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Monday, November 08, 2010

CEO SPACE: Motivating Your Employees - Listen to Them!

Leslie KnightMany leaders are considering how to motivate their employees in the current economic conditions. Bonuses, additional benefits and pay raises are out of the question for most small businesses…not because they lack the desire, but they simply can’t sustain the cost for a prolonged period. Increases in the cost structure today may result in lost jobs tomorrow.

It is time to look for opportunities to motivate that don’t add to a business’ fixed costs. Economic downturns are the perfect time to listen closely to our employees, to thoughtfully consider their input and take action. Your employees know where efficiencies can be obtained and money can be saved.

When was the last time your employees brought suggestions to you about cutting costs? You can’t remember? Hmmm. That tends to happen when we:

  1. Listen from a context of “whiner” or “complainer”. Most cost savings occur when employees “complain” about conditions or circumstances that hinder their ability to perform to their best ability. These complaints are really expressing a commitment to you but you hear a “whiner” talking. Change the context from which you listen from “whiner” to that of an employee committed to my success.
  2. Prepare our “We can’t do that because” list while they are talking to us. Be focused on what they are saying, not how you are going to respond. You job is not to say “No”, but “How can I help.”
  3. Fail to act on their suggestions. Why should they be committed to you (help you drive down costs) when you are not committed to them (fail to act)? After a few failures to act on your part, they simply quit bringing the ideas. You’re not committed.
You can reduce costs and improve morale if you will follow this simple process:
  1. Ask your employees: “How can we become more cost efficient?” or “How can we reduce the cost of ____________________?”
  2. Provide “constraints” for their solutions (e.g. We have to use existing equipment. The total cost can’t be more than $x”. Whatever is appropriate to your circumstances.)
  3. Commit to implementing their solution if it meets the constraints.
  4. Get out of their way and let them be creative in designing the solution.
  5. Implement the solution.
  6. Celebrate their success.
In this way, you have acknowledged them by expressing Trust (in their judgment), Respect (for their expertise), Appreciation (for their contributions), Interest (in their thoughts) and Listened with an intent to act.


TRAIL (Trust, Respect, Appreciation, Interest, Listening) is a concept developed by Scott Degraffenreid in Blazing a TRAIL to Success – The New Art & Science of Acknowledgment which is available through


Founded by Berny Dohrmann over 20 years ago, CEO Space is a private entrepreneurial business club with an environment that we created for people to be able to get quick results with their business through networking, education, and resources. For a one-time tuition payment Entrepreneurs receive a Lifetime membership and one free class, as well as a lifetime of mentoring, contacts; resources, and most of all a lifetime of support for you and your business as you grow. You can learn about Transformational Leadership and other topics at CEO Space.

Leslie Knight is a trusted advisor to small businesses. She has over 20 years of experience in Corporate America which she applies to smaller entrepreneurial enterprises. She is Executive Director for CEO Space Volunteer Staff, and is also the author of Navigating the I.T. Minefield – Straight Talk for the Small Enterprise. To purchase your copy, please visit

For more information on CEO Space please visit or call CEO Space at 256.850.4700.

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The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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