"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower has a point. Leadership is an art, and it’s difficult to get right. At the crux of his conceptualisation is inspiration and motivation, and it’s clear that he considers a leader to be a master of both. Therefore, the ultimate test of leadership comes in times of adversity, when spirits and resolve are low.
Crucial to one’s success or failure in adversity is one’s attitude.
John F. Kennedy’s Presidency was dominated by crisis and hostility during the Cold War. He approached it by saying, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters–one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”
If you already have the right attitude, that’s great, but sadly it’s not enough. One also needs specific tools and strategies to carry their team through tough times. Below are my essential strategies for ensuring my team remains motivated and driven.
- Keep the big picture in mind: Nothing kills motivation quicker than not knowing the context of your work. Your business’s ultimate goal should not be a secret, even if it’s very ambitious. Ensure each employee knows the big picture, the overall aim, and how their individual efforts contribute to that. Have a passionate conversation with each staff member about your vision, and inspire them to share and own that vision.
- Provide coaching and mentoring: When the times are tough, naturally your team may need increased support and guidance. This means, as a leader, you need to step up your coaching and mentoring efforts. If you already regularly sit down with employees, then simply invest more time and effort. If this is a rare occurrence, then make it regular. One of the biggest motivation killers is failure or frustration. It might be that your employee simply doesn’t yet possess all the skills or knowledge to effectively do their job. With regular coaching and mentoring sessions, you will be able to remedy this.
"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." – Jack Welch
- Recognise, praise and celebrate: Especially in times of adversity and setbacks, the importance of personal or team recognition and praise cannot be overstated. Many individuals require external recognition to feel professional satisfaction, and regular recognition and praise is a powerful motivator. When it comes to celebrations, don’t be afraid to celebrate minor wins, especially when it’s been a while in-between.
- Align personal and business goals: Workplaces that rank the highest in employee satisfaction also provide professional and career development to their staff. The best leaders find ways to align their employees’ individual career goals with the goals of the business. This strategy acts to ensure individual dedication and motivation despite external adversity.
- Support your team: The logic is simple, if you go the extra mile for them, they’ll go the extra mile for you and your business. Whether this means providing family services, or allowing flexible working arrangements, by putting in some effort to support your team outside of the workplace, they’ll naturally feel more motivated to help you.
This ‘give and take’ dynamic is essential to the functioning of any successful team and will strengthen your business’s resilience in tough times.
- Keep it to yourself: As a leader, there are many worries and considerations that are yours to keep, and not be shared. In times of adversity, it is extremely tempting to let it all out and admit to all the anxieties and worries you feel. However, in the end this does more damage than good. To a team, a leader who is riddled by fear does not inspire or motivate, they simply perpetuate a state of anxiety.
- Let them go: Every business leader has come across an employee who simply doesn’t fit into their role or the organisation’s culture. Let them go. In times of adversity you have enough to worry about, least of all an employee who is letting you down. Furthermore, your team’s performance will improve without the negativity that person brings to the workplace.