Last updated: November 27, 2023
When the company is on a roll, employee morale often takes a natural high. You sense the positive energy flowing through the workplace as soon as you enter the door. It’s invigorating! However, if you’re familiar with the old saying, “into every life, a little rain must fall,” you know that holds true to the life of your business as well. Things can get humdrum when your company is rolling along on an even keel causing a drop in morale. That said, how are you at motivating employees during the truly challenging times?
We pulled together a team of experts and asked them their thoughts on the matter. They’ve given us some great advice.
We’d like to share it with you.
Present challenges as opportunities
Our first panelist is Nicholas R. Ripplinger, President at Battle Sight Technologies LLC. His thoughts focus on giving employees a sense of ownership. He suggests you start while things are upbeat rather than waiting until dark days loom on the horizon.
“Motivating employees isn’t the easiest thing to do during the great times, let alone during challenging times.
I have found when employees feel ownership of their position, role, and responsibilities is the only way to create long-term motivation. In order to create this feeling of ownership, you need to communicate with your team and be as transparent as you can. Let everyone know what is going on with the company and any changes that are coming, as well as the result of those changes.
Obviously, there will be some things that cannot be shared, but why wouldn’t you share the things you can to reduce the stress of the unknown for your team? When employees clearly know what is going on with the company and the next steps, they can embrace the vision. When employees embrace the vision, they feel ownership of their own role to get the company to where they are going and can adjust accordingly to ensure they do their part to execute towards the vision.
It is much easier to instill this culture of ownership during the good times when the company is successful and the employees feel responsible or at least a contributor to the success. It is significantly more difficult to try to get a team on board what could feel like a sinking ship during the more difficult times.”
Lead by example
Ryan H. Peck, President of Care Ultima, stresses the importance of leading by example. He believes a positive attitude no matter what’s going on is the key to successful motivation. We believe we see that positive attitude shining through his photo and we hope it’s contagious!
“I’m a big believer that the best way to motivate someone is to lead by example. Employees will take note of how the management reacts to certain situations. If you want to motivate, lead, and inspire, especially through challenging times, there is no better way than to lead by example.
The opposite is also true that if you lead disingenuously, pout, or publicly voice your frustrations, your employees will take notice and follow your lead.
As tough as times may get, it is essential to always keep your head up, smile, be positive, and lead with enthusiasm and your employees will be motivated and follow your example. This is the antidote for motivating employees through challenging times.”
When things look bleak
Our next panelist is Keith Ferrazzi, the #1 NYT bestselling author of Never Eat Alone and CEO at Ferrazzi Greenlight, a consulting company that helps people thrive in a new world of work. His co-elevation strategy is worth checking out. Should your company ever fall on challenging times, it may be worth implementing. Actually, you may not even wait for challenging times. We can see the value in using this strategy across the board.
“In 2008, I took on one of the most challenging tasks of my time. The economy was crumbling, stocks were crashing across industries and the biggest businesses in the United States were going bankrupt overnight.
One project I took on at the time was the turnaround for one of the failing automobile manufacturers. As you can imagine, this was one of the most challenging times for the company, as they were unsure of whether or not the company would be able to withstand the impact of the recession.
There had to be a way to drive change though. So when my consulting firm, Ferrazzi Greenlight, was contracted to do the turnaround, we implemented what I now call a co-elevation strategy.
But what is co-elevation and how did it disrupt the culture at the automobile manufacturer?”
Sharing the co-elevation strategy
“Co-elevation is when you break through silos and the red tape. What you do is you start out with an idea that team members can buy into. Once you create the idea, you don’t have the lead manager take control of the team. Instead, you empower the team to be responsible for their own actions, take credit for their wins, and unite together to achieve the overarching goal. So each person manages themselves, like in a flat organization, yet works together to achieve the mission at hand.
But how do you pick who wants to work on the project? You may have heard the age-old adage, “a person convinced against their own will is of the same opinion still.” That still rings true today. If a person is not interested in working on the project, they shouldn’t. Instead, you should only work with people who believe in the project and want to see the change actually happen. Then you should empower them to do what it takes to make it happen. But don’t limit yourself to recruiting from one department. Recruit across departments to break the silos down and allow the team to truly innovate without any restriction.
