New Tips for Motivating Employees

How do you go about motivating employees? That's a top concern for almost any middle market company leader. Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of middle market company Reputation.com, believes that half the battle lies in the hiring process - screening for employees who are natural go-getters. The other critical half, often overlooked in corporate America, is keeping them motivated once they've joined your company.

To this end, Fertik tries to make a point of acknowledging excellent work, both publicly and privately, and thinking carefully about what rewards would be most valued by particular high-performing employees. In some cases, it's a raise, while in others it might be "more responsibility or more freedom to operate."

But he has also come to the realization that his own mood, as CEO, can have a disproportionate effect on motivating employees. You must motivate yourself first. "I learned early on that if I walked past someone in the hall and didn't say hello to that person because I'm lost in thought, they might feel down like I'm ignoring him or her." Moderate how you respond to good or bad news, and make a point of walking around the office several times a day to greet and chat with employees. "Mood-setting is an important part of the job," he says.

Of course, when you're the leader of a growing mid-market company, setting your own mood can be a challenge. Fertik started Reputation.com at 26. Nine years later, he's still working start-up hours and responding to between 500 to 1000 emails per day. How does he keep himself going? His first technique is to leverage habits that "assist me with my fatigue level and my stress level." Fertik knows he's more motivated when he feels healthy, but time for exercise often gets crowded out. That's why he now has a personal trainer come to his house to work out with him, which "creates a higher bar for skipping it." He also plans a regular date night with his wife, and stands (instead of sitting) at his desk for 2 to 3 hours a day to increase movement and decrease back strain.

Next, Fertik knows he gets the most excited by his job when he's doing something new. Undertaking new growth initiatives (his latest is a series of corporate acquisitions) ensures that work is a learning opportunity. Even talking about his business with external advisers is "highly energizing," Fertik says, because it allows him to see new possibilities.

Finally, it's crucial to celebrate short-term wins. Every middle market company leader knows that some parts of the job will always be repetitive. Even in those moments, Fertik finds ways to make the experience fresh. "It's not easy to give a demo for the 1000th time, but it's part of the job," he says. "There's always some novelty, though, because you haven't met that person before. You have to discover some way to have patience with it, to craft it for [that person]. It's absolutely your job to give an awesome demo."

How do you stay motivated - and ensure your workforce feels the same?

Dorie Clark is an NCMM contributor and a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Learn more about her new book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press) and follow her on TwitterCircle her on Google+


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