.

You staff’s emotional investment is as important for productivity and the bank’s investment in your new machinery. Emotionally, they become partners in your business.

Don’t underestimate the importance of perks. A bonus is nice, and it does motivate. People are motivated by money.

Special awards are also nice, because people like to be recognized in front of their peers.

Little perks like “ice cream Fridays” can be used also to help build a sense of team spirit. Free food always makes people feel good, and if provided in a way that encourages interaction, it builds team spirit. So can supporting a charity as a team. These cannot replace leadership and respect, but they certainly can take the sense of team spirit one step further.

You might have something special in your line of business that you can offer employees. The Tenaker Pet Care Center offers free pet-sitting to its employees.

“They feel comfortable bringing their pets in because they know how we take care of them. They don’t have to look around for a friend to do it or look around for something else,”

Would you believe that most of their employees are pet owners?

An interesting survey found that peers and camaraderie are the top reasons most employees go the extra mile. How does one build that camaraderie, that vibrant and positive workplace? Respect. Trust. Leadership. Consistency. Ownership. Team spirit. And perks. I wonder where I’ve heard that before.