Author: Dotan Bitner, Strategic Organizational Consultant
As opposed to security challenges that we all know too well, today we are facing a new paradigm where the level of threat is tremendous and certainly is almost non existent- leading to high levels of anxiety amongst the population.
Even as we see some signs of success from different countries around the world, we all recognize that the journey to ‘normalcy’ is still long and entails almost endless uncertainties. We have come a long way, but we are far from defeating this pandemic, and companies and leaders have the ongoing responsibility to help manage people's anxieties, health and our collective economy.
We’re all facing this crisis together, and are struggling with similar questions. Here are the top 10 tips to keep your people engaged and motivated during the crisis.
1. Embrace the unique characteristics of the crisis
As opposed to a crisis for one particular company, now the entire economy is facing the same issues. It might be comforting that “we’re all in the same boat” and employees are not likely to lose faith in their companies and leave, but on the other hand, the business damage is many times larger due to potential global collapse.
Your people are less likely to abandon ship and go to a different company, but you still have the responsibility to keep them engaged and happy.
2. Manage long-distance work relationships
To make the long distance working relationship work, increase transparency around roles, responsibilities and weekly, or even daily goals. Each person should be clear on what their focus should be and what to complete when. Maintain ongoing meetings including team meetings as well as 1:1 coaching sessions and try to hold these meetings in video as much as possible.
In addition, the physical distance creates a bigger appetite for information. Ensure you’re sharing with your teams the ‘bigger picture’ - relate information on how the company is doing overall and how the team is doing and what they are working on. This communication and sharing will help people working from home feel less disconnected and more united. They will understand what others need from them, how to understand their role in the situation and how to contribute and collaborate.
3. Dial-up the sensitivity
Forgiveness and seeing the good in each person really help in coping together. Business leaders have the important role of creating an environment where all employees are respected, people are sensitive to one another and have a sense of togetherness and partnership.
Listening and empathy are super important right now. Your people don’t necessarily expect you to solve their problems or calm them down, but rather they need to be truly heard and feel that their fears are legitimate. The feeling that we’re not alone and that our fears are legitimate reduce anxiety. If an individual expresses an unusual high level of anxiety, ask him ”how can I help you reduce your stress?”
4. Pay special attention to individual needs
As a manager, you should be aware of each of your team member’s situations, and act accordingly. An employee who is home alone will probably need more quality time with you and will enjoy projects or tasks that require collaboration with others. Parents who are multi-tasking and caring of their children at home will probably appreciate tasks they can do on their own so they can fit them into their busy schedules.
5. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more
It's important to maintain a regular update from the CEO. Do it at least on a weekly basis, including open and honest communication regarding the company’s status and steps it's taking to deal with the crisis. Remember that during times of crisis with no information, people will naturally tend to believe the worse speculations they hear.
6. Don’t let your managers disappear on their people
There’s a known occurrence of ‘management disappearance’ during times of uncertainty. Managers who do not have the answers, or updates and do not want to appear weak or cause panic, simply take a step back and avoid communication. This is the wrong approach. Strong leadership presence during times of anxiety is critical - even if the message is “at this time I have no news but I promise to update you as soon as I know. In the meantime, please feel free to come to me with anything.” This kind of sound communication fosters security and trust. Management disappearance can also be virtual! So keep up the virtual communications constant.
7. Show your people how meaningful they are
Remind people of the purpose of your company, why it is so important to survive- this is very encouraging during tough times.
Involve them in decision making regarding your team’s actions and changes to strategy or work plans in the current mode. Your people are closest to the work and can contribute the best sense of what will work and what won’t. The basic notion that when you involve people in the decision making, they will be more engaged and motivated - works here too.
Be thankful- Show your people that you truly acknowledge their huge effort at this tough situation and how much you appreciate their achievement. Demonstrate how it contributes to the company business success. Find success stories, big and small, and celebrate with the entire team-all of that is priceless nowadays.
8. Recognize and manage potential conflicts before they occur
In the first weeks of the crisis, a feeling of ‘shared fate’ created a sense of unity and harmony that is displayed in the consideration between employees or amongst teams. However, as this situation grows longer, the initial crisis mode will fade and new behavioural patterns of ‘fight or flight’ may surface, with them, reduction in tolerance and acceptance. This will definitely put your organization’s sturdiness to the test and require leaders to take an active role in recognizing and managing conflicts.
Help your managers by providing guidance for dealing with challenging situations. For example how to manage an employee who is not responsive or not meeting their deadlines. How to provide constructive feedback on low performance while maintaining sensitivity for these special circumstances.
9. Keep the vibe alive!
We all thrive on the social interactions that we experience around the office, such as hallway conversations, drinking coffee together and socializing. The absence of these interactions can weigh on many of us. Keep the vibe alive by encouraging and modeling social conversations and interactions. Invite colleagues for virtual coffee, organize joint lunches and more.
10. Don’t neglect yourself
And last but not least- Be sensitive (and forgiving) also towards yourself and find the time to share your concerns and seek advice and comfort. As leaders, you need need to be strong in order to keep your company strong.
Good luck and may we return back to a new and stronger reality :)