“In motivating people, you’ve got to engage their minds and their hearts. I motivate people, I hope, by example—and perhaps by excitement, by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.”
~ Rupert Murdoch ~
Client Jennifer asks: My employees are spending a lot of time worrying about cutbacks in staff, salaries, benefits, even working hours. I’m afraid we’re losing our edge. How can I keep my employees motivated in a bad economy?
Coach Joel answers: This may seem challenging when you are facing negative circumstances that are beyond your control. However, it can also be an opportunity for some serious team building, a chance to take your team to the next level. Here are three steps you could take right now.
- Clear the air
- Start something new
- Build on success
1. Clear the air.
Whenever a whole group starts to lose its edge, you first need to acknowledge the reality. Have an all-hands talk session and encourage people to share their concerns. Make this meeting informal, and not a part of a staff meeting or other department function. The sole purpose is to let people say what’s on their minds.
If people have lost friends and co-workers due to cutbacks and layoffs, one of two things is happening: either your employees are living in fear that the next pink slip will be theirs; or they have survivor’s guilt because they still have a job. Combine this with the fact that you as a manager are being asked to do more with less, and you have a real challenge.
Listen to what your people have to say. Acknowledge that you are all under pressure. Guide the discussion, however, and don’t let it degenerate into a gripe session.
2. Start something new.
Once everyone has had a chance to air their feelings, take on a new project. This can be as simple as cleaning out the storage room, or as complex as creating a new ad campaign. Ask for suggestions from the group about some idea or project that’s been languishing on the back burner.
Rather than assigning roles, let people do what they do best. Ask for volunteers and suggestions from the group. As one of the country’s leading modern motivational speakers, I talk to managers every day who struggle to stay in control—of their departments, their projects, and their people. The secret is to let them take back some control. When the external environment is out of control, people need to feel that they still have some power over their own lives. This is your chance to give it to them.
3. Build on success.
There’s no such thing as too much acknowledgement. Chart the team’s progress and give plenty of public and private praise. Make sure the project has a timeline and a target completion date. When it’s finished, celebrate and provide a tangible reward, even if it’s as simple as a pizza party or movie tickets. Let everyone enjoy the feeling of success, and then build on that success by repeating the process we’ve outlined here whenever it’s appropriate.
When times are tough, someone who understands team building and intrapersonal relationships may be able to give your team a jump start. A good coach can help you design a program that meets your specific needs. Contact Joel for more information.
Talkback: Is your team pulling together right now? Have you tried some motivational tactics that worked for you? Leave your comments here, or ask Joel a question for a future Q & A with Joel.