When times are tough, the idea of maintaining profitability seems daunting, let alone actually growing your business. Negativity and discouragement go a long way toward killing productivity and growth within a team. Business leaders who maintain success through adversity know the importance of emphasizing improvement and rewarding progress. While it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the pitfalls and shortcomings of your team, this is a sure-fire way to ensure that this type of detriment continues. Even if this goes against every fiber of your being (which it probably will), it is MUCH more effective to focus on progress, no matter how slight. Getting the momentum moving in the positive direction during times of adversity is 90% of the battle; but, once it is started, it will become much easier to sustain. Unfortunately, this same principle holds true for times of adversity when the momentum has begun in the negative direction. Use these 2 methods to shift that momentum toward the positive, even when adverse circumstances have it headed in the wrong direction.
1. Emphasize IMPROVEMENT, rather than perfection.
The most successful leaders emphasize improvement, rather than perfection. They do this not because they don't recognize all the things wrong with their team, but because they know that it is much more productive to focus on what has improved. Focusing on improvement drives more improvement. It is just that simple. This simplicity, however, does not necessarily translate to ease. Emphasizing improvement over perfection is incredibly difficult to do because humans are wired to recognize and focus on problems. To drive growth during times of adversity, you have to work at focusing on improvement. At the end of each day, ask your team to write down quick responses to the following 3 questions:
- What 3 things did I do well today?
- What is 1 thing I want to improve tomorrow?
- What is 1 thing I can do that could help make that improvement?
These 3 questions will force you and your team to recognize what is going well, rather than what is not. Focusing on problems is overwhelming and leads to more problems. Instead, answering these questions will shift your team's focus onto what is working, and what specifically can be done to improve the current situation.
2. REWARD progress.
Celebrations and rewards are the fertilizer for consistency. During times of adversity, it may seem that the last thing you have time to do is to focus on rewarding progress (especially when it seems there is so much more progress to make). Overlooking small victories, however, is disastrous if you are trying to promote more victories. In order to thrive, your team has to be motivated to thrive- and not just motivated by fear. While it may seem that the fear of losing their jobs should be enough for your team to be at their best, great leaders know that it is just plain more effective to motivate through positive reinforcement (rewards), rather than negative reinforcement (punishment or fear). By definition, positive reinforcement or rewards work by increasing the likelihood that a certain behavior will continue. If your goal is to promote growth, rewards are integral.
- Make it a habit to reward one small victory per week for at least one member of your team. Set a reminder in your phone or calendar each week to do so.
- Identify the next moderate goal that you want to your team to hit (something realistically attainable within the next quarter), and decide on a larger way for you reward and celebrate with your team. Make the goal and the reward very clear to your team, and include an update each week for the current progress toward the goal.
When it comes to rewards, a little goes a long way. You do not need to shell out huge bonuses for your team every time they move the needle. Little celebrations like treating your team to a Happy Hour, bringing in breakfast, or a congratulatory email go a long way toward making your team feel valued and encouraged to continue producing.
Again, it will likely feel easier and more natural to pinpoint all the ways in which your team is falling short. Recognizing improvement and rewarding progress takes EFFORT, but putting forth this effort is critical to bring about growth during times of adversity.