With the challenging economy these days, where companies are losing money and people are being downsized, a very important question I get asked is, “How can I, as a leader, motivate my people in these tough times?” I think there are three things you can do.
The first thing you need to do is to be a bearer of hope. That doesn’t mean you don’t talk about the truth of the present reality, but hope is so important. When our company was facing its toughest year, our CEO, Tom McKee, got out in front of all of the employees and told them the reality of the situation and how much we were down from the year before. But then he said, “I think we can come out of this. We’re going to do it.” He was a bearer of hope.
The second thing you need to do is to involve your people as your business partners. After Tom spoke, the next day we had a massive brainstorming session that involved all 300 of our employees in small groups, coming up with ideas of how to cut costs and increase revenues. Your people have knowledge—make them your business partners and tap into that resource.
The final thing you need to do is to always remember to be a servant leader. I so believe in that. This is not the time as a leader to be self-centered and worried about yourself or your own job. It’s a time to reach out to your people and encourage them, serve them, and be with them. So be bearers of hope, involve your people as your business partners, and be ready to serve—not to be served—as a leader.