50 Sure Fire Ways to Get People Fired Up and Motivated as Self-Starters at Work

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self starter at work

A recent Gallup poll indicates that the percentage of U.S. employees who consider themselves “engaged” in their jobs averaged 31.5 percent, an historical low.

That means nearly 70 percent of American employees don’t consider themselves engaged at work.

Fired-up employees will perform their jobs more proactively. And you’ll realize benefits as well.

You will find that you can more easily delegate responsibility. That means you get to spend less time on the small, yet still important, stuff and focus on the big picture, such as kindling strategic growth.

Here are 50 surefire ways to spur employees get motivated, take the initiative and become a self starter at work.

Share Your Vision

You started your business with a vision that fired you up so much you expended enormous effort to get where you are today. Share that vision with your staff by telling your own “origin story.” (Be sincere.)


Aside from letting staffers get things off their chest, you have a great opportunity to put your finger on the pulse of your business and learn from your employees. You can learn invaluable things, including potentially innovative ideas to improve daily operations.

Express Appreciation

Sounds simple but this still addresses one of the greatest needs of people in general: the desire to feel appreciated. Some of your staffers will consider your appreciation as significant as — if not more significant than — more money.

Disrupt the Routine

If you want enthusiastic and productive people working for you, do all that you can to disrupt routine. Do whatever you can to make the work as interesting and engaging as possible. Don’t flick on autopilot.

Create Healthy Competition

In the office as on the sports field, people maximize their contribution when they know that exemplary performance will be rewarded. The trick is to make the reward system as transparent as possible to everyone.

Celebrate Success

Success doesn’t happen all at once. It’s often a string of continuous achievements. When you create a healthy competition for excellence, also be sure you celebrate every success when it happens.

Provide What is Needed

This can apply to small things, such as more sticky notes and yellow highlighters, or large ones, such as offering a formal training program. The easiest way to find out if your employees need anything is to simply ask them.

Show Respect

Awards are great but treating all the members of your team respectfully will help their overall performance as a group, too.

Never Micromanage

Leaders don’t lean over employees’ shoulders monitoring everything they do. Assuming you know how to hire people, you should trust them to do their jobs. Micromanaging is never helpful.

Lead by Example

Nothing is as contagious as the habits of a successful leader. But you must let your team see your successful habits in order for this contagion to work. Be a present leader who measures up to the same standard you’ve set for your team.

Be Amiable

Smile and let your employees know they can come to you with their problems and concerns — and maybe even a suggestion or two will float your way. Listening to their concerns will make them feel better too and will make them work harder and take more initiative.

Keep Your Word

By exhibiting the ability to follow through with everything you say, you will earn the respect of your team. This will increase their engagement. By contrast, imagine how engaged they will be if they don’t respect you.

Be Decisive

Remember Nike’s immortal advertising slogan when it’s decision time. Just do it. Procrastination only slows you down. Demonstrating an ability to be decisive can make a strong impression on your team and make them want to do the same.

Don’t Fear Emotion

Smile and crack a joke with folks around the water cooler. You’ll improve company morale and fire up employees in the process. As PsychCentral notes: “Even the most mundane task can be viewed with value when we are in a good mood.”

Push Limits

You will find you need to apply some pressure on occasion to prompt your team to perform beyond the usual. Otherwise, they will stagnate. Getting your team to that next level of being self-starters may take an extra push.

Be a Problem Solver

Recognize you don’t have all the answers and don’t pretend to. This isn’t a sign of weakness but of strength. Recognize these moments as chances to exhibit your effectiveness as a problem-solver. It will start to rub off on your team making them good problem solvers, too, and freeing you from needing to make every decision.

Avoid Fear-Based Management

Great leaders are with their teams day in and day out, offering words of encouragement and teaching or helping to refine the various skills required to succeed. Don’t ever stand on the sidelines screaming at them if you want them to become self-starters at work.

Cultivate New Leaders

As your business expands, it will prompt the need for new leaders. Be ready to fill this need immediately by letting all your team members know they have the opportunity to grow with the company.

Encourage Personal Growth

As a small business leader, you must consider practical ways of encouraging this growth. Give team members copies of your favorite personal success book. Tell them about an upcoming business networking event and suggest they attend. Try to enhance their personal development outside the office as well.

Help Correct Mistakes

When one of your employees makes an honest mistake, take the time and effort to explain what he or she did wrong. Then give pointers on avoiding repeating the blunder.

Promote Accountability

Your employees will feel personally invested in your company’s success when they are held accountable for their actions. They will realize what needs to be accomplished and they will expend their time and effort accomplishing it.

Show Flexibility

People are unique. No two members of your team are the same. As a result, you must be flexible in terms of how you lead each person, as some will require more of your attention than others.

Get Employees More Involved

Encourage staffers to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty by getting more deeply involved in more facets of their work, including longer-term projects. If they feel they are a part of the organization’s future, they will be inspired to work independently, freeing more time for you.


Hold frequent brainstorming sessions and encourage your team to hold its own. This will help each team member creatively come up with innovative ideas for the company.


Tell your team members how their contributions add to the company’s advancement. “Employees are more inclined to step up their game when they know their work can add value to the healthier whole,” Forbes proclaims.

