As we continue to flip the calendar to yet another month of this Covid-19 debacle, it is no surprise that inspiration, motivation, performance, and overall well-being are lacking for many. With several months into this, leadership needs new tools to re-energize their teams, to accurately identify and diagnose recurring struggles, and to empathetically help their team address their problems.
We all know it’s a leader’s responsibility to provide structure, guidance, and consistency; yet there is plenty of evidence that points to the fact that the most important gauge for a healthy work environment isn’t a strong external framework, but whether individuals can foster internal inspiration and motivation.
And it is times like these when inspirational leadership is needed most.
Inspirational leadership is critical when the team is worried, production is tenuous, and business is unstable. All three are interconnected—when one falls, the others go down too. Inspirational leadership is therefore needed most during economic downturns, uncertainties in world affairs, or from sudden and unexpected natural disasters, for which COVID-19 qualifies.
At its core, inspirational leadership is the ability to articulate an idea or an action to win over people, so they share the same idea or action. Optimism, enthusiasm, fellowship—these are all direct results when people are inspired. Inspirational leadership builds relationships with others and minimizes the distractions that lead to a higher level of exposure.
For that reason alone, all eyes are on leadership during a crisis. People are looking for physical signs and verbal cues that the situation is under control. In other words, for leaders, now is not the time to take passive resignation. They need to be out in front of the situation and show others they have a plan to regain stability within their operation despite the instability outside.
So what do leaders need to do to achieve this state?
Here are seven ways to get there.
1. Start with yourself
In order to inspire others, the leader needs to be inspired. They need to believe in the vision they want to share.
In order to inspire the people on your team and help them grow and develop, you first have to analyze yourself and find your own motivation, and to share your energy and vision with others. You are the barometer that the team will use to gauge whether things look good or if you don’t believe things will get better. Look at what you do or don’t do and what you say or don’t say. If you don’t invest the time and energy into showing you care, you’re just setting the stage for others to feel rejected and in turn, not care for themselves. I’m seeing a lack of energy and caring, as well as resignation at times in many different industries. You have to watch your actions so you can set an example as a leader and transmit positive values to your team because YOU will be the best inspiration for them.
2. Practice inspiration every day
You don’t need to wait for that monthly meeting to give an end-of-game victory speech. You can inspire others on every phone call you’re on or with every daily interaction. Also, remember: Your team is not expecting you to give them a Knute Rockne speech every day. You just need to show people you need them to move forward. Change your way of thinking, if necessary, and understand the value of your team members. Congratulate them on their small achievements, find something to celebrate in order to ensure they are motivated and engaged.
3. Share information
Don’t ever be afraid to share with your team the circumstances, challenges, and opportunities surrounding the implementation of whatever you’re working on. Transparency is critical, especially during difficult times. Engaging them and sharing with them valuable information will inspire them to launch new initiatives and ensure the viability of the results.
4. Protect individuals
People who are part of your team do not handle stress and anxiety the same. Everyone is different, so be sure to treat them as individuals. Protect their differences, especially during this health crisis and the current political volatility. Make sure your team feels cared for and that you’ve fostered a sense of belonging. Make time to listen to your employees’ perspectives and let them know that they are heard and valued. A few simple practices may help:
- Acknowledge and validate your employees’ emotions as well as their reactions. (“I know it can be tough to stay focused right now, but we’ll figure it out together!”)
- Don’t let people get lost in the crowd: Acknowledge each member’s work and achievements to the extent possible.
- Emphasize that people’s contributions are unique and necessary; do not let good work go unacknowledged.
- Communicate that you care about employees’ well-being, not just their productivity.
5. Create a Collaborative Culture
This could be a topic all its own. Organize meetings that share views and generate new opinions that might bring improvements to the whole team. You will make your team feel an active part of the decision making process and you will better define the responsibilities of each of them. Involve your team in decisions where their input could be valuable. Asking for suggestions to optimize an ongoing process, for example, can help maximize a sense of empowerment, progress, and ownership.
Effective leaders foster internal motivation and inspiration by empowering the teams’ sense that they are the authors of their actions and have the power to make choices that are aligned with their own values, goals, and interests, as well as the organization’s. Leadership should encourage autonomy and be genuinely caring while also recognizing that each employee carries responsibilities for achieving team objectives. To help foster a sense of autonomy we recommend that leaders:
- Encourage self-initiation and participation. Perhaps ask, “What part of this project can you see yourself leading?”
- Avoid controlling language (“Get this to me by tomorrow!”) and minimize coercive controls like unrealistic deadlines and constant monitoring of your employees. Instead, find ways to motivate them through encouragement and positive feedback, such as, “I know it’s a tight deadline, but having your skills on this team will be so helpful to our client.”
- Be transparent by providing the rationale behind demands. People are more willing to put in their full effort when they understand why a given task is important.
- Actively Listen. Even if you think you know what questions are on your teams’ minds, giving them the opportunity to ask and allows them to have a voice.
7. Recommunicate the vision
A strong and consistent company vision helps your team members feel like they’re building something and heading toward a purpose. If you’ve been good at establishing a vision and think it will stay the same on the other side of this crisis, make sure to remind people of the long journey. Hopefully, you are still leading them to the same place, but you are also navigating the adversity of an unexpected detour.
As a leader, when you state and restate your vision, you provide stability and build trust — the two major factors in inspiring and motivating people.
Leading isn’t for the fearful. How you show up and how you communicate can dissipate anxiety and help your team be more connected to the purpose of your organization and to one another. It can also help them be productive while getting there.
Want to learn more? Contact me today!