As seen in the November 2006 edition of HVACR Business magazine.

As the owner or a leader of your company, what you say and do will influence coworkers’ work habits. When they listen to your presentations, watch you work, and discern your attitude and feelings, your coworkers are learning how you want them to work. This influence gives you the opportunity — and the responsibility — to motivate coworkers, to transfer your beliefs about good work habits into their actions.

Motivating coworkers will contribute to your company’s success in many ways. Most importantly, the actions you take to motivate coworkers will enhance your efforts to create and maintain a corporate culture that fosters a pleasant work environment. And when your company is viewed as a great place to work, recruiting and hiring becomes easier, and expensive turnover is reduced, which helps you overcome our industry’s chronic shortage of technicians and installers. Also, coworkers who are motivated and enjoy their work are more productive, which results in higher company profits.

Motivating is inspiring people to take action. The talent comes naturally to some leaders, but most others have to work hard at it. Still others seem unable to motivate others no matter how hard they try. If you’re an owner with no ability to motivate others, hire a leader who can. I have seen companies where the owner could not motivate others and did not, or would not, hire someone else to do it; they did not look like fun places to work.

Some leaders who are blessed with the characteristics and skills to motivate people are cheerleaders. They are always pumped up, telling everyone within shouting distance how fantastic everything is. They are a lot of fun to be around, have a lot of charisma, and never seem to wear down. They constantly recognize and congratulate everyone. Unfortunately, some cheerleader-type motivators are not genuine, and it is easy for everyone to sense the insincerity.

Other leaders who are good at motivating coworkers are more quiet and deliberate. They seem to be more personal and caring in their actions. They do not make a lot of noise, but they inspire coworkers and are perceived by others to be totally sincere.

Whatever your style, leaders who act like coaches are good at motivating others. In the book, In Search of Excellence (the best business book ever written, in my opinion), the authors Tom Peters and Bob Waterman describe an extremely effective management practice, called “Management by Walking Around (MBWA).” Leaders who act like coaches or practice MBWA demonstrate their commitment to the business by going to see and talk to coworkers. They show they care by listening, providing positive reinforcement, offering encouragement, and leading by example. If you’re not coaching coworkers or practicing MBWA, you should begin now; by practicing daily, you will develop the habit in a short time. Make a commitment to go talk with a coworker each day. Ask what’s gone right or wrong with his or her day so far, and then really listen and respond as needed to the answer.

Effective leaders also reward coworkers who demonstrate good work habits, because they understand a fundamental management principle: Coworkers are motivated to take action—they will do what you want them to do—if they know you will share the rewards with them. Four effective ways to reward coworkers include providing:

    1) recognition
    2) a boost to their self esteem
    3) spiffs (commissions)
    4) a great company to work for


Recognizing coworkers means showing them that you appreciate what they are doing for the company. If this is something you do not practice, you can do what I did: I made it a discipline. (I am one of those crazy people who keep a daily schedule of not just appointments, but also all of the things — often too many — that I expect to accomplish each day. I try not to go to bed until they are all done.) In forming the discipline, I forced myself to adopt a habit of recognizing at least one person each day, but only if it was sincere. At the end of day, I wrote down the name of the person I recognized that day.

Also, I began to put into practice the old saying, “Recognize people in front of others; discipline people in private.”

Recognizing others does not have to be difficult or elaborate. Simply acknowledging a job well done will suffice. Here are two examples: “Mike, thanks for running that service call out at Mrs. Green’s house last night. We all know how tough she can be to work for. I appreciate what you did.” Or, “Martha, you do an excellent job of dispatching. You are always here and have a super attitude. You’re a good influence on the technicians. Thanks!”

You could also consider occasionally sending a personal letter. Tell the coworker how much you appreciate his or her efforts and attitude. Be specific, so they know you are truly aware of their contribution. You can imagine how great they’ll feel to receive letters of recognition that they can share with their families.

You could develop a list of other methods of showing recognition. Among them, consider choosing a “Coworker of the Month” who earns the right to park in a reserved place in front of your facilities. Or establish an “Extra Mile Award” that is given monthly to a coworker who did something that was not required by his job, but that resulted in a more-than-satisfied customer.

Next month’s column will describe other methods of motivating coworkers by boosting their self-esteem, offering spiffs (commissions), and creating a great place to work.