Keeping employees motivated is important when running a business. It’s even more important when your business isn’t doing well. Morale issues are often one of the first things to suffer when you encounter difficulties. Loss of motivation can mean the beginning of a downward spiral where failures sap morale and loss of morale leads to more failures. Here are some tips that can help you keep your motivation—and that of your employees—when your business is struggling.
LOOK FOR SHORT-TERM SOLUTIONS
“See things in the present, even if they are in the future.”
—Larry Ellison, Oracle Co-Founder
Sometimes a small boost that supports the vision of the future of your company is all you need to turn things around. If it isn’t in your budget to hire a new director of marketing, consider reaching out to a freelancer who can stoke your marketing campaign without a huge investment of resources you just don’t have yet. If the short-term solution helps, you can consider it for the long-term. If not, you haven’t thrown away your entire budget on a failed endeavor.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
“Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.”
– Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO
Even when things are going badly, there must be something you can point to as something you do well. It could be something as simple as everyone on your team getting along, or the fact that a meeting went better than expected. If you can find a way to bring those small positives to light, it can help make those around you see that there are ups as well as downs. Spreading positivity can help people see there is a bigger end-game than the near-sighted short-term losses.
TURN ON THE PRAISE
“Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.”
—Sam Walton, Walmart Founder
Every time you see an employee do well, make sure you point it out. It can be easy to focus on everything that has gone wrong when things look dismal. But when you take the time to see the things people are doing well and let them know they’re valued and appreciated for what they contribute, you’ll help to motivate them to contribute more. Praising those who are bringing more to the table can also motivate others to do more too.
EMPHASIZE YOUR SUCCESSES
“I don't look to jump over 7-ft bars—I look for 1-ft bars that I can step over.”
—Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO
So maybe you lost one of your biggest clients to a competitor. But maybe you also picked up two new smaller clients that work with other potential customers. Focus on achievements like customer service awards or a successful project that was completed for a client, rather than the depressing sales numbers that came out last month. Yes, there are plenty of things you can complain about, but if you look around, there may also be plenty of small successes you can celebrate. Sending out an email blast congratulating a team on a success is significantly more useful than sending one out that points out a failure.
TAKE A STEP BACK
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.”
—Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder
Don’t let yourself drown under the pressure of a deteriorating business venture. It’s important to remember that your work and your business are just a part of who you are and what you do. If sitting at the office poring over falling numbers isn’t going to help, then why do it? If you already know about the problem and there’s nothing more you can do, stop worrying. Spend some time with family and friends away from the office and let yourself engage with something other than the problems at work.
Trying to keep your head above water when your business is struggling can be exhausting for both you and your employees. By redirecting the focus of your team to the positive rather than the negative, you can help to eliminate worry, boost morale, and keep your employees motivated through the worst patches.
About the Author
Anna Ashmore is a market research analyst at businesscheck.co.nz.