Sara led team motivation meetings at work. And she knew exactly how to encourage, guide, and empower each one of her employees to thrive. Ben, her boss, trusted her enough not to sit in on any of them. But it also meant that he didn’t quite know how to communicate with his team during crises. For example, one day, he called Sara and said, “please pack your things, lock up, and go straight home.” 

“What- wait, did I do something wrong?” 

“I don’t have time to explain, Sara. Please listen carefully: lock up and go home.” And then, he hung up. 

Sara was confused. Was she fired? Nothing else made sense. It wasn’t until she heard about the Boston Marathon bombings on the news that it clicked. Since her workplace was only 3 miles away from the tragedy, she understood that Ben had been looking out for her in his own way. Sara was grateful. But she also wished that Ben had provided more context. Without it, she felt lost, alone, and afraid. 

Sara and Ben’s story shows us the management dichotomy that exists in the modern workplace. Maybe you empathize with Sara and feel left out of the loop. Or maybe you resonate more with Ben, struggling to connect with your team. Yet, in these times of uncertainty, leaders don’t have the luxury of time to engineer the perfect solution. So we’ve collected these ten strategies you can use to build your team during these trying times. 

Should You Even be Focusing on Team Motivation During a Crisis? 

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In times of strife, leaders don’t have all the answers. It’s natural to be overwhelmed by all the urgent matters that are weighing in from every side. Maybe you have to contact banks and lending institutions to secure finance. Or maybe you need to put out fires with shareholders before they lose trust in you or your company. Or maybe you aren’t even sure whether your business will have a team to motivate in the long run. 

But now more than ever, team motivation needs to be at the top of your list. Why? Because crises can make or break a team. When everything seems to be going wrong, your organization needs to see and hear from you more than ever. With the right words and attitude, you’ll be able to keep your team from falling victim to panic, disharmony, or rumors. And you’ll be able to guide, encourage, and reassure your team to  persevere and deliver superior outcomes for the business. Teams can not only overcome times of crisis together but end up stronger than ever. So, build relationships, connect, and create a thriving work culture using team motivation. 

It might be daunting to think that as a leader, you bear the lion’s share of the burden. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right people, an uplifting attitude, and sound advice, you’ll be able to handle any crisis that comes your way. So what can you do to be the kind of leader who boosts team motivation during challenging times? 

1. Put Your Team’s Safety First

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Ben did get Sara out of a potentially dangerous situation as quickly as he could. And that was the best first move he could have made. During a crisis, people need to feel safe. But if they don’t understand ‘why’ they might become their own worst enemy. Take the coronavirus crisis, for example. If everyone had taken preventative measures, it would not have spread this much. 

When you share a short ‘why,’ you keep your employees from drawing their own conclusions. You will also stop any speculations and false rumors from spreading. 

So as a leader, let your employees know that their safety and physical wellbeing comes before any other consideration. By doing so, you will:

  • Reduce their fears of having to choose between their (or their family’s) safety and work,
  • Reinforce that they are a relevant, important part of the team,
  • Ensure your team fights alongside you to resolve the crisis. 

Use team motivation to communicate how and why their safety comes first. 

2. Don’t Pretend That There’s No Fire When Everyone Can Smell the Smoke

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Conventional wisdom says that you will spread negativity and fear if you share your worries, concerns, and anxieties. Being silent about a crisis as a leader, however, is no different than pretending that there is no fire even though everyone can smell the smoke. 

So, even if you feel afraid, take time to communicate with them. Acknowledge that the situation is scary and that a lot of things can go wrong. It’s OK not to have all the answers. People want to know that you are working on them. So share your thoughts on potential solutions and opportunities for growth. 

When you acknowledge your team’s fears, you are permitting them to be human. You are also giving your team motivation to keep going. These are a great way to set the tone for a high-performance team despite the crisis. 

3. Be a Conduit For Your Team’s Concerns

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The best leaders care about their teams. In crises, it’s particularly important to show them that you care. So, if possible, do whatever you can to be the person they can bring all their concerns to. For example, you could: 

  • Call a company-wide meeting where anyone who has a question can ask it,
  • Set up an anonymous email that they can send their questions to, 
  • Have a suggestions/concerns box placed in a central location of the office. 

Encourage your team to ask you any questions or raise any concerns they might have. And then let them know that you will make an effort to answer every single issue – whether you have a team of 10 or 10,000. It might not sound reasonable or possible, but it has great rewards. 

When you make yourself accessible to your team by showing up and addressing their fears, you are showing them that you are on their side. You will be the ‘people’s leader.’ They will trust in you, follow your direction, and defend you. And they will feel that they can rely on you to guide them because you are someone who cares. 

Having access to all these questions also gives you an idea of what your employees need from you. That way, you’ll be able to plan future team motivation strategies. 

Your team members also often know your business at a level of detail that can be missed when taking a high level view. By opening up a dialogue you can often get great suggestions from those in the trenches. In times of crisis a dozen small suggestions can add to make a huge impact. 

4. Employee Engagement is Still Key

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Many entrepreneurs and business owners mistakenly aim for employee happiness. So when times are good, they do everything they can to accommodate their team members. While this strategy works in the beginning, in the long run, it gives away your power as a leader. Why? Because employee happiness is a fleeting and short-lived measure of the strength of your organization.

That does not mean that you shouldn’t care about employee happiness. But rather than being a goal, it should be a byproduct of your other measurable measures. These measures include employee productivity, engagement, and contribution. 

Employee engagement is particularly important for team motivation. Engaged employees tend to be more enthusiastic, passionate, and positive about their work. They tend to contribute by sharing ideas, encouragement, and solutions. They also tend to be the happiest. 

