Improve employee motivation by making every employee feel like a business owner

You had the great idea. You started your limited company. You are passionate about making your idea succeed. You work hard AND enjoy it. You are committed, motivated and engaged with your work. But this is obvious, you should be, as it is your business.

Now, you have hired your first, second, third employee. This is great news because it means your business is growing. You are on the path to success…except you are now a manager. And the continued success of your business idea depends on the success of your team.

Well, the last thing you have now is time to read all those management books. Let’s face it, you did not even get through all the entrepreneurship literature before starting up your business. So in this post I will let you in on a secret of how to manage your employees and improve employee motivation: You already know everything you need.

Great employees are passionate about making the business idea succeed. They are committed, motivated and engaged with their work. So, every employee should feel like a business owner – after all, this is how you feel, and what drives you to perform.

How do I make every employee feel like a business owner?

It’s very simple.

  • Don’t stop asking questions after you hire them. Get to know your employees well, both at work, but also what they are like as people. Every so often ask them the question, "So, is this what you expected when you came for the interview?"
  • Listen.  You have to mean it when you ask them what they think about the business and how they feel working for you. I know it can be scary to hear feedback, especially if it has been a difficult week for the business. But the more you do it, the less scary it becomes. One day, you may not have to ask at all - they will feel comfortable talking to you about the challenges they, or the business, are facing and help come up with possible solutions.
  • Give them clear direction. There are one thousand things to do in a small business, and your role is to focus and prioritise, over and over and over. The more you focus on priorities and activities, the more results you – and your team – will see. And the less time your employees will waste. My favourite analogy for this is a rowing boat. Just make sure you are all rowing in the same direction.
  • And finally, inspire them. A lot of the time you will be sitting there rowing away. But you are in charge of direction. Your early employees are the first people to believe in your vision (they wanted to work with you!), and are more important than customers and investors to make it happen. They will probably be entrepreneurs at heart like you, and your biggest success will be to motivate them every day to help with your idea.

One day you may have the privilege to help them work on their idea too.


Ana Herrera is an HR engagement, culture and change specialist and graduate of London Business School.

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