Leaders are quickly adjusting to a transformed work-environment. Suddenly, entire teams and organizations are working remotely under immense professional and personal stress due to the spread of coronavirus.
Business leaders need to maximize their motivational ability in order to build trust with their employees and get their best performance. There's a reason leadership speakers often focus on relationships--they're foundational to achievement in business, especially during tumultuous times.
It's useful to remember the remember the motivational adage of carrots and sticks, which dates back to the days of horse-drawn carriages. Drivers had to judge when to use rewards, or carrots, to compel horses to move, and when to punish them with a riding crop, or stick.
All leaders must strike the balance need both effective incentives and thoughtful, constructive feedback to lead their teams. This doesn't just mean knowing when to use each, but also understanding which types of rewards and sanctions are most effective. Start with these guidelines:
Everyone mutually beneficial professional relationship is built on trust and respect. Employees will be more motivated if they feel you're invested in them, first as a person and second as an employee.
Make sure to schedule regular, one-on-one time with your direct-reports. Show that you care personally by asking how they are adjusting to the current environment and get their thoughts on which projects they've most excited about tackling. If you have any performance concerns to address, you can address them in the context of a personal connection, rather than as an absent boss scolding a fearful employee.
Every employee is currently facing more isolation than usual, and most of them are at least somewhat worried about their future under this economic uncertainty. Personal connections make your team feel more secure.
Use meaningful rewards
Connecting personally with your employees not only will make your employees more engaged, but it will also allow you to reward their performance with incentives that matter to them. Not only does giving personally tailored incentives have a bigger impact with the recipient, but it also will show other employees you're willing to go the extra mile to reward top performers.
At our company, we run a dream-granting campaign where we ask our employees to submit their most important goals and choose 10 to 20 that we help fulfill, announcing the recipients at our annual AP Summit. In the past, we've given employees seeking financial security meetings with a financial planner, helped an employee travel to Greece to visit her grandmother, and even hired an investigator to help and employee find her long lost brother.
There's no one-size-fits-all incentive that will resonate with everybody in your organization equally. Instead, find what will bring the most impact to the employee you want to reward, and choose that option.
Be clear about performance issues
You'll certainly have employees for whom potential rewards aren't enough to motivate them. Whether these employees are disengaged, or trying their best but not performing well, the number one rule is to address problems clearly and proactively.
First, it's most crucial to address any performance issues immediately as they occur. If your employee makes a significant mistake or misses a crucial deadline, don't just save those topics for an eventual performance review--bring them up in your next one-on-one meeting before the drop in performance becomes too entrenched to fix.
When the conversation takes place, be clear, empathetic and direct. Explain your expectations, and identify where the worker is falling short. Ask the employee if there is an external factor that is causing their performance to slip--it could be a result of a personal challenge you're unaware of, or even that the employee is disengaged with their portfolio and wants to do something different.
While you shouldn't abruptly spring consequences on an employee, be clear about what steps you'll need to take if performance doesn't improve. Especially in the current economic environment, when workers are on high alert, they'll appreciate the transparency and directness.
To work through the challenging time we're all facing, you need to make sure your employees are engaged, motivated and feel valued. By connecting personally with your team, delivering rewards and incentives that resonate with them, and addressing any issues quickly and clearly, you'll make sure your team is up to the test.