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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Five Ways to Motivate Your Team With Empathy and Authority

A crisis pressure-tests leadership and culture. Many new values are formed under the strain, and employees gain new perspectives on their organization and its leadership. Communication is the key to keeping them motivated and productive in a season of enormous distraction.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t my first financial crisis. No matter how well you run a business, external forces will test you, your culture, and your resolve. Leaders are constantly processing the future, and our employees are watching to see how confident we are and how clearly we see the situation.

So, what exactly does “empathy” mean right now? It means focusing on goodwill and doing no harm. It means prioritizing people and their well-being. Making decisions that are in your employees’ and customers’ best interest. This may sound simple, but it’s not always easy to execute. Here are some tips to help you navigate communication in the midst of a challenging situation.

Let Employees Ask Questions
Remember, during a crisis people are scared. Actively listen to what employees have to say. Even if you think you know what questions are on your employees’ minds, giving them the opportunity to ask makes all the difference in how “heard” they feel. Displaying empathy through solidarity can assuage concerns.

Seek Opportunities to Learn & Grow
While crisis can be detrimental to normal business operations, such as having to cancel events, it can also lead to positive growth and learning. We are already seeing signs of this positive growth and learning opportunity. Many companies have leveraged their built-in virtual infrastructure and transformed massive in-person events into virtual meetings to protect participants’ health. And, while some may be concerned about how remote work and work-from-home flexibility may impact business, research shows that there are a variety of benefits when companies provide remote work flexibility. Those may include: an increase in productivity, increased morale, less stress for workers, and lower operating costs.

Build Trust
To feel confident to act on your recommendations and direction, your team has to trust you. Why is trust so critical in a crisis? Because, according to several studies, the more we trust the people who are supposed to protect or inform us, the less afraid we will be. The less we trust them, the greater our fears. To build trust, communicators must manage expectations and communicate openly, honestly, and often.

Arm Employees with Facts
Knowledge is power, and during a crisis information and events can move quickly. Educate your team on the best ways to take care of themselves and others. Provide your team with updated links to reputable sources with accurate and up-to-date information that includes advice. Research shows, the more people are armed with facts and understand what they can do to take care of and protect themselves, the more they will gain self confidence that they can care for themselves.

Challenge Your Biases
We all have biases. Some of them are conscious biases, because we know we have them. Others are unconscious – we react automatically, without thinking. Biases are built from our upbringing and experience. We can never eliminate them, so the next best thing is to be aware of them, so we can ensure they don’t affect our decision making.

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 company and to one another. It can also help them be productive while getting there.

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