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14 Tips to Engage Your Employees in 2014

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A new year means new opportunities -- for you, your team and your company. And it's not only about setting new goals, milestones or profit margins. It is, above all, about engaging and exciting your employees, who are the ones that will help you and your company reach those objectives.

Just as leadership style can be redefined and perfected, so can -- and should -- a company's culture. As president of a franchisee system, I know it's important to constantly innovate and improve to keep all team members on board, and here are the tips I'm applying to make 2014 a banner year.

People First

Strong leaders don't feel threatened by shows of emotion or empathy. Those who lead best understand themselves and others emotionally, match appropriate emotions to different situations, empathize with their team members and form deep-rooted, professional relationships. They make sure their employees are understood, and, in turn, their employees respond accordingly, and a bond is formed. This facilitates and improves teamwork, operations and -- ultimately -- profitability.

Mentoring

Because internal guidance fosters teamwork and support, at Maaco, we recently implemented The Tony Martino Mentoring Program. Tony founded Maaco more than 40 years ago and the foundation he used and valued most involved sharing experience and growing together. Our program today takes what we learned from and loved about Tony, and matches newly-positioned franchisees with seasoned franchisees on our Advisory Council to provide extra guidance and tips in getting their centers off the ground. The program exemplifies one of the key ingredients in making a company successful -- teamwork and internal support -- and is a true legacy from Tony.

Motivation

An effective leader is one who motivates and influences others, not one who tells people what to do. In order to do this, you must take the lead and set the example. Make sure your company's goals are clearly explained and that you can work with your team to achieve those goals. Then, "get your hands dirty" -- "walk the talk" by doing the work you want your team to do.

Recognition

Leaders must also ensure that the employees who take the given motivation to the next level and become engaged, communicative and productive are publicly, instantly and consistently rewarded for it. These employees and their efforts should not be taken for granted -- they are the ones who will help you achieve your company goals and, potentially, motivate others to become engaged.

Meritocracy

Along with rewarding hard work, it's important to reserve power for those who earn it -- those with merit. In working with people of all ages, backgrounds and personalities, I have learned that it's important to have diverse talent at all points of the organization, and someone with a higher degree or more power is not necessarily an inherent leader. Always have an open mind -- this will help you to recognize potential and promote from within.

Collaboration

Since joining Maaco, I have actively worked with as many franchisees and colleagues as possible to help develop our brand's vision and direction. This allowed me to capture their personal input and infuse it in our company's future. Because of this, these franchisees and colleagues have been engaged and an integral point of productivity because of their personal investment in the company.

Honesty

Today, when investigative reporting is no longer limited to print, and online research provides more access than ever, companies and leaders have little choice but to be transparent. And to maintain integrity and credibility, it's important to make sure your mission and motivations are reflected in your everyday actions. Beyond this, truthfulness beginning at the top sets an example for all employees and creates an honest organization as a whole.

Communication

"Broadcasting" a message simply won't cut it. A great leader with a successful company is one who promotes two-way communication, which means staying quiet and listening up. Without good communication, there can be no trust, understanding or collaboration, all of which are vital to ensure engaged employees and a successful organization.

Responsiveness

Along with good listening, organizations should promote responsiveness -- to employees, internal and external audiences, leaders, and more -- in good times and bad. Open communication and responsiveness, as well as honesty, helps facilitate discourse with employees with issues and working together to fix them.

Realism

You can't build Rome in a day, and you can't expect your employees to do so, either. Although Maaco has undergone extensive changes this year, with many more planned for the future, all of the changes have been implemented gradually and strategically. Setting realistic goals eliminates unnecessary stress that can hinder quality and quantity of work, create unhappy employees and impede progress in your organization.

Culture

An amazing product or service and high profit is not enough to make a successful company, much less to keep employees engaged. A strong, genuine company culture that is distinct and consistent makes employees a part of something more meaningful than just a job. It also solidifies what an organization represents and how operations should be carried out within it, simplifying what's expected from the employees.

Learning

Insatiable hunger for knowledge keeps leaders, employees and companies fresh and cutting edge. Always be open to learning new things and promoting education for all employees, no matter how much you think you or they already know. At Maaco, webinars and courses to help with operations and teamwork keep our franchisees and employees engaged and improve our company's profitability.

Innovation

Along with being open to learning new things, it's important to be ready to implement what develops. Embracing change and adapting to new demands not only keeps a company relevant, but also presents exciting challenges for employees that can make work less routine and even boring. Challenges engage and help employees -- not just the organization -- grow.

Enjoyment

Make sure employees don't dread work every morning. Generating a comfortable and enjoyable space, physically and mentally, where employees feel welcome and supported by their peers, is crucial to happiness and productivity. While company growth and profitability may be the overarching goals, you should also be invested in helping your employees grow -- whether it is to promote them within your own organization or help them move onto bigger opportunities. These employees will be not only grateful, but also productive and loyal.

Overall, if you are looking at the new year as an opportunity to reboot, refresh and reorganize your organization, it's important to remember and value your employees in all of the changes you make.