Employees traditionally begin their first day of work filled with hope and anticipation. As a manager, you have an opportunity to sustain this optimism and motivate employees to become part of a high-performing team.  But how?  The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM.org, 2016) cites that employees seek jobs they are passionate about and organizations that recognize their value. So, how will you inspire passion to achieve organizational goals?  How will you build employee relationships that add value to the team?  How will you create a culture that fosters employee engagement? Two corporate examples provide some insight into what has worked and what has not.

Apple’s Journey

Let’s take a look at Apple’s journey (Jim Muehlhausen, Apple’s Business Model: Before and After Jobs 2.0). With the passing of Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs, the market waited with anticipation to see what changes would occur.  How long would Jobs’ vision last? The answer was not long!

From 1985-1997, Apple had three CEOs, each of whom led Apple in a different direction. John Sculley ventured unsuccessfully into diversifying the Apple product line to expand its market share and increase revenues.  Michael Spindler continued Sculley’s strategy of expansion, but without a clear direction.  Gil Amelio had the shortest reign and reverted to improving on Apple’s core product and business model.  When Steve Jobs regained the helm in 1997, he knew exactly what needed to be done to right the ship and fix the company. Jobs used technology- and design-based solutions to increase market share. “The only way to do this was to utilize the talents of his best employees and elevate their position in the company,” wrote Muehlhausen. Under Jobs leadership, the design division of Apple dominated over all the other divisions.

Sears in Contrast

Sears department store, a failing middle American mainstay, offers a contrast to Apple. “Since 2007, Sears has closed half of its locations — which include Sears and Kmart stores — and eliminated more than 137,000 jobs,” reports Hayley Peterson in an August 2016 MSN Business Insider article. Understaffing, limited hours, stagnant wages, firings, store deterioration, and inattention to employee feedback prevail within the failing organization. “Our motto is ‘you can only do what you can do,'” one employee wrote on a message board. “It’s sad to watch what we worked for with pride for so many years to be slain in front of us, and then we still have to care for the dead body.”

Lessons Learned

An important lesson learned from Apple and Sears is that building employee relationships and connections are essential to organizational success. Employees are the eyes, ears, and inspiration behind an organization, and only by getting to know employees can managers leverage their talent.

One environment that is conducive to building relationships and connections is team meetings.  Here ideas can be freely exchanged in an open dialogue without judgment.  Team decision-making serves to empower employees and create opportunities for them to lead.  These and other scenarios make positive connections that build trust between manager and team and inspire achievement across the organization.  When a manager recognizes achievements, especially publicly, employees feel they are a valued part of the team.

This blog focuses on just one strategy to motivate employees–building relationships and connections.   Other motivational strategies include coaching, mentoring, performance management, team rewards, and more.  As a manager, you are the head coach and responsible for finding the right strategy to rally your team to victory.