Re-igniting your team’s ambition
Here’s how it normally looks this time of year. We’re enjoying the last week of the summer break and feeling energised as thoughts of that ‘back to school’ time start to appear. Time spent with loved ones, a few weeks rest in the Mediterranean sun, awash with social activities that have reengaged our zest for life.
Does this sound familiar? Yes. Does it sound recent? Not likely.
Eighteen months of pandemic and another ‘alternative’ summer period, things are different once again. For many of us who had been running on almost empty batteries before summer, a staycation or holidays caged in rules and regulations, vaccination debates, covid tests, passenger locator forms and NHS ‘’pings’ mean that returning to the office fully charged is far from reality.
Yet with the economy facing rebound and the Bank of England raising its estimate for growth in 2022 to the fastest pace seen since the second world war, many of the leaders I work with are determined for their business to bounce back strongly and grow.
This raises a conundrum. How then do you get your team fired up and ambitious for growth, when their batteries are still far from full and struggling to retain their charge? Here are eight things to get you started.
- Learn from the past. If your company was in business after the last economic crash, learn from that experience. What did you do as the tide started to turn and what did you learn? How did your employees react? What initiatives proved to be time wasters and what really shifted things up a gear?
- Lead with empathy and understanding. Some of us are energised by new challenges and delivering the next big result. Some of us are more cautious or prefer a calm, structured atmosphere with more stability. We all have varying elements of these preferences, as do most teams (it is what makes us and our teams well balanced). Don’t be too quick to write people off if they don’t immediately seize your appetite for forward momentum and pace. Now is the time to tap into your listening skills and provide an environment where people feel comfortable speaking up. Respect differing preferences for pace, explain the big picture, and then get clear about what it means for them specifically. Convey your expectations clearly and specifically and give them time to process information.
- Focus on what’s changing, and what’s not. In times of disruption and change it’s a natural response to want to hold on to something stable. It might be something tangible (e.g. office space) or something less so (e.g. your business values), but think about where you can find nuggets of stability in the mass of change. It could even be something small, yet meaningful such as a commitment to (virtual) team breakfasts every Monday. As a leader don’t just communicate what’s changing but remind people about what’s staying the same.
- Get your ask clear. It is not unheard of for suggestions or ideas from the top to be taken as instructions, particularly if they are delivered with passion and keen-ness. Be aware of your role as leader and consider how your communication might be received at different levels. Words weigh more with seniority. Be intentional with your communication and be clear what you need your people to do. Do you want their views and input, or do you want action? Be crystal clear, always.
- Engage your team in thinking about what the future looks like. Get them to imagine themselves in two years time, once the next phase of growth has been achieved. What will they be doing? What opportunities will they be ceasing? What might be different that they need to prepare or develop themselves for? It will bring you unparalleled insight into what needs to happen from the ground up, generate a wealth of ideas and build buy in for your ambition.
- Refocus your team purpose. If you’re not returning to full office working, think about what elements of your culture gets people fired up and motivated. Are you a competitive group for example? Set an exhilarating corporate BHAG and focus around it. Talk about it regularly and celebrate together. David Burkus maintains that people don’t want to just be in a company, they want to be part of something bigger; a crusade, a fight, a purpose worth rallying around. That’s where real drive, motivation and most successful teams stem from. What is the cause your company is fighting for?
- Find ways to recognise your team so they feel appreciated. Three in five employees are intending to make changes to their careers a survey by Aviva found as a result of their experiences during the pandemic. Value those you have. Really value them, because the loss of even an average employee carries a financial impact of over £30,614. When businesses grow, it is easy for the priority to be on hiring, rather than nurturing those already in the team. And all too often, retention only becomes a focus as a consequence of high turnover. The best companies optimise the balance between retaining and developing their current team and drawing in the best, new talent. So keep one eye on your existing people, find out what really matters to them and reward them with what they are really worth to you, now.
- Bring your team together, safely, if you can. An off-site can boost communication, creativity, understanding and a sense of community. Never more has there been a need for togetherness.
There are no tried and tested instruction manuals on how to grow your business post-pandemic, when your team have set-in exhaustion and are still working semi remotely. So, be prepared to get things wrong and adapt and learn incrementally.
Focus on building the culture and behaviours you need and leading with the principles that you want to grow with. Do this, and your team will follow.
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