If employees in your organization seem a little demotivated lately it is no wonder. Between budget cuts, salary cuts, and hiring freezes employees everywhere are feeling pressured to "work miracles". In addition, if they are still employed it is most likely that someone close to them is not so lucky. Employees are feeling pressure from all around them, not just from work. Managers have an opportunity to motivate and energize their employees.
Here are seven simple ideas that can be put into practice immediately. Keep in mind that there is one key overriding assumption. Your employees are a direct reflection of you. How you "show up" at work: your actions, attitude, and behavior will directly impact the motivation and energy of your team. When the team is exhibiting signs of being stressed out, rushed, anxious, down, angry, or confused they are only reflecting what they see in you and other managers in the organization. Motivating and energizing your employees means you need to be motivated and energized.
1. Embrace change
Change is happening. It will continue to happen. It can be exhilarating and exciting or it can be tedious and frustrating. It is your choice. You can choose to fight it, not understand it, or disagree with it and you can expect your team to do the same. Instead, become an ambassador of change. Think of the old adage, "if you can't beat them, join them". Fighting change helps no one. If you do not understand the changes going on around you make it your responsibility to bring clarity to you and the team. Come with a sense of curiousity, learn about it, don't pass judgment, and help your employees learn along with you. Exhibit a willingness to understand and embrace it.
2. Listen fully
Even the seemingly most insignificant of conversations can support your effort to motivate and energize. Do not take "hallway conversations" lightly. Give your employees your complete attention. This includes resisting the temptation to interrupt, turning away to check an email, or answering your phone while they are talking. Show the employee that you have listened fully by reflecting on what you have heard by putting it into meaningful context, asking questions to not create assumptions, and paraphrase back what you think you have heard.
3. Keep emotions in check
No matter how stressed you may feel, acting on it by lashing out at an employee is a lose-lose-lose situation. You lose the respect of the employee and will most likely make them angry and possibly embarrased. You damage your relationship with anyone who was within ear shot of your tirade. Employees will start tip-toeing around you and potentially put blame on others to avoid your rath. You lose personally by increasing adverse physiological responses (increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, etc.) in your body. When you are angry, frustrated, or disappointed with a situation or an employee do not act immediately on the emotions. Take pause. Breath. Use Covey's model and ask yourself, "what is the end result I want to acheive by addressing this with the employee?" Usually the answer is not "to yell at them and show them how upset I am". Use this pause as an opportunity to formulate your thoughts and to be constructive and supportive in how you address the situation. It can be energizing for someone to realize that their boss care enough about them to not get angry but rather help them understand how to fix the situation and not make the same mistake twice.
4. Put the bully at bay
This takes "keep emotions in check" one big step farther. Be a boss who gets things done by leading not beating. A research study conducted by Zogby International in 2007 found that 37% of workers have been bullied at some point and most bullies are bosses (72%). In 2003 the Workplace Bullying Institute did a study that identified the top 25 tactics used by bullies. Here are the top ten of those twenty-five: 1) falsely accused someone of "errors" not actually made, 2) stared, glared, was nonverbally intimidating and was clearly showing hostility, 3) discounted the person's thoughts or feelings ("oh, that's silly") in meetings, 4) used the "silent treatment" to "ice out" & separate from others, 5) exhibited presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of the group (think idea #3), 6) made up own rules on the fly that even she/he did not follow, 7) disregarded satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence, 8) harshly and constantly criticized having a different 'standard' for the Target, 9) started, or failed to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about the person, 10) encouraged people to turn against the person being tormented. To motivate and energize your team avoid these ten tactics like the plague!
5. Show appreciation
Acknowledge when you appreciate the work someone has done. Appreciation is not synonomous with monetary reward. A simple thank you or recognition at a team meeting can go a long way. If you are like many managers out there who have a difficult time sincerely expressing gratitude for someone in public, challenge yourself to do it anyway. Your employees will notice and be grateful for the effort you are making. Appreciation can also be shown through learning (sending someone to a conference or workshop), spotlighting (letting them present at a senior meeting), or trusting (giving greater lead over a project).
6. Prioritize rigorously
Everything cannot be a burning issue. Some cultures unknowingly recognize and reward people who work in a constant state of stress and at a frantic pace. Is it really a badge of honor to always be swamped and putting out fires? It leads to burn out and lowers morale. Get yourself and your employees out of the mindset that everything is a burning issue. Be rigorous about setting realistic deadlines. If something really is important be clear about reprioritizing everything else on the employee's plate so they can focus on the task at hand. Communicate fully why a project or task is given a high level of urgency. Employees will get energized and motivated when they see that you are prioritizing with passion and being realistic in your demands. It shows that you care about them, their health, their creativity, and their quality. All things that will be less compromised with diligent prioritization.
7. Solve problems together
Being the manager does not imply that you must single-handedly solve all the problems. Matter-of-fact it can be demotivating to employees to have to "buy into" your plan. Energize your team by having them help with initial planning. Get their input on a situation or project. Including employees in the problem-solving process creates confidence and motivates the team. Create opportunities for input before narrowing down solutions. Separate ideas from the person proposing it. This is not about personalities. You will kill creativity and future input if you poke fun at ideas. Respect all sincere ideas offered.
Coach Effect is a coaching, consulting and development firm focused on engaging employees through leadership and organizational effectiveness. For more information, please contact us.
Jennifer Mounce, SPHR, is the founder of Coach Effect, a leadership coaching & organizational development boutique. Jennifer’s passion lies in making a positive and valuable impact in organizations through coaching and leadership development with individuals who manage or lead others. Jennifer is a published author and speaker.
Developing promotable leaders, assisting teams wanting to move quickly in a new direction, and decreasing turnover while increasing employee satisfaction are just a few of the areas where Jennifer uses her expertise to partner with companies and increase their overall effectiveness.
Jennifer has more than fourteen years of corporate experience in human resources and in coaching senior executives. Jennifer has supported a variety of organizations including: Destination Hotels & Resorts, Orbit Media Studios, Optiver, Capgemini, and Blue Chip Hotel & Casino, to name a few. She is uniquely qualified with her years of corporate background and hands-on experience to specialize in working with leaders. She prides herself on a strong work ethic and her ability to provide powerful business solutions.
Actively participating in the Society of Human Resource Professionals, a local SHRM chapter, is just one of Jennifer’s volunteer activities. She was on the board of directors for 7 years and was President of the chapter for 2004. Jennifer also serves on the workforce excellence committee of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
Jennifer is a graduate of the Coach University Coach Training Program. Jennifer received her Bachelor’s in Speech Communication from University of Illinois and Master’s in Human Resource Management from Loyola University Chicago. She is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources and is currently working toward her Professional Coach Certification.