Maintaining Employee Morale: Leading Through Crisis

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“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over the last few months, we have seen the world come together to contain the global pandemic taking the world by storm. COVID-19 has created a new temporary normal for economic and social system. This new normal includes closed schools, companies shifting to remote work, and an emphasis on putting the greater good above individual needs.

On a daily basis, the resilience of leadership teams is being tested and challenged – global supply chains must be reconfigured, investors must be assuaged, new public health recommendations must be followed, and the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 must be considered. Amid all this change, we as leaders must remember something that hasn’t changed, and that  is  the  importance  of showing gratitude for our employees whose engagement, dedication, and loyalty is critical during times of uncertainty.

People Follow People

During a time of great uncertainty having your employees’ buy-in is crucial, but autocratic decision-making and a heavy hand will not win you your people’s trust or loyalty. In the Art of War, Sun Tzu emphasizes one of the most basic human principles – people follow people. Perhaps you won’t be treating every employee as if they’re your actual child, but that shouldn’t stop you from treating everyone with kindness, compassion, and dignity.

Showing grace through authenticity and transparency during difficult times is key for mobilizing and maintaining trust amongst your workforce. Leaders are humans too, we don’t always have all of the answers, but we should always treat our employees with kindness, compassion, and dignity.

Boost Employee Morale with Gratitude

When all our systems are under fire, it’s easy to forget to communicate gratitude. However, during times like these, a simple “thank you” goes a long way. You would be hard-pressed to find an employee who isn’t concerned about the personal and professional ramifications of COVID-19. Therefore, when you take the time to recognize the efforts of a colleague, you create a small reminder of the social principle that we are stronger together than we are apart. Your simple gesture will likely inspire and remind your team to show gratitude to other colleagues. It doesn’t take much time or effort, but the beneficial and grounding impact of saying “thank you” can be exponential in times of unpredictability.

Celebrate Small and Big Wins

Many of our teams are working remotely, which can present a challenge to realizing when a colleague or employee has gone above and beyond. As a leader it’s important to understand that your idea of a win may need to shift to accommodate the realities of today. Some of those bigger projects that your team has spent months on may be on hold. Instead of waiting for that month-long project to come to fruition recognize a small step forward as the win. It may not be what you originally had in mind, and that is okay. It’s more important to acknowledge when your team does good work and makes progress than to remain rigid in your principle of what should be considered a win. Your team will appreciate the recognition and will be inspired to keep moving forward despite what’s going on globally.

As we continue to navigate the fluid and dynamic situation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, remember that remaining resilient in the face of uncertainty is crucial to leading your team successfully and maintaining employee morale. By focusing on human connection, practicing gratitude, and celebrating small victories your leadership example will help your team band together and become stronger.

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