Business Q&A: Keep Your Team Intact and On Target

Dec 3, 2012

Q: I began my small business about a year ago. When I started I had trouble getting employees that produced work at an acceptable pace. When I tried to motivate them I had two employees leave. How do I motivate my employees without driving them away?

A: Are you a manager, or a leader?

If you’re going to be successful as an owner of a small business, particularly one with employees, you have to perform both roles well.

Hundreds of books have been written about the qualities of good leaders, but perhaps the best distinction comes from management expert Peter Drucker: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

You’ve already demonstrated leadership qualities by taking the initiative to start a small business, and committing yourself to its success. Translating that vision into a culture that will inspire and motivate employees to do their best is not always easy. But like most every other business skill, leadership skills can be learned.

The foundation of leadership is a positive attitude—the belief that you and your team can do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals. But don’t let your confidence cloud your vision. You may have some good ideas, but your employees and advisors may have better ones, plus information and perspectives you haven’t considered.

Good leadership is also a product of learning as much as possible about what motivates your employees. One may thrive on finding creative ways to solve problems, while another appears to excel in a structured environment. The best leaders are also the best communicators, especially when it comes to establishing expectations for each employee’s performance. That’s why frequent performance evaluations are so important.

Leadership also means being able to share bad news with employees. With so many information resources and ways to access them, you have to assume that nothing is really secret anymore. So share as much as you can, and remember that employees appreciate honesty, and the opportunity to help. Get them involved in finding a solution.

You can learn more about leadership, management, and other small business skills at SCORE, a non-profit organization that offers a wealth of information resources, training, and free, confidential counseling from more than 13,000 business experts. For more information, visit


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