Team Motivation: How to Motivate Your Team Members in Uncertain Times.

Carol Vandable  |  October 30, 2022

Need Some Team Motivation?

Team Motivation How to Motivate Your Team Members in Uncertain Times Want a few tips about how to build team spirit when you hear words like “slow down,” recession, and uncertainty? You are not alone. Goldman Sachs published a report recently saying that 93% of small business owners fear a recession in the next year.

Uncertainty causes fear. Fear can lead to reduced morale and decreased job satisfaction. If you are a team leader and you do nothing to help, you may be inadvertently pouring fuel on the fire. In this post, we will give you a motivation strategy to help you develop happy employees — even during hard times.

In fact, if you use just a few of these new ideas, you can improve employee engagement. You can help your team feel that they are a part of a unique team culture and build loyalty and… dare I say… more of a family atmosphere.

Most Wealth Is Created During Hard Times.

Before I get into the tips to motivate your team during a recession, let’s explore the opportunities that a bad economy creates. Recessions (and depressions) often terror in the minds of most people.

I’m a history buff. I remember learning about The Great Depression in school, in movies, and from my Granddad. Each of these sources depicted the depression as an awful time when everyone became poorer. However, a few people become unbelievably wealthy during the Great Depression.

When the oil market crashed, J. Paul Getty bought oil interests for pennies on the dollar. This was at the dawn of the automobile age. So, his investment paid off many times over.

Howard Hughes built TWA (Trans World Airlines) into a multimillion-dollar company. Eventually, his twisted genius led to pressurized planes that could fly over the weather.

JFK’s dad, Joe Kennedy Sr., is another example. He was a stock speculator in the Roaring 20s. However, he received a lot of his income in commissions from other speculators. So, when the market crashed, he was sitting on a pile of money. He swooped in and bought real estate, companies, and investments for bargain-basement prices.

One of the best examples, though, is Michael Cullen. Cullen worked his way up to become a district manager for Kroger. He had a grand idea to create big grocery stores with huge parking lots. However, the executives at Kroker refused to act. I suspect that because of the uncertain times, they didn’t want to risk their nest egg.

Cullen acted, though. He quit his job and created the very first supermarket. By the time he passed away, he owned dozens of supermarkets.

Years later, Sam Walton did the same thing with Wal-Mart. Today, the fastest-growing retail stores are Dollar General.

Downturns in the Economy Cleans Out the Brush.

A downturn in the economy is similar to a forest fire. Forest fires are really, really bad, right? Well, not necessarily. According to the California Department of Forestry, “Fire removes low-growing underbrush, cleans the forest floor of debris, opens it up to sunlight, and nourishes the soil. Reducing this competition for nutrients allows established trees to grow stronger and healthier.”

Basically, forest fires help healthy trees become more healthy. However, unhealthy trees, weaker trees, are the first to go up in smoke.

Business act the same way in a recession. Strong businesses will suffer at the onset of a recession. But as the downturn deepens, competitors begin to fade away. The strong companies — the ones who are able to keep their teams motivated — will likely increase market share.

The key is to build your team collaboration before the fire. Otherwise, your company has a higher chance of going up in smoke. Small changes that you make now can have a big impact when the downturn ramps up.

When the economy is booming, anyone can succeed. In recent months we have heard terms like Quiet Quitting and Work-Life Balance. Wayfair, Microsoft, and Google have already started laying off employees. Want to guess what team members they are going to lay off first?

Yup. In the near future, upper management will begin to have to make tough decisions. They will ask themselves, “Who on my team does the best work? Who is my top talent?” You know what they won’t say? “Who on my team has the best work-life balance?”

Watch what happens in the next few months. Companies that have had countless articles written about their work-life culture will have the largest layoffs. They are at a significant competitive disadvantage. (Which creates an opportunity for you.)

Leaders Who Can Motivate Their Team Members During a Recession Have a Distinct Advantage in the Marketplace.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you should focus entirely on your work at the expense of your friends and family. In fact, it is quite the opposite. If you invest in your career, you will create the freedom to spend more time with your friends and family.

If you invest in your company and create a healthy work environment, you will develop motivated employees. Your company will be the place to go for career development. Team morale will skyrocket.

According to CNBC, Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank fame says it this way. “You’re going to be competing with tons of determined people who want to kick your ass. It’s a job 24-7. Get over it, and get ready for it.

“It’s not about the greed of money, it’s about the pursuit of personal freedom. If you’re successful… you will set yourself free, and that’s worth fighting for.”

Basically, hard work leads to success. When you make the extra effort, you are doing the things that your competitors won’t do. Your team members will see your work ethic. They see you having fun and enjoying life. They also see your freedom. Eventually, they will come to you to help them with their career path.

Here is how this can play out. When the recession hits, companies that overspent and that expanded too quickly will have to downsize. Short-term growth strategies will lead to long-term turmoil. These companies will lay off some of their employees. The ones that are left will feel anxiety. “I made it through that layoff, but what about the next one?”

