Hey Clippers! Dave Tucker here to talk about employee motivation and lawn maintenance employee retention. But before we can talk about employees, we have to talk about managers.

Are you the kind of boss you’d want to work for?

Here’s a little thought exercise: I want you to think back to the very worst boss you’ve ever had. Most of us can point to at least one former manager who was a nightmare to work for. The micromanager, the finger-pointer, the guy with no boundaries, the CEO who offered zero perks.

Bad managers make for funny stories down the road, but when you’re still trapped in their employ, they’re awful. I’ll bet you were in a real hurry to leave that job just so you could get away from them. In fact, you probably even made a vow to yourself that you’d never, ever be like them.

Now think about the best manager you ever had. The one who encouraged you, saw the best in you, welcomed your wackiest ideas. Those people really make a mark, and the people who work for them are much more likely to stick around.

Employee retention is determined by many factors, but you—yes, you—are a big one. More specifically, retention is heavily influenced by the way you treat your employees and the way they perceive you. 

We asked the CLIP family for their best tips on how to motivate and retain good employees. With their advice, you can become the type of boss that you’d love to work for.

Hire for careers, not just jobs.

Lawn maintenance is seasonal by nature. Many of your employees will only stick around for a year or two before they move on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that everyone you hire is a short-timer. And don’t overlook employees with real leadership potential.

If your goal is to create a company that runs without you, you need leaders who can take over. And not all great leaders start out as leaders. Your right-hand man may start out as a guy who mows lawns—just like me! With a little mentoring and some education, excellent leaders can come from just about anywhere.

So when you’re hustling to hire your crew members for the season, don’t forget to watch for leaders. Ideally, there will be a few guys in every crop of new hires with real potential. Make sure you pay attention, and be ready to start nurturing them if they express interest in growth.

Create a culture of forgiveness and trust.

A little advice for business and life: Always assume positive intent. Everyone’s bound to make mistakes here and there, including you. And while people can be silly, most folks aren’t inherently evil. And most mistakes really are just that: mistakes.

Of course, you can still address problems with people. But you can do so in a kind and respectful way. Trust me: Good employees don’t need any help feeling bad about a mistake! Your goal should be to ensure that they understand the consequences of the mistake and what you expect going forward.

If something goes awry, your goal should be to uncover the source of the problem so you can fix it. So don’t start with finger-pointing and rage. Ask questions instead. What happened? Why did it happen? Is there something we could’ve done to prevent it? Focus on finding a solution, rather than assigning blame.

If nothing else, remember this. If you assume the worst in people, that’s what you’ll get. But if you treat everyone like they’re doing their best, they will amaze you.

Encourage your lawn maintenance employees to be lifelong learners.

Part of what makes a good worker is an appetite to keep getting better. Your best employees are probably eager to pick up some new skills on the job. If you want them to stick around, give them ample opportunities to learn. Otherwise, they’re likely to get bored and go work for someone else.

I’m not saying you need to pay tuition so your crew members can go get MBAs! Just a simple training program will suffice. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your employees. Start with crew leaders, but make sure everyone has a chance to weigh in. Ask them what interests them and what they’d like to learn how to do. You might discover an aspiring bookkeeper or amateur marketing whiz among your ranks.

There are a few ways to nurture the aspirations of your team members. Maybe you create opportunities for folks to shadow you and other leaders and start cross-training. You could offer to help pay for a community college class or online course in a relevant subject.

You might also consider keeping a small library of your favorite business and personal development books on hand. Let your employees borrow them and encourage them to share their thoughts with you.

Encourage creative ideas, too—even bad ones. You don’t have to implement every idea you hear, but your employees should know that you appreciate their creativity. A culture that welcomes ideas is fertile ground for creative problem solving.

Whatever you do, think about how you can incentivize people to take initiative. Can you offer a small raise or bonus to anyone who completes a course or reads a book? 

Keep an attitude of gratitude: Employee recognition matters.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a paycheck is the only thing you owe in exchange for good work. It’s absolutely vital to thank your workers for a job well done. That attitude of gratitude is key to making your team feel appreciated.

So make sure you’re thanking people for good work. Call your workers out when they do something great. Take a minute to write an email or a thank-you note detailing why you appreciate them. You might even consider a small gift, such as a gift card, or lunch—your treat. It doesn’t have to be fancy. The point is simply to recognize great employees and make sure they know their good work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

These little acts of gratitude can make a huge difference in company culture— which is the key driver of your lawn maintenance employee retention. As the leader, you’re setting an example for everyone who works for you. This is how you create a workplace where people go out of their way to make each other feel appreciated.

Plus, it’s a self-feeding system: Recognizing good work leads to more good work. People who trust that their efforts will be recognized are 2.7x more likely to be highly engaged at work

So don’t skimp on the thank-yous! 

As the owner of your lawn maintenance business, you have the privilege of creating the culture you want. When you focus on making your company a great place to work, your best employees will stick around. So keep an eye out for opportunities to make each workday a little better. The long-term rewards are massive.