Motivating Your Team Creates a Healthier Work Environment

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question over the last decade or so, “Hey, DJ can you come motivate my people?”  Every year without question, I would receive a similar call from one dealer who owned 4 different car dealerships.  His dealerships were doing okay but his people needed periodic motivation.  Without question, he would let it go on until almost too late to correct it.  This dealer would beat up his people, never say a kind word to any of them, but needed me to put motivational band aids on their wounds. Since he’s passed on now, let me tell you exactly what he was like.  

According to this man, no one that worked for him had a brain. They were all stupid.  As he said, many times to me, “You can’t fix stupid.”  Unfortunately, he never told anyone who worked for him thank you or that they did a good job not even if they did something right or gave a customer good service.  NEVER!  Until I got there, they never celebrated a birthday of a team member either.  After I was hired to help motivate his team, there was a Christmas tree in every store.  They started participating in the Marines Toys for Tots campaign and gave food to the soup kitchen located near each store.  When an employee had a birthday, there was a birthday cake in the break room that day for everyone’s enjoyment. Soon, we started a gift exchange program with fellow team members.  What I really liked was if an employee did a good job, he or she would receive dinner for two at a local restaurant.  From then on, all his employees worked hard to earn that reward.  

In connection with that reward, we also started a “HATTABOY” program where other employees would recognize someone going out of their way to help a customer. With the way culture is now, they’ve probably changed that program’s original name to something else by now.  As the years progressed, the bad and negative change occurred, creating something healthy and positive, and their motivation went from bad to good.  Change didn’t happen overnight, but it certainly was unmistakable.  Saying “thank you” isn’t hard to do; it takes only a second to recognize someone for a job well-done, but for some reason management these days still find it hard to say “thank you” to their team.

My oldest brother, Bill owned his own business and would bring donuts and coffee to a job site to let his people know how appreciative he was of them for their hard work.  One day, I was at the jobsite while Bill was talking with a Burger King project manager who bet my brother $100 that we couldn’t line this large parking lot with bricks by the end of the day.  They shook on it, and the bet was on!   My brother left and returned with plenty of rolls and coffee for everyone on the job.  While they ate, Bill told everyone about the bet.  At 4 PM that afternoon….ONE HOUR EARLY….Bill had the Burger King project manager come to the site with his $100.  To the surveyor’s surprise, Bill took his money from the project manager and divided it up between the workers right in front of him.  His response was, “Now I know why your people go the extra mile.”   Not only did the project manager get a surprise but Bill acknowledged the good job his people had done in front of a customer.  Bill’s thankfulness for his people’s good work has stuck with me through the years.  

You’re probably thinking that you don’t do parking lots.  Maybe not, but here are some suggestions that you can implement in your business right now.  When was the last time you told a dispatcher that they did a great job?  How about the “Driver of the Month” award which blesses someone with dinner for two at a local steak house?  How about a $1,000 bonus for having a new baby or adopting a child?  My daughter’s company implemented a “New Baby Bonus” and her employees love it.  There are other ways to show recognition.  Just about everyone enjoys a good movie and food.  So, how about 2 tickets to a local theater for a “night out”, turkey or ham of your choice at Thanksgiving and Christmas or perhaps a FREE car wash for their own car.  Here’s something I’ve done.

When I had 22 employees, we celebrated everyone’s birthday with a birthday cake. They could take their birthday off with pay OR get double pay for working on their birthday.  If the birthday fell over the weekend, they received 6 days’ pay in their next paycheck.  And too, if I could create it in time, I would read a funny poem created about them just before they blew out the candles on their birthday cake.  Work should be fun and serious.  Creating fun and appreciation doesn’t take much effort because it takes more time to replace a valuable person who felt unappreciated.  Want to stay in business?  Create a healthier work environment.   You can do it.  See you next time..