4 ways to keep yourself and your team engaged during crisis
Keep People Connected:
Pretty soon you may have a lot more people working remotely, and it’s your job as a leader to help them feel connected. Invest in high-quality headsets for every team member and insist that each person find a room with a door they can close during online meetings. Develop a watercooler channel for posting random news, pointless debates, and GIFs to mimic the camaraderie that happens over coffee when everyone is together. And, as a manager, turn your focus more to goals and outcomes than hours clocked. Hold a weekly one-on-one with each employee to get an update about his/her accomplishments during the week and what they will be focused on the following week. Keep working with each person on goals aligned with their personal motivators to help them stretch.
A lack of openness and honesty is going to lead to more fear. Create a practice to send regular updates to your people (daily if you can), even if there’s not much new to share. And be more open with your team about what you are up to in your meetings and other activities. Employee distrust can grow during a crisis and can be the result of misunderstanding the intentions of others—especially leaders. When employees aren’t sure what’s happening around them, it’s easy to become suspicious. In an environment where information is withheld or not communicated properly, rumors take the place of facts.
Look for Small Wins.
Let employees know they are making a difference in their work every day. When former CEO Alan Mulally took over Ford Motor Company in 2006, his company was expected to lose $17 billion. He explained to us that rewarding small wins in such tough times shows that a leader knows what’s going on and is appreciative of every step forward. In his weekly business plan review, each member of his team was expected to present a color-coded update of progress toward meeting key goals. Projects that were on track were green, yellow indicated the initiative had issues, and red signaled a program that was behind schedule. “The whole thing is really based on gratitude,” he said. “When someone shows a red, we say ‘thank you for that visibility.’ When we work a red to a yellow, we thank everybody. Celebrations for each step forward show the team that it’s expected to make progress. People are feeling ‘Wow. I’m needed. I’m supported.’”
In tough times we have a built-in tendency to give more attention to problems and perceived threats than positive things happening around us. How can managers afford not to spend more time on the lookout for and attending to problems than looking for opportunities to be grateful? Fair enough. But this is not a zero-sum issue. Scanning the savannah for potential predatorial problems in no way precludes a leader from paying sufficient attention to the contributions of one’s team. On the contrary, in times of challenge, keeping people motivated and optimistic is more vital than ever. By withholding our gratitude in tough times, we end up shooting ourselves in the foot, said Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “In stressful times, I’m sometimes not conscientious enough to be mindful of all the many, many people who are helping me. We need to jolt ourselves out of our self-centeredness. When I am more mindful, more aware, more thankful, everybody’s more engaged, focused, and productive.”
– Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are the New York Times bestselling authors of Leading with Gratitude, The Carrot Principle and All In. They own the global training company The Culture Works and work with organisations around the world to address employee engagement issues.