Stressful times require creative ways to motivate your people. But more than anything else, they require communication and understanding on both sides.

If motivating people during normal times is hard, doing so in a period of stress is 10 times harder. But it’s your chance to show what you’re capable of doing and to grow as a leader. Hard times are periods when you have to learn a lot about yourself and your team.

It’ll take communication, empathy, and understanding to motivate your people, rather than money or chasing goals. The latter will come naturally as a result of the healthy and safe atmosphere you create in your team. Towards that end, here are four scientifically-proven ways to motivate your team during hard times.

Be More Flexible

When you’re going through a particularly stressful time at work, your first reaction may be to discipline and control your employees more. But science proves that you should do just the opposite.

The best way to ease your people through stressful times is to give them more freedom. Of course, some rules still have to exist. But micromanagement could make things a lot worse.

Earlier this year, most companies had to order their employees to work from home. They expected to see lower motivation and productivity, but that wasn’t the case.

On the contrary, working from home with a more flexible schedule allowed people to organise their days. They could now approach work with less stress knowing that they have time for everything. Facebook went one step beyond, as Mark Zuckerberg announced that they would let people work from home for as long as they want - even forever.

Pandemics and health concerns aren’t the only reason for doing so. It’s because Facebook compared employee motivation before and after working from home. And they found that some people showed a higher level of motivation as they work from home. That’s why Zuckerberg claimed that letting people create their own work/life balance is the way to have more productive employees.

But unlike some other companies, Facebook isn’t forcing anyone to go remote. No. That could only create resistance. Everyone can choose the model that they prefer, and they can even go back and forth depending on their circumstances. That level of flexibility is keeping employees motivated and eager to achieve great results.

Listen to What They Have to Say

The key to going through tough times is good communication. Remember that communication is a two-way street. So your job as a leader isn’t only to give input, like sharing the company’s vision and assigning tasks. Your job is also to make sure your employees are feeling okay, both in the work setting and in their lives.

Stress in the workplace can impact all areas of life. And you know that, too. Ask your employees whether they need something, whether they’re okay. Listen to their answers.

The worst thing you can do is go through the motion of asking just because you know you should. The point is to do it genuinely. Listen to their problems and then use the information shared to make their life easier. That’s what great leaders do. That’s what an epic boss would do.

Reward Them for Showing Up

Did you know that Apple gives recognition bonuses to their executives despite not achieving the target? This may seem contra-productive, but think about it for a moment. Those people have worked hard all year long. They’ve given their best and did all they could. But they still didn’t manage to achieve their targets.

Do they deserve punishment for all that hard work? Would it be better if the company showed them that their efforts don’t matter? That the only thing that matters is the final outcome?

Not according to Apple. That’s why the tech giant has a great system for keeping the employees motivated, no matter how hard the times may be. If you see that your team is trying hard despite the challenging circumstances, reward them for their effort. Don’t wait to see the final results. Show that you appreciate their hard work.

If you reward them for trying to reach a goal, even though they may have missed it, they’ll work 10 times as hard to make sure they achieve the target the next time. That’s how human psychology works. And Apple knows this hack. The trick is that you can motivate people by rewarding them in advance. They now have all the reasons to work hard and do their best.

Make a Game Out of It

There’s something strange about human beings. When we play, we like challenges. But in real life, we’re often afraid of them. Great managers know how to turn everything into a game. If you do it right, it can relax your employees and boost their motivation.

There’s one great example of work/play that comes from Dunkin’ Donuts. If you’ve ever worked in the food industry, you know how stressful it can get. The shifts are busy and there are always a lot of customers waiting for you to serve them. At the same time, you also have to make sure the shelves are always well-stocked with fresh products.

One of the managers turned this into a game in the form of a challenge for the employees. He challenged them to keep the shelves full during the whole shift, and he offered incentives to those who manage to do so.

Employees no longer saw it as a tedious task they had to do. Through this game, the manager successfully made them change their attitude towards work. Their mindset also changed as a result and they started approaching work with more enthusiasm than ever before.

Games aren’t only for restaurant employees, either. You can implement gamification on every level of your company. You just have to create something your employees will like. Of course, at the end of the game, you should reward the winners in some way. Everyone will feel even more motivated the next time. Hard Times Produce Great Leaders

As they say, it’s easy to keep your employees motivated when everything is going smoothly. But to be a real leader is to be able to do so even when you’re going through a tough time. It’s an ideal opportunity to test your methods and learn more about yourself and your employees.

How we can help

And if you need a hand, we’re here to help you overcome these challenges. Contact us today to find out how working with a business coach can elevate your company.

Find a Coach Blog Cover


Written by ActionCOACH April 17, 2024
ActionCOACH is recognised as the creator and most successful practitioner of business and executive coaching methodology that offers owners and managers a new perspective on their businesses and companies.