Occasionally, we all face periods when people seem to drift and drag as they carry out assignments and complete their work. As leaders, we want to lift their spirits and renew their energy, but may be at a loss to know what to do. The next time you find yourself in this position, consider one or more of these strategies:
- Find a way to give employees more control of the work. Can you delegate more aspects of the work? How about flexibility in timelines? Can you provide more autonomy in the processes to be used? Often just giving a little more authority and control can make a big difference.
- Take some time to visit and reflect on what is happening with employees. Often just talking through and building understanding of what is getting in the way can open paths to greater satisfaction and success. Meanwhile, your willingness to spend time and listen conveys an important message about your level of interest in and caring about them and their work.
- Check and adjust your own excitement. Sometimes, without realizing it, we send messages of doubt and discouragement to those around us. An adjustment in our attitude and approach can go a long way toward improving the work environment and motivation of those around us.
- Revisit, renew, and adjust objectives and expectations. It may be that the employees are feeling tired and stressed from objectives that no longer align with what they see around them. It could be that lifting or lowering expectations and opportunities to grow is just what’s needed. However, we cannot know what to do unless we ask.
- Find a way to “change the scenery.” Encourage employees to rearrange their workspaces—maybe change office locations. A deep cleaning and organization day can make a big difference in the motivation of many. Equally important, research shows that by making changes in our immediate surroundings can lead to changes in the way we think and our openness to new ideas and approaches.
- Find new and better ways to offer feedback and encouragement. Prescheduled performance reviews and check-ins are important, but they can become routine and lose their impact. Identify some new avenues to give feedback and reassure staff that you are paying attention and appreciate their work. It might be handwritten notes, informal “stop bys,” or a note written on a report or memo that you employ. Just be sure that it is timely, specific, and sincere.
- Talk with employees about their futures. Taking time to provide coaching and support regarding aspirations and opportunities to grow and further careers can provide hope and stimulate new perspectives on the work staff members are doing today. It can also give you ideas about how to position and encourage employees for meaningful and significant career advancement and opportunities.
This article originally appeared in an issue of our monthly publication NorthStar for Principals.