From Hopeless to Champion
- LISA EARLE MCLEOD
Periods of low-morale on the executive team are the ultimate silent killer, as leaders are often expected to keep everyone else motivated during the good and not-so-good times. Gallup estimates that there are 22 million actively disengaged employees costing the American economy as much as $450 billion to $550 billion dollars per year in lost productivity. Disengagement on a leadership team can cause an expensive, contagious ripple effect. Before the organization’s success is jeopardized, how can executive leaders recognize low-morale and make the necessary adjustments to boost their leadership team?
Have you noticed an increase in employee turnover? Or maybe a lack of urgency and focus to reach goals? Are employees taking longer breaks, frequently missing work, or becoming increasingly more critical or cynical? These are symptoms of a team that suffers from low morale. When an individual is unmotivated, they may display a lack of focus, increased absence, general change in demeanor and mood towards colleagues, lack of participation, or an overall decline in work quality.
It’s critical as a leader to be close enough with the people you lead that you will notice signs of disengagement before valuable employees find a new organization to work for. Employees spend the majority of their day at work and they care about having relationships with their leader and their colleagues. The stronger the relationships, the more likely the person will stay at an organization. 55% of workers who feel their employer cares about their well-being want to stay at their company for 10 years or more vs. 33% who don’t believe their company cares. Leaders who take time to develop trusting relationships with their teams are more likely to hear the truth about what’s causing disengagement.
Factors Causing Decreased Morale:
- Lack of training and/or an onboarding process
- Blanket recognition – “We are all doing a great job.”
- Too many responsibilities
- Not enough responsibilities
- Boredom/outgrowing current role
- Lack of transparency
- Unclear communication
- Not addressing poor performance and behavior issues
- No support for employee ideas
- Executive Leader Sabotage
- Lack of company values, or connection between those values and the work being done
- Lack of social support or work relationships
Restore the Hopeful State
At the end of the day, people just want to do meaningful work that makes a difference. The leaders in our organizations want to be able to see their impact and to be relied on to support the overall success of the company. Employees need to feel that their work is important and that they are valuable to the organization.
To align daily work to meaningful outcomes we suggest the executive leader break the organization’s annual goals down by quarter and assign ownership of those goals to the leadership team members. Each team leader and members can then decide what actions they will be responsible for to achieve the goal. Individuals can work with their leaders to monitor and measure progress. At the end of each quarter, review the progress and celebrate wins, while also reflecting and planning actions for the next quarter.
Employees Want to be Heard
Putting employee ideas in place is good for morale and good for the company’s success. The person closest to the job often knows how to best improve the process and may develop a sense of pride in doing so. Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work according to a Salesforce report. People will tell you what they need if you listen for it – collecting and acting on employee feedback boosts morale and productivity.
Boost Team Morale in 4 Steps:
Determine the Cause of Disengagement
- Does the leader have a situation outside of work that is distracting them? Are there toxic employees in the work environment whose behavior needs to be addressed? Does the leader no longer enjoy their job role? Spend the time to ask your team what is causing their disengagement and how, as their executive leader, you can be helpful.
- Quickly address those who violate values or display poor performance. Not addressing low performers or bad attitudes decreases team morale.
- Take time to get to know each member of your leadership team individually on a personal level. When the time comes to talk about disengagement, a strong, trusting relationship will make this conversation honest and productive.
- Connect with your leadership team regularly to build trust and monitor progress towards goals. Use a visual tool such as a scorecard to show the progress the team is making.
Connect Work to Meaningful Outcomes
- What does your organization value? What is the impact of the organization to its community? How do people benefit from your product or service? Why do employees come to work each day? Share these stories with your teams regularly. People want to know they make a difference. Take time to connect your teams to the difference they make.
- Appreciate and recognize employee contributions. Who went above and beyond to exceed customer expectations? What did that look like?
- Open meetings by allowing each person 1 minute to share a weekly or monthly win.
Are the Right People in the Right Seats?
- Employees experience burnout when they have mastered the skills needed for their role or feel like they are no longer challenged or are being developed.
- Based on the members of your leadership team, their strengths and aspirations, identify if there are team members who should move into different roles
- If the right people are in the right seats, seek ways to provide your team with additional opportunities, development experiences, and greater ownership and flexibility to implement their ideas. Morale increases when individuals are empowered to take ownership.
Let Work be Fun Where Appropriate
- Incorporate friendly competitions or incentives to exceed goals.
- Celebrate work anniversaries, birthdays, and important milestones in people’s lives such as a new family member or accomplishment. Don’t forget to include anniversaries of company milestones. They’re a great opportunity to reconnect to the organization’s mission.
- Ask employees what types of work perks are important to them. Do they prefer an extra PTO day, a gift certificate, or flexible work environments? The best perk is one that is meaningful to the person receiving it.