Now in order for this to happen, executive leadership needs to support the teams and have full buy-in for co-elevation to truly happen. When all this works together, the results are quite remarkable.
If you have had your ear to the ground with anything related to management, you have probably heard the words diversification tossed around a lot. And you probably have tried to implement this concept into your teams. Yet, there is a problem when it comes to diversification that is often overlooked. You can’t just toss 15 people into a meeting just because they are a different color or gender. You won’t drive results from that. But why is that the case?”
Silence isn’t always golden
“Well, the answer is simple. In most meetings, there are usually only one to two people who speak up. At one meeting I was hired to put together during a critical time at one particular company, I took leaders across departments, from engineering, finance, marketing, strategy, operations and sales and had them join together. On that call, there were two dominant voices. They had the same viewpoint and used the entire call to share their opinion that prices should be lowered.
Yet, others didn’t want to interrupt or share their opinion, with fears that they would be shot down. So we figured out a way to be inclusive of all opinions to get a better understanding of the landscape. We did polls with a system like Webex, where each user would be able to express their opinions anonymously, without fear of being judged or the ramifications of what others would think. Within that new system that was implemented, the results were quite surprising. Eight out of the 10 people were actually against lowering prices, but none of them spoke up within the conference call.
Imagine what would have happened if that extra step of being inclusive didn’t happen. The company would have lowered prices and left money on the table when the leaders across the company felt it was the wrong decision.
During these challenging times, don’t let the loudest voices drive your decisions. Be inclusive of all voices and find out what they truly feel. Or you may lead your company down the wrong path.”
One way to motivate employees during difficult times is to encourage employees to regularly take mental health days or utilize EAP benefits or services. Extremely efficient, high performing employees often neglect self-care in order to meet deadlines or productivity standards. An organization that prioritizes employees’ self-care sets a standard of operation that values its greatest source, human resources, also known as employees.” Alvin Bonds, II, Mental Health Therapist.
That information deserved a quote box, don’t you think?
As an employer, we love the dedication that employees bring with them to the work environment! Commitment to a job well-done is an excellent quality all the way around. With the exception, of neglecting self-care, of course. Keeping that fact in mind gives you an opportunity to express how much you appreciate them. Reminding employees that it’s important to schedule downtime as an important facet of overall mental health lets them know you care.
No crashing and burning allowed on our watch!
Build Meaningful Relationships
Chizzy Igbokwe, Global Career Consultant, is the next contributor to our topic. She focuses on the importance of getting to know your employees at a personal level.
“The secret to motivating through challenging times is to build meaningful relationships with them beforehand. Being proactive in creating a corporate culture of trust, openness, and connection are what lay the foundation to be able to motivate an employee during hard times. Employees always consider the source — if they don’t even know your name or even worse you don’t know theirs — then your words will simply be seen as words. This can be executed by revisiting and revamping your employee engagement strategies (for current employees) and onboarding procedures (for new employees). All tactics should lead to one road – deepening the connection with employees. When trust is already there, an employee is likely to feel safe and sense that things will truly work out!”
Communication is Key
It’s clear that all of our experts realize the importance of communicating with your employees in a positive light. Bennett Tanton, Motivational Speaker, agrees wholeheartedly. His thoughts blend everything together perfectly.
“Communication is key to an organization. Be present for them. As a leader, you need to communicate with your employees daily. Know your employees. This type of attention goes a long way. Don’t make them a number. They are not one. They are your greatest asset.”
Employees are more than the force that drives your business. They are human beings who react to positive and negative influences around them. An employer that demonstrates a willingness to be involved with the day-to-day operations, demonstrates a positive, can-do attitude even under negative circumstances, and cares enough to learn a bit about someone in their employ on a personal level is a leader that employees will not disappoint.
Empower them to become an active part of the solution. They will likely strive to push through the tough times and hit the ground running on the other side.