“Who got caught being awesome?” That's the question Alex Charfen, CEO of Austin, Texas-based training and business consultancy Charfen, asks his employees every morning at 9:17 a.m., during their daily huddle.
Charfen started this practice because he recognized that as happens at other rapidly growing companies, his employees weren’t being properly recognized for their hard work and achievements. Rather than sit back and wait for the issue to resolve itself, he and his team moved to make sure that every "awesome" employee felt appreciated.
“This allows everyone, from managers to first-time employees, to publicly call out individuals for exceptional service, delivery or mentorship," Charfen told me. "Making this a daily occurrence puts our team in a service mentality, shifting their mindset to think positively about how we interact with each other, our partners and our clients."
To shape successful workplaces, company leaders like Charfen believe their daily culture should reflect the positive efforts employees make every day. In return, those employees become engaged, motivated and productive.
Need more ideas to perfect your company culture? Here are five other ways to become a leader employees admire:
1. Praise often -- and in public
Most leaders understand the importance of employees, but only the best openly show their appreciation.
Employees aren’t seeking handouts in expensive gifts but rather want to know leaders see their hard work and determination. In fact, a January survey by OfficeVibe found that 82 percent of participating employees said they thought of recognition/praise as better than a gift.
After hearing employees speak highly of spouses’ employers who publicly praise employees, Stephen Twomey, founder of Traverse City, Mich.-based digital branding company MasterMindSEO, took the hint and applied it to his own company culture. Twomey said he finds one thing employees did exceptionally well the previous day or week and praises them in public for their work.
Engaging his team with different forms of praise keeps everyone inspired and motivated, he said. “Sometimes it’s in a group email, a shout-out on our social media, or a simple high five that everyone can see," Twomey said.
And, he said, it works. "Work productivity has increased by 30 percent," he said. "I don’t hear grumbling about being underappreciated, and no one is asking for a raise like they normally would around the beginning of the year. It turns out, people really want to be inspired and led -- not managed.”
2. Send employees out with a road map
Effective communication and motivation go hand in hand. Employees who are unsure about their daily tasks rarely get the opportunity to go above and beyond. If their everyday tasks are unclear, how can they focus on improving them?
Ensuring employees are on the same page and know they’re part of a team boosts company morale and productivity. That’s why Jordan Scheltgen, co-founder and managing partner of content marketing company Cave Social in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., opens every day with a new process to help employees focus and achieve their goals.
“We started a program that we call ‘Attack the Day,’" he explained to me. "This is both a mindset and process. It starts with a 20-minute meeting every morning. Teams break off and list what they want to get accomplished for the day. Then, team members are encouraged to jump in and offer assistance to other staff members on tasks they can provide value on.”
3. Capture feedback -- and actually use it
Keeping track of employees’ feelings -- especially when one of them is frustration -- is a difficult task. This is an even bigger challenge to tackle as businesses and technology expand. However, without attempting to understand your employees' feedback, your ability to retain employees and improve your company processes may become nearly impossible.
During a time of rapid growth at his own business, Benjamin Snyers, managing director and partner at New York City-based social agency Social.Lab, knew he needed to keep a close eye his team members’ weekly pulse. Using Butterfly, a personal management coach, Snyers said he discovered his team was feeling stressed and overworked. As a result, he formally communicated his gratitude to his team members for their hard work, recognized their sacrifices and explained why their efforts were not in vain.
After hearing feedback from employees and actively listening, Snyers said, he understood his team’s frustrations and was able to show them that the company leadership was 100 percent behind them.
4. Cultivate a positive workplace culture
Motivating employees to reach the height of their potential is every company leader's job. Addressing motivational issues only once every quarter -- or worse, once a year -- drains employees’ productivity and passion for their role.
At advertising and marketing agency Gavin Advertising in York, Penn., CEO Mandy Arnold empowers and engages employees every day by creating a positive workplace culture.
“We incorporated ‘We Culture’ team shoutouts," she told me. "Every Monday, we take five minutes for teammates to thank someone -- out loud -- for doing a great job. It could be a nod to the effort behind a great media placement secured, or an SEO specialist who went above and beyond to solve a client issue on a tight timeline."
Frequent positive reinforcement, like the kind Arnold implements in her culture, brings out the best in employees. So, ensure the best talent stays and grows at your company by proving to those people that their company leaders are invested in bringing the team together and helping them reach their greatest potential.
5. Ask for feedback -- and prepare to be surprised
Miscommunication doesn’t happen solely when employees don’t understand a leader’s expectations. It also happens, and leaves a lasting negative impact, when leaders aren’t fully aware of employees’ needs.
After feeling he wasn’t performing at his best, motivational speaker Sean Douglas of Goldsboro, N.C., realized he was giving employees feedback but wasn’t asking for it in return.
“I decided to ask for their feedback and I was very surprised by their response," Douglas said. "I thought I was awesome but was actually lacking in some areas. Now, I am personable with them. I ask for their needs, and I also ask for feedback on how I'm doing as leader and mentor."
Understanding what his team needs gives him the ability to lead according to their strengths, Douglas said. When leaders, in this way, push their own opinions and agendas aside, they make room for their team to reach full potential.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.