There is no denying the fact that life is quite different for all of us right now. In the face of uncertain future economic conditions, fear for the health and wellbeing of loved ones, and management of the daily challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to fixate on today’s problems.
But one thing IS certain. The future of work, the next ‘new normal’ will be quite different from the world we knew pre-COVID. As was the case following previous global recessions, we can predict that businesses are going to face increasing pressure to deliver more with less resources.
And businesses must look to the future now in order to prepare and respond to this.
Success is all about how we motivate our teams during and post crisis.
Already businesses, teams and individuals are learning to adapt, through necessity, to remote working and different uses of technology. Advancements in technology in recent years are providing us the ability to work remotely with great efficiency. Business operations can transcend sites, cities and even national borders, with virtual teams seamlessly delivering products and services across time zones to their global customers.
But technology alone does not enable a business to have a competitive advantage. It is their people who do this. It is the team members who hold the unique skills and abilities to design, deliver and support solutions which their competitors cannot easily replicate. And it is the motivation of these same people to continue to innovate, and continue to deliver, even in times of duress, that will enable success post COVID-19.
But now more than ever your critical resources must be developed and nurtured. The employees needed and relied upon right now to sustain and drive your economic success are also individuals with family members who are in many ways impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are worried about their health. They are worried about how they will continue to pay their bills. They are juggling the stresses of home schooling their children. Many are for the first time in their careers learning how to be effective working from home without regular contact with their manager and/or team members. They are wondering if they will still have a job in three, six or 12-months’ time. And all this is playing out in parallel with the pressure on businesses to do more with less.
So what can you be doing now?
At this time and over the subsequent months, it is timely for leaders to reflect upon the research conducted by the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who discovered that people must go through five distinct stages in order to overcome grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. We now know that that these are the same stages every single person must go through in order to accept change in their lives – be it relating to a small personal issue or indeed a huge life or work event. We all go through this. We also progress through the stages at different rates and in different ways to reach ultimate acceptance of change.
What this highlights for leaders right now is that rarely before has there been a greater need for strong and empathetic leadership to ensure that team members are supported through this ‘change curve’, emerging on the other side of this pandemic ready to embrace the ‘new normal’ and engaged to drive business sustainability.
As we navigate this time of change and transition, below are some key focus areas for leaders to be mindful of in building and maintaining team motivation:
1. The importance of communication: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
In times of change, more than ever, people need to be kept informed of what is and is not happening. The evidence proves that the primary determinant of successful organisational change is the level and effectiveness of the communication delivered to those who will be impacted. Even if nothing has significantly shifted since a previous announcement, regular updates to your team members are a must. When working remotely it is obviously not as simple as ducking into the next office to speak to a colleague or team member, but the importance of collaboration and communication cannot be stressed highly enough as a driver of individual and team motivation and an enabler of change acceptance. Schedule regular team meetings to keep the group connected and utilise this opportunity to build greater understanding of collaboration tools and technologies at the same time.
2. Recognise employee efforts
It has been well proven than in almost every culture the most important drivers of motivation and performance are feeling valued at work, being developed in role and for the future, and believing that there is purpose in what you do. With people working in increasingly remote operations currently and likely into the foreseeable future, the remote leader must ensure that team members do not lose their sense of value, their purpose and team connection as a biproduct of isolation. Paradoxically, remote working operations can create an invaluable opportunity for leaders to reach out to individual team members in more intimate ways as they will be spending less time in the office and in physical meetings. Take the initiative to schedule moments for one to one connection to provide feedback to your people, check in on their well-being and discuss their development. This time of uncertainty can be utilised to strengthen relationships with your team.
3. Offer coaching and mentoring
This is an ideal time to invest in coaching and mentoring for key people to help them navigate the change curve, learn how to work remotely or in new ways, prepare for a future working landscape which may look different in terms of its technological or strategic challenges and simple prepare for the future more broadly. This is the time to develop talent and build resilient leaders who will future proof your business.
4. Ensure your culture is fit for purpose
Just as organisations must regularly review and redirect their strategy to ensure relevance in line with external influences, so they must also review their extant culture. While there is no perfect or ‘ideal’ culture, there is an ideal culture to suit each organisation’s strategy at a point in time. What does this mean? It means that the way people work together and their collective understanding of what is important and what is not important, must support what your business needs to achieve. And with the world of work and business now changing around us, it stands to reason that this is a great time to assess the way people are working together – and realign activities as and where needed to ensure your long term viability post pandemic.
For more information about how we can help you to build collaboration and communication skills, effectively engage your teams, help you assess your actual and desired culture, and for information about our coaching offering please click here.
We’re in this together.
Author: Suzanne Wall
Based in St Petersburg, Florida, Suzanne is an accomplished leader and Executive Coach with global experience working for several large multinationals including IBM, HP and Thales. Suzanne facilitates Ponte Valle programs and coaches in the US and virtually for global clients.