Q: Morale in our organization is at an all-time low since we have been through a downsizing. How do I turn the morale issue around?
A: I hear a lot about morale and motivation, from leaders who want to know how to motivate employees and how to raise the level of morale throughout their organizations. The economic downturn has forced many organizations to make some tough decisions, one of which is around talent. While some have taken the route of downsizing, others have tried to utilize their talent in other ways.
Regardless of which tactic your organization has taken, now is the time to develop real relationships with people. Put down the blackberry, cell phones and give people your undivided attention. Have conversations about what they feel, what ideas they may have about the future of the company. Find out the real source of the morale issue. It may not be what you think, but you will only know by asking. You might get a laundry list of issues, so try to work on the top three by enlisting help from the team. Showing progress on the most critical issues lets people know that their voices have been heard.
Focusing on short-term goals, while keeping the long-range goals in view, will help people have small wins along the way. Help others reconnect to the vision—and that means you may have to recast a short-term vision for people to rally around.
In tough times, it is always good to focus on others as well as yourself. Consider working together on a community project or another project that brings the team together to do good for someone else.
Finds reasons to celebrate together and recognize individuals. Add an element of fun to the workplace by asking people what they would like to do. Building morale takes time, but it also changes one person at a time. That is why it is important to build relationships, keep open communication channels, and build a collaborative vision.
Lastly, stay positive and authentic yourself as you work through these leadership challenges.
Valerie Willis is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop and principal of Valarie Willis Consulting in Loveland, OH, where she focuses on strategic management consulting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.