HR expert Vivienne Foster explains how small business leaders can communicate with their employees so they keep working as a motivated, successful team

Keeping your staff motivated and performing well is a problem that affects many small businesses, particularly those that have grown quickly. The buzz of the early days, with only a handful of enthusiastic and energetic employees, can seem to fizzle out as the team grows.

Many of the business owners who call me in are frustrated because they can’t understand what’s gone wrong. They had never really needed to think before about how to manage their people, because everyone seemed to know instinctively what to do and when. But now, their team is working out of sync and they can see that one or two employees’ work isn’t up scratch.

What has changed?

It’s much easier to create a team spirit that focuses on high performance in a small business because the boss typically has a lot of day-to-day contact with staff, and they happen to be right at the coalface.  This means employees get plenty of first-hand information about how the business is doing and share the excitement of being part of a growing company where every little success makes a big difference.

Once a company grows beyond 15 or so people, these things no longer happen by default – the boss is likely to be less visible because the team is bigger; it’s harder for staff see how their own contribution is making a difference; and it can become less obvious how well the business is doing.

My work with these businesses often involves helping the owner or boss to become more consciously aware of the role they play in keeping the firm’s ‘mojo’ and ensuring the team spirit is alive and thriving.

Why does this matter?

Some business owners might say: “I pay my staff. That should be motivation enough.” But it’s not as straightforward as that. Employees are more likely to come into work each day feeling enthusiastic when they feel valued, understand how they are contributing to the firm’s success, and are excited about where the business is going.  And if they feel like that, you are far more likely to see the extra effort from them that will bring further business success.

Team spirit and high performance isn’t something that just comes with being part of a team. So here are my top tips for keeping motivation, focus and performance high in your business:

1. Share your vision

You’re excited about your business and you know what are your ambitions for it.  But do your staff? It doesn’t matter if there are three of them, 30 or 300 – tell them (regularly) about your company’s vision and ethos, where the business is right now, and where you want it to go.  Infect them with your passion for your business, what makes it special, and how they help to keep it that way.

2. Make it personal

Make it your mission to ensure that every individual in your business knows three things: what you expect of them; what they’re doing that is great; and what you’d like them to do differently/better/more of (and why). You would be amazed by how many business leaders fail to do this, and then wonder why their business isn’t performing as well as they would like.  Have these conversations regularly, and practice the art of honest, balanced feedback.

3. Celebrate success

Success feels good.  Share praise when something has gone well, and thank your team members regularly, personally and publicly.  Celebrating success is motivating, and can help to show your team what ‘great’ looks like in your business.

If you make the effort to do these three things then you will be well on your way to leading a thriving business.


About this author…


Armed with a psychology degree and a passion for helping businesses to maximise the potential of their people, Viv Foster embarked on a career in HR over 15 years ago. After working for a range of firms across sectors such as finance and marketing services, Viv is now a Partner with Positive Momentum, a business consultancy. In her blogs, Viv will use her no-nonsense business approach, deep HR experience and natural people insight to explain how to hire the right people, how to get the most out of them, and also what it takes to be a good employer.


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