Motivation is easy when things are going well - when targets are being met, clients are satisfied, work is busy but not stressful and everyone is performing at their best. The challenge for managers and leaders comes when work is more testing - when the budgets get tighter, resources are spread thinner and expectations seem much harder to meet. “A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.” (Anonymous)
How can you keep yourself and your team focused and motivated to ride out the storm? During trying times, employees will be looking to the top for strategies and solutions that they can feel confident in - after all, it’s their job to get on with the work at hand. It’s the leaders of the organisation who will be most likely feeling the effects of adversity on a day-to-day basis. Good leaders must put aside these feelings and present a strong, confident and united front to ensure they can continue to get the most out of their teams.
Try these 5 ways to be a great leader during tough times:

1. Encourage transparent, open and honest communication 

Clear, open and honest communication will be key. It can be tempting to try and shelter employees from important information and behave as if nothing is wrong. But information (and misinformation) has a way of getting out and rumour mills work fast – especially in the age of digital communications. It is your responsibility to encourage dialogue and allow employees to discuss their concerns in an open and honest forum. Look for ways to provide some structure to these conversations, perhaps at a team meeting, so that everyone has a say and you can move the discussion along towards a productive outcome.
During trying times, good leaders put aside negative feelings and present a strong, confident and united front to ensure they can continue to get the most out of their teams.

2. Communicate a realistic strategy and keep moving forward 

Present your staff with a realistic approach to get through the current challenges, so they can be confident that you have control of the situation. Take action by implementing the strategy immediately and monitoring your progress. By ensuring everyone is making small improvements right away, the bigger issues will appear much easier to tackle.

3. Focus on what you can control 

In tough times, it’s important to avoid focusing on what you can’t control. Put your efforts into solving your current issue and get your team behind the cause. Ensure you’re offering the best service (both internal and external), even when times are tough. Eliminate waste and inefficiencies. By running a tight ship, you’ll be in a much better position to face the unknown.

4. Create small wins and a motivating environment 

In difficult times, morale and energy levels are typically down. You can boost positivity by ensuring you celebrate small wins and recognise the individuals that achieve them. Be sincere about your encouragement and nurture a sense of achievement in your team.

5. Take care of your team 

During stressful times, it’s important to make sure that your employees are looking after themselves. When everyone is pulling longer hours and taking on more work, you need to be on the lookout for signs of fatigue and burnout. Be empathetic and take the initiative to keep things light-hearted – a sense of humour will carry you far.
There may even be a silver lining to harsh times. Adversity is seen as the true test of leadership and the perfect time to develop your abilities and skills as an effective leader, as well as build the resilience of your team. You’ll be developing a new set of skills that could help you in your career in the long term. After all, smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.

Summary

Every manager will face tough times and hard decisions - it's the nature of the job.  This is the time when everyone turns to you, so it's important you lead the way during difficult times by:
  • Encouraging transparency and honest communication
  • Providing a realistic strategy
  • Focusing on what you can control
  • Creating small wins and a motivating environment
  • Taking care of your team
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