“The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Don’t give up.” — Robert Tew

A relevant quote for these challenging times, wouldn’t you say? At the same time, though, when you’re the thick of it, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And, that’s what your team members are going through as though adjust to new working arrangements, worrying about their future, or trying to solve a complex problem.

That’s when you, as their fearless knight in shining armor, need to come in and inspire them. It’s not an easy challenge. But, it’s a constant battle that you can win by taking the following steps.

Acknowledge their mood.

If your team, or specific individual, is in a rut, “fear not,” writes Patti Sanchez, co-author of Illuminate. The reason. All “organizations go through seasons.”

“Those seasons don’t just affect the bottom line, they also affect how people think and feel,” explains Sanchez. “During a time of poor performance, your team is likely feeling anxious, frightened, or mournful about the good old days.”

The fix? Consider, “not just how you’re feeling about your team’s poor performance – but also how it might be affecting their mood, too” when deciding “what story to deliver.”

Sanchez, and her co-author Nany Duarte, call these “motivating and warning stories” depending on the mood. “If your low-performing team members are acting complacent or seem unwilling to embrace change, you may need to use warning communication to chip away at their resistance.”

Keep in mind that warning stories only “cautions them about the possible negative outcomes of staying put or straying from the course.” It’s useful because it encourages “them to face up to their challenge or try out a different strategy.” Using “the right story for the team’s mood can be the key to getting them moving or stopping them from heading in the wrong direction.”

Prioritize one-on-one time with them.

You should be doing this for every one of your team members. The reason should be obvious. But, with so many other responsibilities, it’s understandable that this may get overlooked.

Spending quality time with your team members allows you to find out they need to succeed. It also gives you the chance to find out what problems they are struggling with and brainstorming ideas to overcome them. Most importantly, it allows you to get to know them so that you know ways to motivate them or pick-up on non-verbal cues.

For example, let’s say that during a typical interaction, this team member is usually talkative and inquisitive. But, during your last check-in, they were quiet, and a tad disengaged. That should be a red flag that something is wrong. You don’t want to prey or cross any lines. But, you should ask them if there’s anything they would like to discuss with you.

I understand that you have a packed schedule. But, you need to block out time to check-in with your team. And, I strongly suggest that you make this a part of your routine as well. And, try to keep these a little more informal, like having lunch with them — even if it’s an in-person virtual lunch.

Be a shining light.

Whether if it’s handling a personal crisis or pandemic like COVID-19, “it’s always important to mitigate fears and boost morale,” Jeffrey Hayzlett, Chairman & CEO of C-Suite Network, told Real Leaders. Hayzlett does this by fighting fear with humor. But, there’s more to it than just that.

“I always reconnect and realign my team with the company’s core values,” says Hayzlett. It’s a simple way to inspire business continuity and stifle “issues that arise from a decentralized team.”

It’s important to lead by example when a crisis arises, and leaders should reach out to their networks — concentric circles of trusted groups you belong to, such as associations, masterminds, and coaching groups,” he adds. “Through networking, leaders can help one another with strategies to help lead their teams through times of crisis.”

“No matter how small, do what you can to demonstrate a hero mentality and hero leadership through challenging times,” Hayzlett continues. “It’s important to be a shining light that supports others in a time of crisis.”

One study found that those who work with a warm and direct leader are more motivated to complete the task at hand. Or, to put it more succinctly, combine clear, measurable, and specific goals with a people-oriented mindset.

Foster intrinsic motivation.

There are two types of motivation; intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinisic motivation, as described by Calendar co-founder John Rampton, “is what drives a person to do something because they find it gratifying, interesting, or enjoyable.” Extrinsic “ is influenced by external rewards like money, prizes, or praise.”

While extrinsic motivation can be beneficial, intrinsic tends to be more productive. For starters, it’s been found that once you hit $75,000 a year, there’s no additional gain in happiness. Furthermore, “research shows that excessive rewards can decrease intrinsic motivation.”

“So, while you’ll need to offer some extrinsic motivation, you should be focusing more on fostering intrinsic motivation in the workplace,” adds Rampton. As a result, you’ll “spark employees’ passion and creativity,” while “giving them the satisfaction of a job well-done.”

But how can you foster intrinsic motivation? Well, try using the following strategies:

  • Grant them autonomy.
  • Provide opportunities for them to learn and grow.
  • Make sure that they know the meaning and purpose of their work.
  • Challenge them by having them take on new responsibilities that push them out of their comfort zone.
  • Allow them to show off their unique talents.
  • Use data to display KPIs and employee goals so that they can see their progress.
  • Recognize and celebrate accomplishments.
  • Encourage opportunities for socialization and collaboration.