Morale will drop. Fear will run rampant.

However, in companies that do things right, morale stays high. As the economy recovers, a company with a motivated team attracts higher-level team members.

How to Motivate Your Team During Uncertain Times.

Remember, slow and steady growth over time builds a more successful business and team. If you have made the mistake of growing quickly at the expense of building your team, the best ways to build a team culture that I outline below are even more critical. Rebuilding will not be an easy task. But you can still build morale and build the team culture to help your company recover more quickly.

For example, when the pandemic hit, the meeting and training industry was decimated overnight. Even though I had built my company in a slow and steady way, the uncertainty from the pandemic caused me to have to lay people off too. However, as the economy recovered, I was able to bring a lot of my best team members back. Most dropped what they were doing to rejoin the team. I like to think this occurred because of the team culture that we worked hard to create before times were tough.

You may have similar results if you build your team culture now.

Motivate Your Team by Setting a Common Team Goal.

The first thing you can do to motivate your team is to set common goals that require the participation of everyone on your team. What might be challenging by yourself tends to be a lot more fun when you are surrounded by a group of people working toward the same goal. You feed off the energy and enthusiasm of all the other participants.

When I was in high school and college, I played competitive sports. The offseason was always difficult. In the spring, we did a LOT of running. I hate running. Running is hard and takes a lot of effort. However, it was easier to run when my teammates were beside me, struggling too. We encouraged each other. We helped each other.

A good leader will also help his/her team members set personal goals that correspond to the team goal. Perhaps you can show them how they will get monetary rewards or accomplish their career goals if they help the team accomplish important goals as well.

Early on in my company, our revenue had plateaued for a couple of years. No matter what I did as the leader, we failed to break that invisible barrier. So, at the beginning of the next year, I set a team goal to break this record. I promised my team that if we beat the goal, I’d take the entire team on a cruise.

Then, I went to each team member individually to help each set clear goals for helping us get there. I didn’t focus on making the company better. Instead, I looked for effective ways to help team members improve their personal lives while helping the team.

We ended up demolishing the goal by July. In fact, we doubled our revenue. We also had a fantastic time on the cruise.

Add Friendly Competition to Team Projects.

Adding friendly competition to a project can also be a fun way to motivate your team. A big mistake that leaders sometimes make is thinking that to build a strong team, everyone must always be in sync. Sometimes, a little fun competition can get great results, though.

In October, since Halloween was coming up, we thought it would be fun to organize a company Candyland game. No, we didn’t clear out the conference room for a board game. Instead, we aligned the rules for the game with measurable goals for our team.

For example, when someone commented or shared something on LinkedIn three times in a week, they moved one space on the board. When a team member received good feedback from a customer, they moved five spaces. The rules were created to reinforce a few simple things that anyone could do to help the company accomplish its desired results.

Our clients also hire us to come in and help them with their team meetings.

For instance, when we do Build-A-Bike ® team-building activities, we divide the group into small teams. We make the teams think they are competing with each other. However, they discover along the way that if they work together, they accomplish more. These activities use competition as a fun employee motivation technique.

Be Generous with Your Praise

Another great way to ensure your team stays motivated is to be generous with your praise. A compliment that will validate what a person is doing. And even the most mundane task becomes fun. That validation then stimulates the brain to think of ways to make the outcome even better.

Let me give you an example. My daughter hates cleaning her room.

The process is painful for both of us. Recently though, I discovered that a simple word of praise worked wonders. She had just gone into her room and picked up several photographs lying on the floor. She decided to assemble them all into a collage.

As I walked by and observed this, instead of berating her for not staying focused on the task of cleaning, I commented on what a great idea that was. She then proceeded to frame it out of materials she had scattered about her room and hang it on her wall. After she completed this project, half the job of picking up the stuff she had scattered around was already finished.

She completed the rest of it in record time. And when I commented on that her response was that she had such fun making the collage that she couldn’t wait to get the rest of it done so that she could see how great her room would look. What a complete turn-around in her attitude, all because of one simple compliment.

You may create a similar effect with your team. When you praise good work, you get more good work. As your team members develop new skills that help the company become more productive, call attention to it. When you place a positive light on the great things that your team members do for you, you create a positive impact on morale!

Team Motivation Is Easier When You Build a Team Culture.

If your team is bogged down, has hit a wall, or lacks motivation, just try one or all of these different ways to build teamwork. Remember, though, that team building is not an activity — it is a process.

If your ultimate goal is to build a team of great leaders, then every member of your team will be a motivated employee. Set common team goals, add some friendly competition, then give positive feedback to your team. If you do this, you’ll come out of the recession on top!

For additional information, see Building a Team in a Challenging Economy. You may also like Do You really Know How to Motivate Your Team?

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Carol Vandable was an instructor for The Leader's Institute ® from 2011-2012. For more details, you can find her on LinkedIn.
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