SumTotal Blog

Tips to Motivate in Trying Times

April 9, 2020 | by John Arendes

What’s happening in the world with the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, and as a manager of people, it requires a different approach. Even if you’re used to managing a remote team, some adjustments need to be made to keep your team motivated and productive. Specifically, managing the morale of the team members is of high importance in maintaining performance. What goes into building morale, especially while working remotely during these trying times may be different than before.

As such, managers should look for clues on how each team member is faring and consider the following tactics that can help build morale:

  • Creating community What used to happen at the watercooler is now going to have to happen using several modalities to create that same feeling of belonging to a team. Make sure you have the right combination of tools to keep team members in touch and communicating every day. Whether you use Slack or Microsoft Teams, as a manager you can get some conversations going to keep people connected.
  • Spread positivity There is no substitute for the power of a positive attitude. Consider starting a quote of the day tradition among the team. Assign a team member to each day to post a quote that helps begin every day on a positive note. Take advantage of video calls and smile at your team. Psychologists say one of the best ways to portray a positive attitude is to smile at others.
  • Share the results Share a customer’s success story. Sharing positive notes or messages from customers to the rest of the team brings a sense of value for everyone. It shows that the work is appreciated not just by your company but by those who do business with you. In these uncertain times, it’s important to share the win of onboarding a new customer. This reinforces that what you’re doing as an organization matters to others, and companies even now are willing to invest in you to help their business.
  • Just listen People want to feel like they matter. Listening to someone’s ideas and thoughts is one of the best ways to motivate people to participate in all aspects of the business. More importantly, it encourages them to continue to contribute to the company and their team members. For many people, having the ability to share their thoughts and be listened to is one of the most important things we can do for them.
  • Build team spirit Consider an online gathering, perhaps a happy hour for your team to engage without talking shop. Introduce a theme, like wearing a funny hat or going around the room to answer the same “get to know you question.” When we work in an office, it’s much easier for us to have a conversation around things going on in our lives, an upcoming party, a funny story from a family event. Icebreaker questions are a great way to get people to open up; for example, if you are a superhero, what would your name be? I can tell you that question gets a lot of interesting responses and reactions.
  • Show them you care Pay attention to the individual employee. Communicate to make sure the employees know there are resources they can use, whether it’s you or resources the company has made available. Call each of your employees weekly and ask about them and their families. Be conscious that these individuals may be impacted by COVID-19 in their personal lives and be empathetic to their needs.
  • Empower them to perform In these trying times, showing that you completely trust them and respect their decisions helps give employees the confidence and empowerment to perform. Ensure they know they can take action as needed. Doing so reinforces their level of security with their job and gives them one less thing to worry about.
  • Lead by example Always show your team that you’re out in front and leading by example. Make sure that they see you doing the work and contributing to the team. When they witness you helping with the success of the team, it breeds a culture of people wanting to do the right thing to help one another.
  • Give people some room Working with an entirely remote team may be new to some people. Tell them it’s ok for there to be a learning curve. Give them an outlet to talk to you about what’s working and what’s not. Expect and be sensitive to delays or missed deadlines. Approach the issue of deadlines or delays with an understanding; there may be more going on behind the scenes as we all try to balance our work and life. Your employees will appreciate it.

These are extraordinary times, and we are all learning. The company is a support mechanism to help the team through what’s happening. The compassionate tactics above can go a long way to keeping people feeling secure and motivated during these trying times.

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