Care about their mental well-being.

A lot of organizations have made it a priority to address the physical health of their team members. That’s why they provide them with healthy snacks and meals, preventive care, gym memberships, and standing desks. But, they’re not doing a great job with mental health.

Burnout has been listed as a chronic health condition by the World Health Organization. And, according to the CDC, nearly a fifth of U.S. adults struggle with some sort of mental illness. I can only imagine that this could get worse with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s why you need to take care of your team’s mental health while balancing their productivity. And, here are some ways you can do that according to Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article:

  • Promote transparency and communication surrounding mental health.
  • Encourage your team to take breaks and use their vacation time.
  • Reinforce regular business hours so they can enjoy their downtime.
  • Implement peer workflow evaluation.
  • Suggest outside resources like counselors and crisis hotlines.

Publicly recognize their work.

“Public employee recognition is one of the best ways to inspire your team,” writes Jessica Thiefels over at Bonusly. Why? Because “it has a far-reaching inspirational impact:”

  • 70% percent of employees report that motivation and morale would ‘massively’ improve if managers simply said thank you more often.
  • Happiness can boost business productivity by 31%.
  • When recognized, employee engagement jumps up to 60%.
  • Organizations with a “recognition-rich” culture have 31% lower voluntary turnover rates than those that don’t.

“Inspiring your team with recognition also provides an important link to specific actions and their positive effects on an organization,” adds Thiefels. How often should you do this? At least once a week. And, it doesn’t have to be a big hoopla either. You could kick off a weekly meeting by recognizing your All-Stars.

Shake-up routines.

Yes. Routines serve a purpose. They provide structure and a sense of normalcy during uncertain times. But, they can also make you complacent enough that you get into a rut.

To avoid this, occasionally change things up. For instance, replace the tired weekly team meeting into an interactive brainstorming session. Allow for more flexible working arrangements, like flex schedules and the ability to work wherever they want. And, permit them to work on tasks and projects that they normally wouldn’t do.

Be a cheerleader, not a coach.

“When employees don’t bring their A-games to work, it’s often because they lack confidence in their abilities or don’t even know what they’re capable of achieving,” David Dye, author of The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say, told Monster. “Great leaders bring out the greatness in their team because they see what is possible and transfer that belief to their people.”

How can you empower your people? Let “them know you believe they can achieve their goals, do their best work, take on a new project, or land a new client.” Sounds simple. But, Dye says that “your belief in them will directly affect their confidence in themselves.”

Promote transparency.

Transparency, explains Calendar co-founder John Hall, “establishes trust and expands relationships.” It also fosters happiness, boosts morale, and strengthens innovation. “What’s more, transparency can create a flatter hierarchy and help establish realistic goals.”

Additionally, it keeps your team in the loop. And, it can give them peace of mind turning turbulent times.

How can we promote transparency? Well, make sure that your team has access to information and context. You could also hold “ask me anything sessions or town halls. And, you may want to eliminate job titles, encourage ownership, and act on feedback.

Moreover, make yourself available so that if an employee has a question or concern, then they can reach you. And, most importantly, don’t’ run away from making important decisions or conflicts.

Implement a buddy system.

Math was never my strong suit. I realized that back in high school. So, what did I do about it? I asked for help from my friends who excelled at the subject so that I could grasp what was going on.

I still have this mindset today. If I’m not skilled or knowledgeable in a specific area, I acknowledge this and turn to people who are. And, it’s also a concept that can be applied when helping a struggling team member.

Let’s say that you have too full of a plate or aren’t the person to help them. Pair them up with an employee who has the availability and talent to assist them. As an added perk, they may be able to hold each other accountable if they haven’t been able to meet deadlines or maintain focus.

Don’t sweat it if there isn’t anyone on your team who can help. You can also match mentees with the right mentor, bring-in a coach, or refer them to someone you know who can lend a hand.

Remove factors causing dissatisfaction.

“In his 1959 book The Motivation To Work, Frederick Herzberg identified six factors that typically lead to dissatisfaction in the workplace,” Rampton wrote in an Inc.com piece. “As much as it’s in your power, ensure your employees are happy and satisfied with each of these areas. They are company policy, supervision, relationship with the boss, work conditions, salary, and relationships with peers.”

How can you get rid of them? The Mind Tools team suggests:

  • Fixing poor and obtrusive company policies.
  • Providing support and non-intrusive.
  • Creating a culture of respect.
  • Paying your team members a fair wage.
  • Ensuring all positions have meaning.
  • Providing job security.

But, there’s another part of this as well. And, that’s fostering factors that lead to satisfaction. These include achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement, and growth. When you do, you’ll enhance both motivation and morale.