Q: I lead a very talented team but morale is low due to issues with our company’s performance, layoffs and lack of communication from our executive team. I think there’s a decent vision for the future, but confidence is low. What can I do to help rally them while our company turns around? — Alisa, 46, director, service strategy
A: Realistically, you are facing a lot of flight risk.
Top performers have options, and if they believe your company is circling the drain, they may well choose to move on. It’s up to you to attract them to stay.
Put yourself in your team’s shoes. Dig deep to understand why you want to stay. Your rationale is probably a combination of things, but others need to hear your authentic reasons.
Much of your case relies on a promising future. What leads you to have hope? What do you like about the new vision? Be specific — being able to articulate reasons for your support will drive your ability to communicate with your team.
Then create links between current problems and the future direction that will entice people to stay. It is genuinely inspiring to be part of the solution to complex problems.
Here, too, you will need to be specific. If your company performance was tied to poor sales, explain how the new vision addresses that. Perhaps it addresses quality issues. Then show how your team has a role.
Balance this with honesty about the continued challenges you anticipate. More happy talk will undermine their confidence in the positive parts of your message.
You will notice that these steps are designed to fill in the communication gaps from your executive team. This is what they should be doing.
Spend a lot of time talking with your team members individually and as a group. They will raise issues you haven’t thought of. Take them seriously, share any information you can, and dig for answers to important questions.
Keep an eye on their day-to-day situations. Often with layoffs, the remaining teams get overburdened picking up the slack. Be their advocate.
Find ways to reward them. You probably don’t have much financial flexibility, but push management to consider some targeted bonuses to show appreciation for team members’ loyalty.
Give them opportunities for learning and development. Sometimes when companies are having problems, there is actually too little work to do, which causes its own stress. In this case, authorize work time for additional training.
Encourage them to explore their options. You want to them to choose to stay, not feel trapped.
The team really is the thing. People come to work to be part of something. Yes, we need paychecks, but great jobs I’ve had include being part of great teams. Even in tough times, it’s hard to walk away from a place where people feel appreciated, valued, respected and liked.