Keeping your team motivated during a crisis
When crises occur, the tendency is to revert to the ‘mission critical’ model. This usually comprises a hyper-focus on crisis recovery and pressure to resolve immediate tasks. This is no bad thing; however, the individuals involved are often under enormous pressure to perform in a crisis, particularly, when working remotely, this can lead to feelings of isolation, disengagement and general malaise which in the long term can have a negative impact on recovery.
We propose practical suggestions to keep your team focused and engaged during a crisis.
Step One – Don’t forget the individuals in your team
It is easy to become so focused on an issue and its resolution that we forget those involved and how they may be feeling. At best, this can lead to inefficiencies and a lack of motivation and, at worst, ‘burn-out’ can occur as individuals forget the need to take breaks and switch off from their tasks.
Taking time to speak with people one-on -one or as a team regarding their work or even about something non-work related can have a hugely positive impact. It reminds the team that there is more to life than the crisis and gives them a chance to reconnect individually and as a group. Gemma O’Loghlen, Cyber Security Project Manager advises of the ‘importance to take time for offline chats to see how people are feeling. Even a 5-minute call before or after hours reassure the team of the value delivered and to recognise effort can make a huge difference.’
During the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Gemma set-up weekly video calls with her team to discuss life over a ‘virtual coffee.’ ‘This allowed us to maintain our team spirit and relationships outside of work and work-related meetings. Naturally, the most discussed topic was how to keep sane in isolation!’
How these interpersonal relationships are handled during a crisis can have a positive impact on recovery. Treat people as commodities or as mere enablers and they will look to leave at the earliest opportunity. As we struggle also to keep continuity of process, keeping teams intact is paramount.
Step Two – Keep on talking
Making time to talk to your team is important and this conversation needs to be about more than just work. Vitally important is to communicate with stakeholders, be they internal stakeholders i.e., those from another team/department or external i.e., your all-important clients.
Keeping stakeholders up to date is not just about responsiveness but also about proactivity. Anticipating the concerns of our stakeholders, setting expectations and defined parameters to govern information sharing is vital. This is not just for the benefit of sharing information in a timely and structured way, but it also allows individuals the space needed to focus on the issue or crisis.
In current times, to share global and local information on the spread of COVID-19, is addressed as part of a daily conference held by the British leadership. This more agile approach keeps the communication train moving whilst still allowing them to resolve and debate issues.
Another key take-away for businesses amid a crisis is to resist the urge to talk rather than act or indeed to play the ‘blame game’, which has no place in resolving or recovering from a crisis. Also important is to have a single point of contact tasked with sharing information and engaging with stakeholders and other interested parties. This should be a single point of contact to whom questions can be directed. Depending on the nature of the crisis business type, this role may not sit in leadership but could be an appointed communications person or even an outsourced team.
Irrespective of who manages the communications, it is crucial to share correct and verified information. As Richard Franks, Managing Director of Chilango advises, ‘set- up daily / regular team updates to keep everyone updated and informed. Make sure you have effective tools with which to share information and, as necessary, request that information is cascaded to interested parties, as appropriate to their role.’
The ultimate aim of keeping communication lines flowing is to remove misinformation or rumours that could detract people from their primary focus, start unfounded rumours and, ultimately, prevent the business from recovering.
Step Three – Focus on the future
As the old adage goes, ‘there is no point in crying over spilt milk.’ This is true when dealing with a crisis or incident. Transitioning to the future is not about sending out repeat communications confirming that all will be well from a certain date. There will come a point where the mindset of all involved must shift to a future focus without lamenting on what may have been lost including time spent on resolution.
For this to occur effectively, the team needs to pass through a ‘mourning phase.’ We may mourn a number of things but, whatever the loss incurred, it must be acknowledged, and appropriate time spent on situational analysis.
Acknowledging that the crisis was hard, that difficult decisions were taken and that these decisions were not taken lightly also promotes a feeling of accomplishment. This will allow a refocus of the mind to the possibilities of the future.
Step Four – Let your leadership shine
In the middle of a crisis, time management and decision-making skills are paramount. These are particularly important when time critical decisions are required and information is not always complete.
During periods of crisis, we must also let our vital leadership skills shine. These are often softer skills but are of no less importance than technical skills.
Lyssa Barber, a wellness consultant with The Mind Bee advises ‘a sign of leadership during a crisis is sharing your vulnerabilities. If something is not going well then share with your team that you too are feeling concerned or uncertain.’ Most important is to remain positive and remind your team that the ‘situation will not last forever.’
Leaders as well as others must take care of their health and find positive ways to decompress and take time away from the situation. For many, this will include exercise or spending a time pursuing a hobby. This may seem counter intuitive because people often feel they must dedicate 100% of their time to issue resolution. Finding balance and creating time to step away from the situation creates headspace to navigate the known and unknowns providing space to resolve the issue.
Step Five – What can be learnt from the crisis?
Some business leaders find ‘lessons learned’ to be an exercise which only focuses on the ‘what went wrong’ or an opportunity to attribute blame. This is a mistake as it prevents us from understanding and sharing ‘what went well.’ If poorly undertaken, a ‘lessons learned’ exercise can be more damaging than helpful and can have a negative impact on the culture and shape of the organisation as well as its staff.
Richard Franks advises ‘once the crisis is over – ask people how they feel and if they would have done things differently’. This is hugely important to allow individuals to create new norms and to feel a part of a new chapter.
This full crisis view is hugely important to understand the crisis – ranging from root cause to resolution – as well to retain the lessons learned and drive business and staff resilience.
Green Robin Solutions is a business optimisation and process improvement consultancy, specialising in business resilience by ensuring clients have the right processes in place.
We offer a no obligation 30-minute consultation to discuss resilience, continuity and disaster planning, and more widely how problem processes within your business can be dealt with.