Most of the business leaders I have spoken to recently have admitted that they are extremely concerned about the loss of motivation and productivity that they are seeing in their employees. “The COVID-19 crisis has changed a lot of things but shouldn’t the fact that they can work in the comfort of their own home make them feel energized and happy?” they ask. For some reason, it is not working that way for everyone.
Businesses experience and react to crises just like people do.
Here’s a brief story: One evening as Alex arrives home from work, sees smoke and flames billowing from his house. Realising that his wife and his son are trapped inside, he rushes to a back window from which his wife helps him get their son to safety. He then gets his wife out and the three of them watch as firemen manage to extinguish the blaze. A few hours later, Alex stands in front of the charred ruins and ashes, trembling and grieving. He is in shock, trying to process what has happened. A lifetime of memories have been destroyed, together with his home. Several days later, he feels that he has no energy, he can’t enjoy anything, he argues with his wife about unimportant things and spends most of his time in a bad mood. Eventually, he acknowledges that he has two options: to keep living in the past, grieving for what he has lost, or to adapt to the new reality, be grateful for what he has (family, friends, his job) and make the best of it. Alex decides to move on and explore new ways and possibilities of rebuilding his house and his life.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, when dealing with a crisis, companies, just like people, go through three phases: Emergency, Regression and Recovery. In the above story, Alex experiences the state of emergency when he sees his house on fire and acts immediately to save his family. Similarly, in this phase, companies pull together and try their best to adapt to the crisis. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw how employers and employees alike quickly adjusted to the new reality by setting up home offices and making an effort to acquire and learn digital tools. Companies made a concentrated effort to transform their operations from physical to digital almost overnight. The need to react to forced changes helped maintain productivity levels.
When Alex stands grieving in front of his burnt-out home, he is in the regression phase. In the following days, he has lost his energy and passion for life. In the business world, the regression phase is when employees and their leaders appear to have lost their motivation, inspiration and ability to pull through the crisis. In the case of COVID-19, we saw that, while many countries were starting to relax restrictions and life seemed to be going back to normal, thousands of people were coming face-to-face with a new recession. Many have lost their jobs, their customers and their hopes. Their initial motivation has now been replaced by a wave of desperation.
As Alex resolves his dilemma and decides to move on with his life on a more positive note, he has entered the recovery phase. In business, if you are a leader, this is your call. As James Sherman stated, “You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.” It’s up to you. Your mission, as a leader, is to maintain your employees’ mental health intact. Mental health is critical, even more so during a crisis.
Here are four practical tips on how to overcome today’s challenges and help your team thrive:
- Take your team’s temperature: Just as we use a thermometer to detect if someone has a fever, you can use team meetings and individual discussions to understand how each of your team members is feeling. When you ask your people how they are doing, they feel more supported and simultaneously you will have a guide to help them - and your organization - succeed. The best way to find out is to ask. Do it with care, as if you are talking to your son or daughter.
- Reconnect with your company’s core values: In the regression phase, most employees disconnect from the true meaning of their work and find it hard to motivate themselves, let alone others. As a leader, you need to remind them of your company’s mission, vision and values by making them aware of the impact that they can have on the lives of their external and internal customers.
- Be an ambassador of positivity: I always tell my associates: “Once I am on stage, don't break bad news to me. I can’t do anything about it other than show it on my face. My audience deserves better. It deserves the best of me.” Similarly, your team deserves to hear words of encouragement and positivity at all times. Avoid reading bad news in the morning before you and the team meet up. It may affect your mood and, in turn, your team’s mood. Early morning exercise or meditation are known to release endorphins that will make you feel good and you will pass this positive mood on to your team.
- Practice ‘tough love’: Imagine that your child, who has a talent for the piano, has suddenly lost the motivation to practise. You have two options: you either push your child to continue or you give them space. The same happens with employees. It may seem counterintuitive but giving a person more responsibility can actually increase their productivity.
As a leader, you are in control of your actions, words and ultimately your success and much depends on how your treat your team. As Zig Ziglar notably said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” Right now, you need to help them recover from the effects of the pandemic, to rediscover the pleasure of work, and to progress.
Find out about how Michael and his team can help your organization and your people move from the 'regression' to the 'recovery' phase. if your mission, as a leader, is to maintain your employees’ mental health intact whilst helping your organization scale up then ask for the "Bounce Back & Thrive" brochure to be delivered to your inbox by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.