3 Small Sparks That Can Light Performance On Fire

It was a brisk fall day. The sun was setting, and so was our energy. Julie had been having a great day with positive client interactions, but management ride-alongs always take a lot of energy on both sides. We were both worn out. “There’s just one more thing before we wrap up,” I said. Then I pulled out a gift card to her favorite store, handed it to her and simply said, "Thank you for the incredible impact you are having on your customers and our company." It was her smile and thanks for my appreciation I will never forget. 

As a district manager, I was always looking for ways to encourage, motivate, and reward positive behaviors while in the field with my team. When team surveys came in about what means the most to people, it turns out that big rewards, attached to big goals, were not in the lead. The on the spot gift cards were top of the list. 

Affirmation is a huge motivator, the little spark that can light performance on fire. Being recognized for the little things fosters positive culture, feelings of appreciation, and motivation to tackle the hard things. We all know the cliché, “Actions speak louder than words.” Here are three simple ways to motivate your employees and show them they matter.

1. On the Spot Rewards: When you witness your employee in action doing something positive that allows your brand to shine, reward that individual on the spot! Maybe you hand them a gift card to Starbucks. Or maybe you let them leave an hour early with pay. Catching people doing something good – from how they care for a client, to how they work as a team – and recognizing it on the spot is huge.

Just make sure your reward is something your people actually value. Does a special parking spot really mean something to them? Do they even like coffee? A simple staff survey can tell you a lot. And if budgets are tight, remember genuine positive appreciation is a great place to start. Stopping to say “Thank you for… That was great!” can make a big impact in your company culture.

2. Recognize People: Mark your calendar with your employee’s birthday. When these days come up, celebrate with them. It doesn’t have to be a big party. Four simple ways to celebrate are:

  • A $5-10 gift card to their favorite store or coffee shop
  • Buy them lunch
  • Send them an email or text letting them know you are thinking of them on their special day
  • Hang a birthday board in the breakroom and have everyone sign it – you can use a white board or chalk board that’s just for celebrations. Simply add the birthday girl’s name and hang it on her special day. 

The point is, little things to recognize you see the person, not just the job, can make a big difference in demonstrating that you truly care.

3. Create Space to Build Up Your Team: Pick a day once a month to have everyone meet in the office for a time to simply chat and connect. Break out the sodas, chips, and favorite snacks to share together. This is a great time to read positive reviews from clients, or fellow employees. Keep a comment jar for positive feedback and pull them out and read them during this team building break. Just be sure you don’t fall into the trap of using this time to address problems or changes. That’s what staff meetings are for. Keep light. Keep it positive. And recognize the good in others.

Creating a positive culture that shows your people they matter may be simpler than you think. So, have some fun and make a huge impact on your most important asset – your employees!