With the recession finally in our rearview mirror (so they say), most companies are finally beginning to get back to business. But the past year has left its mark: many employees are in a funk. They are fearful, overworked, distrustful and have less enthusiasm and passion than ever. And many leaders are continually frustrated by their team's performance, low morale and engagement. The answer, says author Jon Gordon, doesn't involve fancy technology, a new piece of equipment or extensive R&D. In fact, the answer lies in a basic human emotion: motivation.
Gordon isn't advocating for a mass hiring of motivational speakers to address America's sluggish workforce. In fact, he says that motivational speeches don't work. "But," he explains, "Leaders who motivate do. Now, more than ever, a leader's job is to motivate and rally his or her team through challenging times. You can't outsource motivation. It is the leaders and managers who must motivate."
Gordon continues, "Most business leaders want to take the emotion out of business, but that is a huge mistake. When fear and negativity are the primary emotions people in your organization are feeling, you have to counter that with an even more powerful emotion, such as faith, belief and optimism. And your success in that depends on your ability to motivate." He explains that motivation has long been considered a soft skill that was hard to quantify. But what leaders are realizing is that it's quickly becoming a vital part of their everyday job descriptions.
Nobody knows this better than Gordon. In 2007, Gordon released “The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy” with low sales and little acclaim. A business fable, with strategies for overcoming adversity and negativity and bringing out the best in your team, the book saw its largest jump in sales this past year, becoming a WSJ bestseller when the economy was at its worst. Why? Because businesses everywhere were struggling, and their leaders were looking for answers.
In his books, Gordon gives leaders the tools they need to take their teams through tough times. Some strategies he offers to motivate your people (and get the results you want) are:
Lead with optimism. The engine for America's growth and prosperity has always been its "can do" attitude and spirit. Unfortunately, in the past year, optimism has been in short supply. Between the doom and gloom media coverage, the workplace rumor mill and the overall uncertainty of the economy, it seems that pessimism has become the name of the game. Gordon says that, as a leader, your most important weapon against pessimism is to transfer your optimism and vision to others. This inspires others to think and act in ways that drive results.
"Leadership is a transfer of belief – and great leaders inspire their teams to believe they can succeed," he explains. "As a leader and manager, you are not just leading and managing people, but you are also leading and managing their beliefs. You must utilize every opportunity available to transfer your optimism. Optimism is a competitive advantage, and you need to convey it in all you say and do. As one of the greatest American innovators, Henry Ford said, ‘Think you can or think you can't – either way, you are correct.’”
Share the vision. It's not enough to just be optimistic. You must give your team and organization something to be optimistic about. Talk about where you have been, where you are and where you are going. Share your plan for a brighter and better future, talk about the actions you must take, and constantly reiterate the reasons why you will be successful.
"Create a vision statement that inspires and rallies your team and organization," Gordon suggests. "Not a page-long vision statement filled with buzzwords, but a rallying cry that means something to the people who invest a majority of their day working for you. This vision statement can't just exist on a piece of paper. It must come to life in the hearts and minds of your employees. So it's up to you to share it, reinforce it and inspire your people to live and breathe it every day. A positive vision for the future leads to powerful actions today."