Every organization faces adversity at times, and in today’s volatile economy, it’s more likely than ever. Leaders and managers have a pivotal role to play in keeping employees engaged and motivated in the face of tough times and company policies that may go against the interests of the employees themselves. Leaders can do this by maintaining their own composure,
remaining decisive and optimistic, and keeping the lines of communication open with employees.
Stories are important tools managers and leaders can use to help employees remain courageous and motivated in the face of adversity. Stories about previous instances in which you, the organization, or another person prevailed over hardship can bring out the inner heroes and heroines in your employees, and give them the strength to face their own fears and challenges.
Maintain Your Composure
When your company is facing difficult times, especially if those times necessitate policies that don’t sit well with your employees, your team members will take their response cues from you. Remain calm and composed — showing fear, uncertainty or panic will only make your employees more uneasy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t express concern for your employees; you should. It just means that you should keep your emotions in check.
Keep a positive attitude and look for the opportunities buried in the crisis. Managing adversity well is just as much about maintaining a positive attitude and moving forward fearlessly as it is about good luck. Act decisively and maintain an aura of confidence, even when you don’t feel particularly confident. Stay accountable — take responsibility for solving problems that may arise in the organization. Always try to give your employees the impression that you have dealt with the same problems before, and that you will be able to solve them. Your composure and confidence will put your employees at ease and help them stay calm and composed too.
Inspire Your Workers
Stories of how you, the company, or others have prevailed against overwhelming odds can go a long way toward helping your employees feel strong and confident in the face of adversity. That’s why many companies engage history-making motivational speakers — individuals like Ben Saunders, Joby Ogwyn, Erik Weihenmayer, and Tim Howard, who have triumphed over staggering obstacles to accomplish great things — to speak at company events, conferences, and team-building exercises.
In between corporate events, you can keep your employees inspired by sharing stories of how you’ve overcome challenges in your own life, or how your company has come through dark or difficult times in its own past. You might choose to share stories of your company’s early days, when the organization was a struggling start-up. Or you might choose to talk with your employees about past ventures that failed before you started your current, more successful, company.
You may wish to seek out and share stories of ordinary people overcoming obstacles, or ask your employees to share the success stories of people they admire. Your employees might feel inspired, for example, by NPR’s interview with Nate Ruess, the lead singer of the band Fun., in which he discusses the many years of hardship he endured before he and his band finally made it big with their hit song “We Are Young.” Or, you might choose to share with your employees some inspirational books, like “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hseih, the story of clothing and shoe shipper Zappos’ long and winding road to success. Even just putting up inspirational quotes around the office can help employees summon the inner resources they need just to get through a day of work when times are hard.
Stories of sacrifice and success against incredible odds are often so powerful that many business leaders choose to share them whether or not the company is going through hard times. Sharing stories of the early days of your company and the sacrifices you’ve made to help it succeed can make a powerful impression on new hires.
When the company is facing hard times, employees can easily become demoralized. While most employees understand that tough times call for tough decisions, keeping hope alive can still be tough. You can help by maintaining your composure, keeping a positive attitude, and inspiring employees with stories of how others have succeeded in the face of difficult circumstances.