Few organisations have been untouched by the economic downturn and even those that are doing well now find that their budgets are tight and that staff feel they are being asked to do more and more for less and less. Continued economic uncertainty and rapid change put real pressures on managers. Cynicism amongst staff needs to be countered effectively by managers. This means that leadership is especially challenging.
At the heart of your leadership capability is your capacity for motivating staff. This begs the question – with high levels of uncertainty how do you do this?
First, set goals for your operation; positive, stretching and challenging goals that will drive people forward. Increasing our market share by 15% is much more appealing than to cut our costs by 15% so really ask yourself about the motivational effect of the goals you choose. Vaulting ambition should probably be avoided as it is likely to have a negative effect of staff many of whom are watching the news very closely for signs of further economic trouble. Above all, give people something to achieve as success breeds success.
Question for you: What is the motivational effect on staff of the goals that I am setting – is it positive or negative?
Second, go out of your way to recognise and reward achievement at divisional, team and individual levels. Your leeway on financial reward may be limited but as a leader your recognition of achievement on people has a disproportionate effect on motivation. Just remember the impact your bosses last praise of your work had on you. Don’t hold back but avoid bland meaningless statements like “you are doing well” and pinpoint your recognition for example “your handling of customer X’s complaint was first class because it was timely and sorted the problem”.
Question for you: Am I recognising and rewarding achievement enough and am I using all means at my disposal?
Third, increase people’s responsibility levels in line with their achievements and capabilities. But hold on a minute, you said people are already feeling over stretched! OK avoid over burdening people but give them more scope and decision making authority to show that they are trusted. Avoid, at all costs, micro managing people with petty bureaucratic controls over their behaviour as all that does is to say to them that are not to be trusted! You can increase responsibility levels by loosening controls where people have proved that they can be trusted.
Question: Are the responsibility levels I set for my people in line with their achievements and capabilities or am I limiting them with too many petty controls?
The economic climate puts your leadership skills to the test. Focusing on the goals you set, the recognition you give for achievement and the responsibility levels you provide will enable you to boost your impact in these very uncertain times.