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Motivating Your Team in Challenging Times

5 minute read

By Claudia Mastromauro

When work demands escalate, it's crucial to rally our teams with enthusiasm rather than dread. How can we effectively inspire and motivate our team members during these intense periods? How do we communicate about projects in a way that alleviates overwhelm? And, most importantly, how do we monitor stress levels while fostering motivation to overcome the challenges ahead? These are the questions we face as leaders in demanding work situations. In today's fast-paced and competitive business landscape, effective leadership is pivotal for driving exceptional performance and motivating teams. 

It's no secret that employee motivation has been wavering lately, and as a leader, I understand the impact it can have on our teams and businesses. With the current economic climate causing a surge in layoffs and the rise of the great resignation, employees are leaving toxic workplaces with unresponsive leaders and limited growth opportunities. On top of that, the soaring prices at supermarkets and petrol stations, coupled with a turbulent global landscape, create a discouraging cocktail that drains motivation. 

As leaders, it's our responsibility to address this prevailing sense of gloom and empower our teams to thrive, even in challenging times. In this article, I'll share the essential strategies to protect and nurture team motivation. We’ll start from the basics. By implementing these fundamentals, we can create a supportive environment that fosters resilience and inspires our teams to achieve remarkable results. Together, let's navigate these uncertain times and uplift our teams towards success.

Open and Effective Communication: Communication gaps remain a primary challenge in boss-employee relationships. Surprisingly, a study on corporate email activities revealed that response time significantly affects satisfaction with managers. Employees expressed less satisfaction when managers were slower in responding to emails. This finding aligns with previous research highlighting the importance of adequate communication and the criticism leaders face for its lack. 

From the get-go, we have the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations that significantly enhance job satisfaction, raising ratings from "an 8" to "a perfect 10." Regular one-on-one check-ins provide feedback and support, a simple and cost-free method to nurture our team members. 

Listening as Leadership: Exceptional leaders I've had the privilege to work with possess a remarkable quality—listening more than they speak. They consistently make time for their team, ensuring their availability to offer assistance. 

Moreover, they attentively listen to their team members, fully engaged in the present moment. Truly listening goes beyond hearing words; it involves understanding the emotions and needs underlying the message. By actively listening to our team members, we create an environment where they feel valued, heard, and supported. 

This allows us to respond with empathy, offer appropriate guidance, and build stronger connections. Developing our listening skills enhances our ability to navigate demanding work situations with sensitivity and understanding, fostering a culture of trust and collaboration.

Empowerment and Autonomy: Granting teams autonomy and empowering them to make decisions fosters ownership and creativity. 

Along my leadership journey, I've witnessed the transformative effects of providing individuals with the freedom to explore new ideas and approaches. By encouraging independent thinking and allowing team members to take ownership of their work, we unlock their full potential and witness remarkable breakthroughs. 

At 3M, for instance, employees spend 15% of their working time pursuing innovative ideas. This autonomy has led to breakthrough inventions like Post-it Notes and Scotchgard. 

Recognition and Appreciation: Genuine recognition and appreciation are vital motivators. Acknowledging the efforts and achievements of team members boosts morale, fosters a positive work environment, and enhances performance. Implementing a culture of appreciation, where accomplishments are publicly recognised and rewarded, not only motivates individuals but also strengthens team cohesion and loyalty. 

eBay's "You Made My Day" program embodies this philosophy. It not only facilitates recognition and appreciation but also fosters a culture of collaboration. The more we support and assist others, the higher the likelihood of receiving YMMD cards and public recognition from the leadership teams. This collaborative environment contributes to heightened employee morale and a stronger sense of unity and belonging within the organisation.

Personal Development as an OKR: Investing in team growth and development is crucial for their engagement and long-term commitment. Through mentoring, coaching, and clear goals, I've seen team members thrive personally and professionally. Offering learning opportunities and training shows that we genuinely care about their progress. It's equally important to prioritise their interests and career goals alongside team objectives. 

Allowing them to train in areas they're passionate about boosts motivation and job satisfaction. Additionally, integrating their training into Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and tracking progress through regular one-on-one meetings emphasises its importance. This builds a culture that values continuous learning and supports long-term commitment.

It's a proven approach to drive personal and professional growth, creating a motivated and skilled workforce. Facebook, for example, dedicates a budget for personal development, enabling employees to attend conferences, enrol in courses, and explore new interests. This investment in growth has contributed to a highly motivated and skilled workforce. 

In conclusion, as a business leader, you hold the key to unlocking the full potential of your team by cultivating a motivational environment. Recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, as each team member faces their own unique challenges and emotions. By acknowledging and understanding their individual circumstances, you can provide the necessary support and guidance. 

Remember, human motivation is a complex interplay of emotions and traits. It is crucial to address the underlying causes when motivation falters, helping team members rediscover their drive and make the choices that will reignite their passion over time. 

Through open communication, empathy, and tailored strategies, you can create a supportive atmosphere that inspires and empowers your team. By embracing these principles, you become a leader who not only understands the intricacies of motivation but also takes proactive steps to cultivate it. The journey towards success is fuelled by the collective motivation of your team, and it is your leadership that will guide them towards remarkable achievements. So, unleash the power of motivation, empower your team, and witness the transformative impact it has on their performance and overall success. Together, you can create a workplace where motivation thrives, enabling your team to reach new heights and exceed expectations.

About the author

Claudia Mastromauro is a business growth advisor & team coach, and regular contributor to Engage MarTech columns on Leadership & Team management. With a diverse multinational background and over 16 years of experience in the digital marketing space leading high-performing teams at eBay and, Claudia empowers businesses and teams to achieve maximum impact on their path to success.

Claudia Mastromauro

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