As the marketplace starts to improve, business owners are feeling more confident. They look to their teams to start jumping on all the new opportunities out there, but their teams aren’t so quick to respond. Why?
While business owners are starting to let go of some of their fear, employees are still faced with a lot of uncertainty. Some of them were forced to take cuts, work long hours and do so for less money. Beyond that, many have seen their personal savings shrink and their home equity evaporate. They need leadership – the business owner’s leadership – to show them the way out of fear and toward that recovery.
In order to get everyone putting toward that extra effort again, the business owner has to first put forth an extra effort to reengage his team and rebuild their trust. Here are three ways to do that:
1. Be visible and transparent.
When times are tough, business owners have a tendency to “buckle down” and work harder. While that’s admirable, what that means for your employees is more time with your office door closed or more time out of the office. You are working harder as an individual contributor, but you are less available to your team. They don’t see you, they don’t know what you are thinking, and so they start making things up.
When there is uncertainty, we need to be more visible and more available, and communicate more. Spend some time walking through the office and visiting with the team. Have lunch with some folks and start to engage them in new challenges and opportunities. Help your team to see the encouraging signs that you are seeing.
2. Focus on results.
Employees want to know they are making progress. They want to see that their leaders understand the seriousness of the situation. What are the key performance indicators that you are watching to determine your company’s performance? How many of them are leading indicators? Can you post them on the wall, or send them out in a daily report? How can you give your team some positive evidence that shows them that everyone’s hard work is starting to pay off? By focusing on results, you communicate that you are focused on doing what needs to be done to improve the business.
3. Make sure everyone feels connected.
When people feel threatened, they want to be connected to a tribe. That’s why, when your team feels threatened, they attach their loyalties to their family and other communities. But your team can be a tribe for them too. Does your company reflect values that your team can identify with? Do you have a mission or purpose that makes them feel good, that they want to remain connected to? By building those values into your company culture, and reinforcing them even during uncertainty, your company can become a tribe that they can depend on, and connect to.
Although the economy is starting to improve, people are still afraid. Don’t let fear rob your team of their best thinking. As one researcher put it, “…when the fear system of the brain is active, exploratory activity and risk-taking are turned off.” You need your team to take risks and creatively solve problems. To get them there, you have to provide them a haven in the storm, a place where you are taking care of your business and they can see that you are serious about not just surviving, but growing.
Photo credit: The U.S. Army