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A small business is the ultimate team sport. Your crew is often small, like a hockey or basketball team. One person not fulfilling their responsibilities throws off the entire team. Team motivation is crucial for a successful business. There aren’t enough people to provide cover if someone isn’t pulling their weight. Even worse, the impact on the business’s bottom line is unavoidable.

The challenge for a small business owner is to find ways to improve team motivation. This is different from employee motivation. Individuals may be motivated by individual bonuses, flexible schedules, or your praise. But how do you motivate a group of individuals to produce as a team?

I’ve got six suggestions.

1. ADOPT A CHARITY

Bonding outside of work is a great way to strengthen teamwork at work. Team members get to know each other on a personal level. This is especially helpful if they don’t work the same schedule or at the same job site.

Having a shared mission makes the bonding even better. If you want to take employees out to a game or have a summer picnic, do it. But there’s special satisfaction in accomplishing a goal together for other people. It also models how they can achieve great things together at work.

So adopt a charity and run a special fundraiser for them. Have team members organize a calendar where they volunteer together.

2. KEEP YOUR FAVORITISM QUIET

Liking some employees more than others is natural. Letting it be known who you like best is a team motivation killer. You can’t stand listening to one of your wait staff go on about his dog. So what? You’re working with them because you value their work. Focus on that.

Does one employee get to pick the best shifts? Do some get more flexibility scheduling their shifts? The rest of the team takes note, and they don’t like it.

The solution is being completely transparent in your decision-making. They might not be thrilled with your decision. But they’ll be more likely to accept it if they understand the reason why.

3. REGULAR PUBLIC INDIVIDUAL RECOGNITION

I know this is about team motivation. Stay with me. I said “public” individual recognition. An employee survey found that 83% of them felt recognition for their contributions was more fulfilling than other rewards. People crave being appreciated for their work. Other team members get motivated when they see one of their own recognized for great work. They want that recognition too.

Have a formal employee-of-the-week or month award and ceremony. Hand out unexpected public recognition when someone successfully takes on a new task or reaches a milestone. These types of public rewards give specific guidance to others what they can do to earn the same.

Make sure to include the new or less experienced team members. When a new line cook learns the menu’s most complicated dish – reward that! It reinforces their value in the eyes of the rest of the team and brings them into the team.

4. CELEBRATE THOSE TEAM ACHIEVEMENTS TOO

Setting goals as a team is already a great team motivation exercise. Make them stretch goals — those that are realistic, but takes greater effort. When the team hits its goal of selling a certain amount in desserts or drinks for the night, celebrate! Reward them as a team (free dessert anyone?).

Provide extra recognition for the individual who contributed the most. (See suggestion #3.) This balances team and individual reward so no one gets resentful for carrying others. Contests are also fun ways to set team goals that can provide individual recognition.

5. GET IN THE TRENCHES WITH THEM

Motivate your team by showing them that you’re part of the team. You’re not just the guy locked away in your office. Or the one who disappears off-site doing, well, they’re not sure what. If the front of the house is slammed, make sure they see you bussing tables, seating patrons, or taking orders.

The nucleus of any team is the shared confidence that everyone is in this together. Getting the concrete poured in time to dry so the flooring can get installed on schedule. Making the hard calls to follow up with customers or insurers about unpaid bills. Whatever “this” is for your company — let team members see you pitching in as needed during the tough times.

6. PAY THEM – QUICKLY AND ACCURATELY

This is a bit individual. But what will rile your team up faster than not getting paid on time or in full? Nothing. If tips are shared, make sure they’re distributed accurately.

Share the financial rewards with the team as well. Is there a financial bonus to bringing in a job ahead of schedule? Share that bonus with the subcontractor(s) who made that happen.

Keeping team motivation up isn’t an exact science. The unexpected can throw a team off balance. And teams don’t stay motivated without effort. If you’re unsure of your motivational skills as a leader, then make that your task to learn how to be better. You’ll find being a great motivator has its own rewards.

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