Complacency is costly. It gives the brain too much time to think about how the world (or their job) might be imploding. Keeping team members focused and progressing, seeing and experiencing momentum, is the key to keeping them engaged and productive. 

Use the following ten strategies to keep your team focused and progressing –virtually, and in person:  

Communicate A Clear Mission and Goals

All games need clearly defined rules and rewards. The same is true for your team. Lack of clear and compelling goals lead to energy killers like gossip, hoarding information, and disengagement. Your team needs to know what success looks like, and how their individual contributions add to the teams success. 

One of my personal favorite team missions is the one Menlo Innovations keeps plucking away at, even in the midst of the pandemic– “to end human suffering as it relates to software.”

Reduce Fear By Increasing Cheer

Perhaps you’ve heard the parable about the two wolves? In case you haven’t…

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

The human brain is primed to look for the negative. Help your team keep focused on progress by appreciating their talents, effort, and results. Something as simple as… 

“Your attention to detail on that contract was excellent. Thank you!.” 

… goes a long way toward keeping momentum going.

Listen. Really Listen

Through listening to your team member’s struggles, fears, and aspirations, you gain access to ways you can be of support. Hearing where they are and where they want to go (a.k.a. what exciting momentum looks like) is key to keeping them focused and progressing.

Excellence in listening is what separates those with a leadership title from those who influence excellence, foster momentum, and retain loyal followers (a.k.a. employees). 

“Real communication means more listening than talking. It’s not pronouncements on a videotape, it’s not announcements in a newspaper. It is human beings coming to see and accept things through a constant interactive process aimed at consensus. And it must be absolutely relentless.” — Jack Welch

A Case For Momentum

Ten years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency had a problem with productivity. Employees were standing around the water cooler talking about how they might lose their job. As a result, they weren’t doing their job. Just nine months later, their productivity problem was solved. The key to their success was listening to the problems people were facing, asking for suggestions, repeating back what they heard, and then implementing the ideas offered by the team. Brilliant. 

Consider forming facilitated teams throughout your organization to find the good ideas. That way the facilitator can make certain that good ideas are synthesized and brought forward.

Over Communicate, Especially When Fear Is High

In the absence of information, humans make up stories. Those stories are often worse than reality, and will prevent your employees from doing their best work. Instead, they’ll wind up wasting time worrying about the worst. You can avoid this wasted energy by communicating everything you can about what’s happening.  

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to communicating, here are a few ideas to consider: tell your team what you know, tell them what you don’t know, remind them about the direction the organization is headed, and acknowledge small wins.  

Cultivate Connection Virtually

Being in a virtual environment, with little access to community, is tough for most of us. Connecting with colleagues creates momentum and excitement to continue reaching success together. 

Bring your team together for a few quick minutes on Zoom every morning, and strengthen relationships between them by making the conversations a little more personal. Icebreaker questions help greatly in this process. 

Kristina Bouweiri, CEO of Reston Limousine, said that a few months after starting these daily meetings her employees said that they were actually getting to know each other better than when they were in an office together. 

Zoom happy hours are also a big hit, especially when the leadership team adds fun and generosity to the mix. Kristina has food delivered to her employees homes once a month. Playing games and enjoying their favorite foods together in a virtual setting has not only strengthened employee morale, but improved bottom line results.  

Demonstrate Care

Have you ever received a call from your boss or your boss’s boss, asking how you are doing after a surgery or some other difficult situation?  If not, perhaps you’ve heard a friend share about the experience. They (or perhaps you) hang up feeling like you’re more than just an employee… you actually feel like you matter as a person. 

Nearly everyone wants to work for a company who cares about them as a person. Though many leaders avoid checking in on their employees because they don’t know what to say if their employee isn’t doing well. 

If your leadership team doesn’t know anything about the challenges your employees are facing, your company is missing out on a highly motivated and engaged team. Productivity and profitability suffer when leaders fail to demonstrate care. 

Offer Candid Feedback

If it’s hard for your employees to know what they’re doing that works (and doesn’t work) when they’re in the office, it’s ten times more difficult in a virtual environment. Many leaders struggle with what and how to give the feedback, especially during this pandemic. Yet, everyone needs feedback to get better results.   

The top three keys to giving candid feedback are: 

  1. Look at the problem together, not the person as the problem. You reduce defensiveness when you focus on the problem together. Perhaps more training or resources are needed. 
  2. Spend 80% of your time giving positive feedback. Making a habit of pointing out what they do well helps to decrease fear.  
  3. Be specific and timely in delivering feedback. Be clear about what’s not working, offer specific suggestions for improvement, and do it as close to the moment as possible. 

As you incorporate these ideas, momentum will build, collaboration will increase, and issues with employee morale will fade away. Drive your team to think in terms of forward thinking, progress, growth, and collaboration. They will reward you with profitable activity.  

Here’s To Your Greatness, 

Misti Burmeister  

Misti Burmeister has been solving people problems and empowering leaders for nearly 20 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Help your team reach its highest potential at https://www.MistiBurmeister.com