All companies go through periods of greater success as well as challenging times. It's a part of the natural ebb and flow of economic reality. And when times are tough, company leaders need to find ways to motivate their team to beat the slump - not beat THEM up.
When times are tough and business is a little slower than usual, employees begin to worry about job security. This is the moment for a company leader to be strategic about how they communicate with the team. Employees may start looking around for other opportunities if they sense that the company is in trouble. Beating up on them and making them feel as though they aren't making any meaningful contribution to the company is a sure way to watch them leave. This doesn't help your company recover faster. It slows the process down by creating a need to invest in training new people.
Instead, try taking a balanced approach. Here are three things you can do to inspire your workforce to work harder for you while still communicating the urgency of the situation.
1. Strike the Appropriate Tone. Hold a meeting where you paint a true picture of the challenges facing the company. With all challenges come opportunities - be sure to point these out as well. Strike a calm, practical and confident tone. Your team will appreciate your honesty while still understanding the need for everyone to give more than they have been giving.
2. Value Everyone Equally. Make sure to highlight the good work that each and every department has been doing, placing equal emphasis on the value of everyone to the company's success thus far. If your people begin to feel as if you don't value their contributions or that they are easily replaceable, they will become demotivated and demoralized. You don't need to paint any false picture of rosiness; just be sure to make sure each member of your team understands their value to the continuing success of the company.
3. Build in Accountability. Create specific, detailed benchmarks, goals and objectives for each department and/or member of the team. Be sure to collaborate with each department and/or team member in order to ensure the goals are attainable, and that there is buy-in and ownership on the part of your employees. As part of the goal setting process, build in dates and times at which the team member or department will be expected to deliver on them as well as report on their progress to the larger team. This will create clear expectations and allow team members to have a roadmap for their own success.
Remember, when company leaders create an environment of fear and scarcity, employees will begin to act on that fear - fear of losing their job, fear of work drying up, etc. Conversely, when company leaders create an environment of hope, framed within clear expectations of hard work, employees will also act accordingly.
All companies experience shifting economic realities. And leaders have a choice - will you create fear and demoralize your team? Or will you LEAD them back down a path of renewed success?

Author's Bio: 

Ellen Patnaude is Senior Vice President of Corporate Events at The Leader's Institute, a soft-skills training company focusing on team building, public speaking and leadership development. She is the author of a book titled "They Called Me 'The Ugly American Girl'" and writes for several blogs. For free brochures, tips and information, visit our website at Ellen is based in the Detroit area and travels worldwide for her clients.