To be a dynamic manager and supervisor, you must first understand that it is your job to create an environment that motivates employees to be the best they can be. As a manager, you have the power—and responsibility—to give your staff a comprehensive perspective on practice goals and strategies and to validate employee contributions to those practice goals. You also can elevate low morale by encouraging employees to bring meaning and value to their work and by helping to expand their knowledge base. The following tips can help you identify the key motivational factors for your staff members and infuse vitality, ambition, and focus into your practice team.

Set the tone for involvement. As the manager, you are the single most critical component to the motivation process within the practice. Actions that supervisors take set the tone for employee expectations and project results, not to mention the overall success of the office. Setting a tone for openness, where staff can communicate freely with management, invites employee involvement. Ask your employees their opinions on various work-related matters and show support for their proposed solutions. Additionally, bring stimulation to the workday through personal or team goals, for example, to refresh the practice climate. Any number of alternatives to the status quo can pep up your team.

Communicate clear expectations. Make sure your employees understand their written job descriptions, your expectations, and their overall responsibilities. You cannot assume that, just because your employees have prior experience in their job functions, they know what you specifically expect them to do. Without clear expectations and communication, your employees may not be aware of a perceived lack of performance on their part and may waste time on what you regard as low-priority tasks. Also, without having a basic understanding of what is expected, an employee cannot set reasonable goals.

Allow employees to set goals and objectives. Employees must be able to actively participate in setting their own goals. By presenting a strategy for success, management can teach staff to create realistic goals. Make sure employees realize goals must be reasonable, measurable, and achievable. Support goal-setting with a workshop to stimulate enthusiasm, and offer new and creative techniques that include goal-setting strategies for not only immediate and short-term goals, but for long-term career aspirations as well.

Know what motivates your team. You cannot move forward toward practice success nor be the kind of manager you want to be without first knowing your staff members' needs and what motivates them. Identify the key motivators for each of your employees. Are certain members of your team driven by money? Career opportunities? Flexibility? Recognition? Performance reviews, initial interviews, employee satisfaction surveys, and one-on-ones offer ample opportunities to discover where their key motivators lie. One of the best ways to determine employee needs and motivators is to simply ask your employees!

Share “the big picture” with employees. When an employee becomes “disconnected” from the purpose of a task, the project itself can become meaningless and devoid of personal interest or job satisfaction. Routine duties may result in boredom or a lack of dedication to practice results. No one can operate in a vacuum for long&mash;employees need to understand how they fit into “the big picture.” Inclusion is a powerful motivator. Assure your staff that each daily task affects the practice and fits into its overall strategy. Including employees in the big picture increases employee job satisfaction, brings a greater sense of “pride of ownership” to each task, and encourages long-term commitment to the job.

Evaluate skill sets and assign tasks accordingly. Most employees want their work to be challenging, interesting, and creative; they welcome opportunities to advance and develop new skill sets. Match your employees' skill sets and developmental needs to the needs of the practice. What may be a challenging task to one individual may be easy for another. Appropriate job descriptions, performance reviews, and strong communication can assist greatly in this area.

Ensure staff development with educational goals. Employees who are kept updated and are offered onthe- job training and educational opportunities tend to feel more in tune with the overall strategy of a practice and have more of a sense of being “on the cutting edge” of the industry or practice specialty. Encourage your staff to take online courses, tutorials, staff training sessions, and development programs. Educating employees on the job also may increase employee retention rates, thus encouraging employees to see a job as a career rather than as a short-term position.

Be flexible. Each individual has specific needs and desires, and you may need to vary your approach to an employee from time to time to encourage optimal performance. Treat each person fairly, but remain flexible enough to accommodate individual or team needs.

Growing a High-Performance Team
As a manager in a supervisory role, you can mold your individual staff members into a well-rounded, high-performance, satisfied, and motivated team. Include employees in the big picture. Match your employees' skill sets to practice needs and offer your staff opportunities to develop and expand their knowledge. A flexible, focused, and perceptive manager can create an environment that encourages employees to learn, stay motivated, contribute to practice goals, and help advance your practice to its next level of success.

Carrots or Sticks?
Many supervisors embrace either a “carrot” or a “stick” approach to motivate staff. “Carrots” can be incentive programs, promotions, rewards, and bonuses, or other enticements that urge employees along. The “stick” approach often appears in the form of disturbing performance reviews, removal of incentive benefits, and other similar, “punishing” actions. Although these can be useful management tools, without instructional emphasis, many managers fall short of motivating employees beyond their simple, daily tasks.