We don’t know when, we don’t know how, and we’re not even exactly sure what the new reality will look like. But at a certain point, this too shall pass, and organizations will be in growth mode.
The question is, who do you want standing beside you when this is over?
There’s no denying, we’re in the throes of an economic crisis. A recession is defined as a fall in the GDP for two successive quarters. I’ve written about why this is a defining moment for brands. It’s also a defining moment for teams and leaders. How you lead at this moment is going to determine what type of team you have coming out of this.
We’re already seeing indications that as the economy opens, it’s not going to be business as usual again. It’s going to be a challenge. To tackle this challenge you want a team that is coming out of this standing tall, arms locked, stronger and even more confident than they were two months ago. I call this kind of team, a “Tribe of True Believers.” These are the people who believe in each other, and your organization, and who will go to the ends of the earth to help the team succeed.
There are three things you can do right now that will strengthen your team, and help you build your own Tribe of True Believers who are ready to step up for the challenge ahead:
No one is motivated to improve when they feel hopeless. Build resilience in your team by reminding them of when they and others have done hard things in the past. Did you stay solvent during the recession, did you fail and come back, did one of your team members survive a car accident? If someone could do that, you can do this. As a leader, it’s tempting to look at where your team might be falling short. Yet we’ve seeing clear evidence that ordinary people are rising to the occasion. Point to those people, and say things like, “If New York nurses can walk into the face of death and suffering every day, we can step it up for our organization.” It might sound dramatic, but the neuroscience (and our own personal experience) tells us that seeing other people overcome the odds, gives us the confidence we can do so as well. Don’t shy away from the fact, and it’s authentic to admit, you don’t know exactly how this will play out. But in the face of uncertainty, you can build resilience, by reminding your team together we can do hard things.
When I was writing Leading with Noble Purpose, I interviewed several combat veterans to better understand what enabled them to do their best when things were at their worst. It came down to two things, commitment to the team and belief in a cause bigger than themselves. This crisis has made it clear; we’re all connected. Each of our actions has a direct impact on others. As a leader, you can amp up your team’s connections by lifting up positive actions and describing how they impacted other teammates and customers. A banking client of ours has moved heaven and earth to help their customers. One of their team members, who has been working 16-hour days said, “When this is over, I’m not eating lunch at my desk anymore. I can’t wait to get into the break room, with you people.” On your next Zoom call, ask them to look into each other’s eyes and say thank you. You might be surprised at the reaction. When we did this with one team, several people cried. That’s OK. It shows that they really care.
People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Helping your company survive economically is important, but if you want your team to double down and step into this challenge together, they need more. Your team needs to know that work has meaning and that they make a difference. A Tribe of True Believers believes in the dignity of their business. They know that their work improves life for others, and that the way they treat each other and your customers has a lasting impact.
No one comes out of a crisis the same, they either emerge stronger or they emerge weaker. There’s not a lot you can do about the economic conditions, but you can determine how you and your team responds. If you focus on building the strength of your tribe, you can emerge from this with a group of true believers, a team ready to lock arms and go to the ends to be successful.