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Motivating your team through an extended crisis.

Even in the best of times, business leaders consistently look at best practices to build and develop effective, adaptive teams. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions, motivating employees takes on a new importance — while also bringing brand new challenges. How can you motivate your team during continued uncertainty and keep people on track during a rollercoaster season?

Right now, you may be focused on forward motion, keeping the train moving for the sake of productivity and to deliver products and services. Especially as we approach a new year, it’s a normal and necessary response. But that makes morale even harder to build. It’s crucial to keep your team engaged, while realizing that continuing last year’s rallying tactics may not be what’s best for your business.

Another challenge? Burnout. 2020 has been a uniquely difficult year for nearly all of us, and it’s an important factor to consider when you try to rally the troops. Layer in the seemingly 24/7 news cycle about the pandemic, financial uncertainty and national unrest.

If all of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Your task as a leader is to be attuned to your team’s morale and thus, motivational levels – and mental health. So how can you continue to keep your team motivated through a prolonged crisis? Explore some strategies to bring morale back to life.

View motivation through a business lens.

We all have reasons or motivations for why and how we approach work and productivity. Sometimes, team building can fall down the priority list as something that’s nice to do when bandwidth is there, but not imperative. Shift your mindset — because especially in light of an ongoing crisis, morale may have more of an impact on the bottom line than you think.

Leaders can help teams maintain morale and confidence by understanding their employees’ (and their own) three main psychological needs: relatedness, competence and autonomy. Value your team’s perspective. Strive to create a sense of belonging and foster a caring work environment. Recognize good work and let your employees know they are not just a cog in a production wheel. Let them know that they are a valued part of the team.

Also, don’t let good work go unacknowledged. Make it a habit to celebrate the wins of your employees, even if the accomplishment is small. Emphasize how much each person is needed and how their daily work makes a difference.

Keep your door open to ideas and suggestions.

It’s a common human trait: we all want to be heard and to know that our ideas matter. Sometimes, the most meaningful motivation can happen when you’re listening. Seek input from employees and be open to process improvement suggestions and ideas. This exercise can be empowering and establish a sense of ownership and pride. Set up one-on-one virtual or in-person meetings to discuss performance and individual professional development goals.

And once the recommendations are made, trust your employees to make the right choices that align with the organization’s values and interests. This affords them autonomy and gives them ownership, two areas that can keep employees motivated for the long haul.

Take a break for a little fun.

If you were using team-building exercises before remote work or before COVID-19 as a motivational tool, don’t stop now. According to a recent SHRM survey, more than half of companies are not doing team building activities with employees who are working remotely. Consider this a window of opportunity!

Times of crisis can often bring about the best creative ideas. Schedule a video or teleconferencing meeting or start a discussion chain to get your team’s creative juices flowing and brainstorm ways to break up the routine and have a little virtual fun. Many companies have found success with virtual happy hours or coffee breaks. And if you sense your team could benefit from some stress relief and may be open to trying something new, you might consider a training on yoga, meditation or collective mindfulness.

Plan for the return to normalcy.

Another good motivator is to start looking beyond the current crisis. Right now, it seems like times will never return to the way they were before the pandemic hit. And, in some ways, that may be a good thing.

You have probably already identified some organizational processes may need to be fine-tuned. Begin the process of working with your team to track best practices and key learnings now so that you may be better positioned to weather future challenges and potentially prolonged crisis periods.

When the current crisis does pass — and it will — there will be case studies for years to come written about how businesses and organizations adapted and adjusted to this time in our history. Find joy in the fact that you’re doing what you can to keep your team motivated and encouraged.

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