Be Socially Responsible

Your employees want to feel good about their work beyond just their salaries and your bottom line. Where possible, show them your company is a good citizen locally and of the world. Explore green options to make your business process more environmentally friendly. And always look for ways to provide more socially responsible products and services.

Stop Lecturing

Today’s frenetic business world is not a good place to opine on and on (and on). Avoid long winded explanations and cut to the chase. Unneeded complexity is draining.

Sustain Fresh Ideas

Each team member will feel empowered by simply having the ability to suggest new ideas as well as help bring them to life. Give people a chance to take this kind of initiative and task them with the follow-through. You may be amazed at the results.

Create a Good Environment

Research shows that your office environment is very important to your team members. You can easily drive motivation here by considering what you can do to transform your office space into a cool place, where people want to work, rest and have fun.

Build Team Spirit

Your company team can be likened to a family. Or it should be. Help bolster this attitude by organizing team activities during work but also after work.

Provide More Freedom

Having the ability to choose their projects, including how, when, and where they get the work done is becoming increasingly important to talented professionals across sectors and industries.

Pay Staffers Properly

When you are working at establishing employees’ salaries, make certain that the pay is consistent with what your competitors pay, as well as similar companies in your region of the country.

Set Priorities

Employees report that they often waste time at work because they don’t know which of the many projects they are working on has priority, for example. As a leader, it’s your job to help them prioritize. Work with your team members to set clear goals, including details about each project’s priority.

Make Meetings More Efficient

Meetings have the potential to waste too much time — time that could be better spent completing priority projects with approaching deadlines. Set the agenda for each meeting, start on time and end as soon as possible.

Don’t Be a Drill Sergeant

Ordering people around like you’re running an army is counterproductive in every conceivable way. Instead of fostering engagement, you’ll encourage people to update their resumes. Offer direction but leave room for employees to develop their own processes.

Deal With Dissatisfied Employees

Some employees simply can’t be motivated. And with your repeated attempts, you will reach the point of diminishing returns, spending too much time and energy that could be spent on something else. The Wall Street Journal suggests: “Ask how you can help improve their work experience. Offer to move them into another work area, a different department or even a different company.”

Kill Rumors

Rumors need to be nipped in the bud. Depending on the nature of the rumor, it could destroy morale and hurt productivity. That’s bad news while you’re trying to teach your team to take more initiative.  Obviously, time is of the essence when dealing with this type of situation.

Share Long-term Goals

Fill your team in on some of your long-term goals. This can have an effect similar to getting employees more involved with projects. It signals to them that they have a long-term role to play in the company’s future.  And it could alleviate anxiety allowing staffers to take a more proactive role in day-to-day operations — your ultimate goal.

Get Them Out of the Office

Sponsor a community service day. Such an event will allow employees to get out of the office to participate in something that can make them feel good about themselves. Churches and charities are always available to help you find such day projects. These activities can also teach employees how to be more proactive leaders, something they can bring back to your business too.

Keep Personal Worries to Yourself

Whatever is keeping you awake at night, keep it to yourself. If you exhibit trepidation in front of your team, it can stimulate their anxiety, which never helps.

Launch a ‘Mini-CEO’ Program

Inc. relates the story of how when an employee has a new idea, Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot, a marketing software firm in Boston, sometimes will appoint that person as ‘CEO’ of a new in-house start-up. “We want to empower the edges of the organization, and we want to let the people who really understand our customers make decisions,” Halligan told Inc.

Give Ownership Stakes

Employee Stock Ownership Programs can be an attractive way to motivate your team, since the structure works by providing funds only from the company’s profits. This arrangement may promote more proactive behavior from employees because they benefit directly from the results.

Go Nuts (Once in a While)

Have a crazy hat or tie day in the office. Host a lunch-time dance party. Cut loose and do something crazy to break up the routine and lift spirits. It may also spark some creativity and improve your team’s work ethic. A little silliness is a small price to pay for employees that will take more of the load off you.

Give Handwritten Letters

Nothing says appreciation like a handwritten letter. Send these to team members who have exhibited the kind of proactive leadership you’d like to see from everyone at the company. The result may be more such leadership in the future from others who see the results.

Provide Nap Breaks

Depending on your comfort level with this one, napping may be a great motivator. Companies large and small have created nap rooms where employees can enjoy a restful 15-minute snooze.

Create Other Incentives

Incentives are well-known ways to motivate staff. They don’t necessarily require the expenditure of a lot of money. An extra paid day off, gift cards, or tickets to a movie are all excellent incentives for your staff, as is an occasional cash bonus.

Correct in Private

When you need to discuss a performance-related issue or correct a recent specific error, do so in private. Hold the conversation either in your office or the employee’s, with the door closed.

Praise Publicly

Companies celebrate Employee of the Month for the simple reason that people love praise. Make it a standard practice in your offices to recognize positive people by announcing publicly when someone has made a particularly dazzling achievement.

Ditch Managers

Try removing the project supervisor. Empower your staff to work together instead of having everyone report to one person. This can work wonders, as letting your team down is considered by many to be far worse than letting a supervisor down.

Excited Woman Photo via Shutterstock

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Ed Lieber Ed Lieber is a staff writer for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and marketing copywriter with 20 years of experience writing, editing and managing for print and digital vehicles.