Everyone was ready and worked to solve daily challenges, and together, we found new and faster ways to solutions. To many, this even helped strengthen the company’s purpose and priorities, perhaps even your personal purpose of working for that specific company. To others, it was a fight for survival. But after the first few months, we all began to realise that this would be a long-term crisis. And now, the effect of crisis management is no longer enough.
This is no longer crisis management but transformation leadership
First and foremost, it is essential that we do not regard the current situation as a phase or period after which everything will return to normal. The extreme degree of unpredictability and uncertainty caused by the Corona crisis is likely a state here to stay. This means we now have the opportunity and the obligation to use this time to practice a leadership style and work form that fit this new normal. If we and our employees are to be able to navigate a condition of unpredictability, uncertainty and higher change frequency, we first and foremost have to accept and embrace what is and leave what was behind. Only then will we be able to direct our energy in new directions.
The new normal requires a far more flexible and adaptive approach to leadership and work. We still have to be able to define visions and targets, but we also have to constantly adapt to the daily realities, both with respect to the long-term vision and the more immediate targets. For this to succeed, all employees will have to be committed and able to use and develop their professional and personal competencies every day if we are to accommodate the continuous changes we face. It is therefore crucial that our motivation and commitment are nourished. And it is your job as a manager to help your employees find the nourishment for their personal motivation and commitment.
But this is easier said than done in a time where we are experiencing a growing sense of fatigue, after 12 months since the start of the pandemic. Some days, it can be enough of a challenge to motivate yourself. We are seeing and sensing that many of the conventional leadership tools are not working right now. Our recommendations for what can nourish motivation at the workplace, for both you and your employees, will require us to look inwards.
Self-insight is crucial
Our experience with leadership during the pandemic has shown that those individuals, both leaders and employees, who possess solid self-insight are able to activate their own inner motivation far better than those individuals with less self-insight. A good place to start listening is therefore within yourself: How are you feeling in these times? How is your own motivation level, and what could improve this? Use these reflections as a starting point for informal dialogues with your employees. Show vulnerability to receive openness.
Set realistic and present ambitions for you and your team
The next step is to review your ambition as a leader in this current context. In 2020, most of us have adjusted our business ambitions and objectives for 2021. But as leaders, we also need to revise our ambitions for our leadership. An ambition that should be present and make sense. You can find it by identifying the most important leadership result you want to achieve within the next three months. What will it take for your team to be motivated and committed? Now? Once the pandemic has loosened its grip, or when the next major change causes uncertainty?
Once you have defined your ambition, break it down into specific and achievable short-term targets. And once they have been defined, ask yourself what you want to achieve this week and today. Experience shows that, if ambition is too distant in the future or too ambitious, we tend to not do anything about it today. In the meantime, we wear out our motivation. Realising weekly objectives, on the other hand, nourish our motivation. Both as a manager and as an employee.
Accommodate your employees’ individual core needs
Recent months have made it clear to us that we are different and have different preferences, both as individuals and as employees. We have realised that motivation is highly individual and should be addressed individually. We would therefore recommend you to view your employees as the individuals they are and consequently plan an effort and support that fit their core needs. We all have six core needs that are particularly challenged during major changes. If we can identify the 1-2 core needs dominant with our employees, we can target our efforts to accommodate them.
When our core needs are threatened, we react by protecting ourselves, e.g. by resisting. By taking your employees’ core needs into account, you can minimise their resistance to change and strengthen their motivation and commitment.
Core needs can be identified by observing what your employees talk about and what they focus on. If your employee is talking a lot about whether or not he or she is able to become sufficiently involved, this could be a sign that “influence” is a core need for this employee.