Entrepreneurs need to go the distance. But so do their teams. That can be a lot harder.
When working on anything new, the sense of adventure and newness can be exhilarating, and undoubtedly serves as a key source of motivation. However, somewhere along the line the inevitable humdrum of life sets in. Previously unseen circumstances rear their head, things start to go wrong, and everyone has a degree of doubt, whether or not they express it. It’s your challenge as a leader to reenergize your team and make sure the spark that got you this far hasn’t been extinguished.
In order to keep your team together and energized, you have to:
1. Reinvigorate the vision
As an entrepreneurial leader you need to return to the original vision periodically, and remind people of the long-term objective.
The reinvigoration reminder reengages people emotionally and reestablishes their sense of purpose and sense of vision. It re-familiarizes them with the very things that got them involved in the initiative originally--things they may have forgotten. To a certain degree, this is a charismatic, idealistic appeal. It is an effort to call on a sense of pride and rally the troops.
2. Reinforce the benefits
Sure, they joined your effort because they believed in it. But they also joined you because they expected certain benefits. In other words, people will decide whether to stay with you on the basis of the rewards they expect to reap.
After a while doubt may set in, clouding the potential benefits. It may even dampen self-interest.
In reenergizing your team it is important to revisit the pragmatic bottom line. Are the benefits still viable? Are you as a leader still committed to getting your team something? Be as honest as you can not only in assessing the benefits, but in making the benefits clear to others. If the benefits are not a sure thing, you have to temper your language and stress other forms of motivation.
3. Sustain optimism
In reenergizing your team, you must sustain optimism. You need to give your team the sense that, sure there are obstacles, bumps on the road, and other difficulties-;but if you all hang together you can achieve success.
A mistake that some entrepreneurial leaders make is that they spin off into self-reflective negativism, thinking that if they share their hesitation and concern, they will create sympathetic alliances. Instead, speak plainly: “Things are tough, yes. But we’re going to make it.” You need to create optimism, but you don’t want to be naïve. You want to make it clear that you understand what is holding you back, and the obstacles and hurdles are surmountable. Entrepreneurial leaders don’t give false hope. They reenergize a team by maintaining realistic optimism.
4. Maintain your credibility
In order to sustain your team’s energy, you need others to believe that you have the credibility to push your initiative forward. Remember that credibility is something that others confer on you; it’s not something you solicit from them. Credibility may not guarantee others will agree with you, but it provides some assurance that they will give you the benefit of the doubt. Without it, you’re not going anywhere.
When people initially get behind you and your proposal, they are likely to already have judged you as credible. As you move down the road and deal with the practical aspects of getting things done, your credibility may wear thin and questions may arise. Credibility is a quickly spent commodity. To assure that you sustain the team’s energy, your credibility needs to be replenished from time to time.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.