How do you motivate people in an economy that is highly unstable and perpetuates fear? The answer is through encouragement, optimism and open communication.
This may seem counterintuitive to task-driven managers who focus on news headlines and the bottom number in their ledger. Yet, a prudent investment is to focus on what you can control and this involves staying connected with the people who drive your business.
The following four steps can help in execution:
Practice emotional control
It’s easy to lead when times are good and business is flowing like fine wine. However, in stressful periods, do reports and spreadsheets take precedent to the welfare of your people? Does “hunker-down business mode” erode smart decision making?
Within the spectrum of emotionally intelligent behaviors, include courteous communication, timely responsiveness, acknowledgment of hard work and accessibility. There is a tragic pattern of consistency between managers who view these values as touchy-feely vs. executives who understand that relationships are the foundation of sustainable business success.
Provide frequent updates
Many executives create stress and resentment with those they manage because knowledge of company status is not shared. When people are uninformed, they work from a place which does little for building morale or maximizing performance. Frequent updates should be initiated by you, the leader. They must involve honest disclosures of what you do know, what you don’t, what you can share and what you cannot.
Become an exceptional listener
Getting people to perform in tough times requires understanding. A checklist for this great leadership listening includes the following:
Encourage others to talk. Get staff members to talk about themselves and their core concerns by asking open-ended questions, i.e., “How is your project going?” “What resources can we utilize to help you or make things run more smoothly?”
Eliminate distractions. Note to all managers: “Multitasking” is the enemy of trust-building. Focus on those you’re listening to by shutting the door, turning off your cell phone and turning away from your computer.
Clarify for certainty. Follow up with questions that prove that understanding has occurred. This comes with the triple-play benefit of valuing others, aligning perceptions and learning more about your organization.
Model realistic optimism
Leading in turbulent times can unearth a sobering reality of negativity and angst. It can turn careers upside down and take a toll on home lives as well. And while we don’t want to put up inauthentic fronts, we must remember that attitude and the behaviors that go with it are contagious. Leaders need to paint pictures that are reflective of the truth, but they must also speak about possibilities. It’s easy to get swept up in the bad news, but the mettle of our character is how we get off the deck when we’ve been knocked down; and how we help others do the same. Inspired human capital positions your company for greater business results. The need to connect with and motivate your people is as needed as it’s been a very long time.
Joe Takash is the president of Victory Consulting, a Chicago-based executive and organizational development firm. He advises clients on leadership strategies and has helped executives prepare for $3 billion worth of sales presentations. He is a keynote speaker for executive retreats, sales meetings and management conferences and has appeared in numerous media outlets. Learn more at www.victoryconsulting.com.