If you don’t have a culture of engaged employees yet, it’s not too late to get started. To get started: 

Once you have a team of engaged employees, it will be much easier to weather the crisis together. 

5. Be a Leader of Leaders

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you probably already have so much on your shoulders. You most likely have to make a lot of decisions each day. In uncertain times like these, there is probably so much more pressure on you. 

If you’re struggling to be everywhere at once, develop your team to make decisions on the go. Here are some tips on how to make that happen: 

  • Equip your employees with the tools and resources that they can refer back to, 
  • Use team motivation to empower and train your team on ethical decision making
  • Trust them to think through situations and come up with the right solutions. 

And once they are ready, let them know that you will back their decisions. Stand by them. This way, you’ll have a team you know you can rely on in good times and bad. 

6. Deal in Hope Rather Than Despair

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Picture this: you are the captain of a ship. On good days, you can stand up on the sunny deck and give your crew directions. When everything goes smoothly, all you need is to steer clear of some rocks here and there. Your crew largely knows what they need to do, and you make good headway towards your destination. 

Now, imagine a large whirlpool appearing off on one side. Your crew can’t see it from their positions above and below deck, but they can feel the ship swaying this way and that. How do you help your crew fight the whirlpool’s current when they don’t understand what’s happening? 

In a crisis, your organization is very much like that ship at the edge of a whirlpool. When you know that your team doesn’t see what you see, you can change your approach. By being encouraging, clear, and concise, you could use team motivation to help them trust you. As we mentioned in an earlier strategy, don’t let fear take over. If you did, it would be no different than allowing the whirlpool to swallow your ship without a fight. 

Instead, consider talking about long-term plans and projects. But do so without making any promises that you can’t keep. If you deal with hope, you’ll find yourself with a team that wants to reach new heights with you. 

7. Check-In Often so They Don’t Check Out

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Many businesses are still experiencing communication challenges as more people work from home. Checking-in with your employees often is more critical than ever. As you do, try to keep in mind that your employees have different priorities than they used to. 

They might be worried about their family, their health, or how to get the services they need. They might have children running underfoot or elderly relatives to look after. With all these distractions, it might be easier for them to isolate and struggle alone. They may have feelings of guilt and not want to share what they are going through with work. 

So do your best to check-in with your employees regularly. Ask them if they are OK and show them that you care if they are not. Make resources available to those who are struggling mentally, physically, or emotionally. 

Checking in with your team often shows them that you are acting on your promise to put their safety first. It also allows you to address any other issues or concerns that might arise with the new work arrangements. No one will have to feel lost or confused for long. And when the crisis is over, the relationships you have built with your team will make all the difference. 

8. Lead by Example

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You may already have heard this strategy because it is a time-honored and proven one. There is no greater team motivation than having a leader you are inspired to follow. 

The best approach to take is to lead from the front. Be someone who doesn’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. Be seen as someone who walks the walk. Who shows up, who shares, who cares, and who positively contributes no matter the situation. Be the first one in and the last one out. 

This strategy works particularly well in combination with the previous ones. When people feel safe, taken care of, and valued, they will take note of your actions and understand that you haven’t given up on them or the business. They will then choose to work with you and alongside you with enthusiasm and pride.

9. Remember That Every Crisis Ends

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As difficult as it might be to see now, every crisis does end. So set up systems and procedures that will see you through the dark times and into better times. Here are some tips that might help you prepare for the future: 

  • Create a plan. Assess where you are right now and what you have to do to course-correct and get back on track for your goals. 
  • Be seen. Expand your business’ reach and position yourself as an authority in your industry. 
  • Develop your mindset. Practice gratitude and meditation to maintain a healthy mindset. 

When you are centered in who you are as a business owner and entrepreneur, you can prove to your team that there is a future after the crisis. As you work towards that goal together, you’ll have a more reliable, self-motivated team. 

10. Learn From Other Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

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The most effective problem-solving technique is often also the most overlooked one. And that is to learn and implement best practices from business owners and entrepreneurs do to pivot. It’s easy, as a leader, to feel that you are alone. Maybe you also think that no one will understand your particular difficulties. Or that everything you experience is unique to your industry. We understand. 

Dan Lok struggled alone during his early years as an entrepreneur as well. But his first mentor Alan Jacques showed him the power of collaborating with and learning from other business owners. His later success was, in large part, to the fact that he surrounded himself with other entrepreneurs. 

And that was because many of them have gone through challenges and crises before. They made mistakes, but they also made winning choices. So Dan Lok was able to skip a lot of the errors and do what worked instead. 

So a little known, but effective team motivation strategy is to experience it for yourself in a group like Dragon 100. High-level entrepreneurs that gather there learn and grow alongside you, no matter what. 

The other benefit of belonging to a group of like-minded people is that you can finally talk freely. You can share your challenges, worries, and concerns without holding back. Why? Because they understand. They are either or have gone through the same things. 

Team Motivation: Be a Leader They Can Follow

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Even though the world is facing unprecedented times, with a growth-oriented mindset, a team you care about, and the right strategies, your business will be stronger than ever. So, in summary, here are the ten strategies we’ve discussed in this article: 

  1. Prioritize your team’s safety over anything else.
  2. Assure your team that they are not alone in scary times.
  3. Address your team’s concerns and encourage them to come to you.
  4. Harness your team’s intrinsic desire to participate.
  5. Train and empower your team to make the right decisions.
  6. Show your team that you are thinking about the long-term and that it includes them.
  7. Reach out to your team members often so that they don’t feel lost.
  8. Be the kind of leader your team is proud to follow.
  9. Put systems and processes in place so that you prepare for the future.
  10. Join and grow with a group of high-level, successful business owners and entrepreneurs.

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