Mr Motivator

For any fledgling business it’s a pivotal moment. 8/30 one Monday morning and someone nervously opens the office door. Your first member of staff reporting for work. Day one. And it will never be the same again…

And as that great business thinker, Spiderman, would have said, ‘With your first member of staff comes great responsibility.’ He or she is going to need paying – at the same time every month, not when the cash flow can stand it: they’re going to need training and – if they’re going to help you move to the next level – from time to time they’re going to need motivating…

I’ve written about motivation before: but it’s one of those subjects that’s worth re-visiting. So for this week, here are my five favourite ways that owners of SMEs can motivate – and get the best out of – their team.


As I’ve written many times on this blog, you’re the leader and your job is to lead. Winning new clients, dealing with suppliers, sorting out the finance – they’re all crucial parts of running your business: but first and foremost you’re the boss, the CEO, the guv’nor. First and foremost your job is to say, “There’s the promised land; that’s where we’re going. Follow me.” If you don’t do that, then you simply can’t expect your team to be motivated. Their simple question, ‘Are we going anywhere?’ will be very quickly followed by a simple answer: ‘Yes. The door. Where’s my CV?’


There are some interesting stats from the USA. Gallup conducted a year long survey of American workers – and found that 70% don’t believe they’re engaged at work. Chief reason for this? Lack of feedback from their boss. A global survey by Towers Watson found that a majority of people planning to change jobs cited infrequent and ineffective communication as one of the main reasons for their dissatisfaction. So feedback’s essential – and that can include criticism, as long as it is positive, constructive and – see the point above – it is clearly part of the company’s overall direction.

Lead by Example

‘I’d never ask my men to do something I wouldn’t do myself’ may be one of the oldest clichés in the book but it remains true – especially in business. If you’re not committed, you can’t expect your team to be committed. The same goes for punctuality, looking after the clients and taking the trouble to get it right. If you don’t, they won’t.

Trust Them

Many members of TAB York will tell you that delegation was one of the hardest skills they had to learn. Yes, it is your business – and yes, you probably can do everything. But if you’re going to build a successful team and a successful business you’re going to need to trust your team and empower them. Nothing motivates people more than knowing that their boss trusts them and will back their judgement.

Appreciate their work/life balance

Remember why you started the business? You wanted to be in control of your time: you didn’t want to miss the Nativity Play because some distant head office had decreed that you should go to a waste-of-time conference in an anonymous hotel off an anonymous motorway. Your team are no different – and as flexible working becomes more and more the norm they’re going to expect to be at those not-to-be-repeated family events. Without doubt the most successful teams I see when I visit the TAB York members are the ones where the boss really understands that everyone’s work/life balance is crucial.

Five simple ways to make sure you motivate your team. I could easily have taken the list up to a dozen, but these five are the ones that I’ve seen work consistently for SME’s. If there’s a crucial one that you think I’ve missed, let me know. In the meantime, have a brilliant weekend.



  1. Jo Clarkson · January 22, 2015

    5 great ones – and it would be interesting to know if readers believe that great leaders are born or can be ‘trained’ – and is business any different to sport or the military or politics? For what it’s worth I think you can ‘train’ a good leader to be a really good leader – and that’s true across the spectrum But somehow if someone hasn’t ‘got it’ it’s really difficult to ‘ give them it’ if you get drift! Others disagree?

    • edreidyork · January 22, 2015

      Hi Jo – I agree (no surprise for either of us there…!) The best leaders I’ve worked with would definitely have had “it”, and they’ve then worked hard to get better. Thanks for your response – look forward to seeing others’ thoughts!

  2. Michelle Mook · January 23, 2015

    I think you’ve captured it beautifully Ed! Interestingly some research by CIPD showed 62% of people who leave their organisation, do this because of their manager! So, I would completely agree that inspiring and engaging your team is crucial (but then I would, of course ;).
    I believe that if managers are developed, coached, trained (whatever will most support their need) but most importantly, encouraged to find their own way of being authentic and inspiring 🙂

    • Michelle Mook · January 23, 2015

      Sorry, hit done too soon!
      To finish that of ….
      managers can be great leaders and motivate and engage their teams to go on and become hugely successful.

  3. edreidyork · January 23, 2015

    Hi Michelle – I thought you might just have a view on this – thank you!! I really like your final phrase – encouraging leaders/managers to “find their own authentic way” is bang on.

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