4 Strategies to Motivate and Invigorate Your Team in 2021

Staff holding hands

Next year is shaping up to be a year of fresh changes that will force you to rethink your approach to leading your team.

Expectations have changed, circumstances have changed and the way people work has changed.

With many plans put on hold in 2020, both individually and at an organisational level, as the economy recovers, optimism will return and many will be looking for new opportunities.

The good news is you can use this to your advantage, and it all boils down to the way you support your team.

To set you up for your biggest and best year yet, here are four strategies (loosely adapted from Daniel Pink’s model of motivation) to supercharge your team in the new year.

1. Putting mental health on the table

If someone comes to work with a sore knee, we have no problem having a conversation about how they are.

However, if someone is feeling anxious, down or seems constantly irritable, we tend to stay away and put it down to being ‘one of those days’.

So, why do we struggle to speak about mental health?

The less we talk about mental health, the more the stigma grows. However, conversely, the more we talk about it, the less the stigma will be.

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to support your team with an open channel of communication. Given you’re most likely not qualified to provide actual therapy, you can still check in with your team regularly.

There are two simple techniques that we at Nenke Consulting suggest will help:

  1. Outta Ten’ is a simple question to everyone in the room – how are you feeling out of 10? This can be done at a team meeting or even via email if necessary. This gives you a very quick and simple check on how the team is feeling. If anyone gives a low score, don’t make them feel exposed – follow up with them privately and ask if there is anything you can do to help. If anyone provides a very high score, then ask them to share what is making them feel so good. This might rub off onto others!

  2. WHY Moments’ are positive comments from the team about something that has happened in the workplace that made them feel good. It may be that a team member helped them out when they were in a hurry or contributed to a sale when they didn’t need to. These can be shared at the start (or the end) of each and every team meeting, and can be a powerful tool for making the team more supportive.

The main thing is to listen rather than talking and trying to provide solutions. You don’t need to be a hero, and, in fact, are not qualified to provide solutions to mental health issues.

Also, show a bit of vulnerability and talk about your own struggles. Lead from the front – if you are feeling down about something, open up. Others will probably follow. Get this right, and you will foster in your team more dedication to openness and supporting each other. Likewise, when you are feeling great, or you have had a win in the team, yell from the rafters! Encourage positivity and laughter.

A little goes a long way when it comes to mental health, so don’t try and redesign the wheel. Revisit your business values, remind yourself of the qualities you wish to bring to life in your culture and make small but consistent steps to supporting the mental health of your people.

2. Giving your team the room to succeed

On the surface, 2020 has offered unprecedented levels of autonomy to people who have had to work from home. For many business owners, this swift transition has made it difficult to measure productivity. So, you may be tempted to revert to old ways of working once social distancing restrictions eventually disappear in 2021.

But autonomy has become the norm for your people and many will be expecting similar flexibility in 2021 and maybe beyond.

The biggest challenge of next year will be figuring out how to cater to team and individual flexibility without compromising your business performance. This is uncharted territory for everyone. Many businesses that I work with are adopting a ‘hybrid’ approach where their people have the choice to work from home or in the office. Will you reunite your people with a set ‘day in the office’ once or twice per week? This will suit some people (and roles) more than others, so don’t make too many assumptions on how people will feel about it.

The opportunities are there for adjusting as you go, so make sure your strategy is fluid. Give yourself the space to learn and figure things out.

But most importantly, give your people the same space and time to adjust to a new way of working.

3. Supporting your team to get better at their jobs

Despite how massively disruptive 2020 has been, one thing hasn’t changed: People still want to be good at their job. They want to learn and grow. And they want to be of value to you and your business.

Are you supporting these goals? Do you have a growth or professional development plan in place for each of your staff? Have you talked to them about their career aspirations, even if these are outside your business?

While this year may not have been ideal for investing in training and education for your staff, especially given conferences and other industry events have been non-existent, developing ‘continual improvement plans’ for your staff should become a priority in 2021.

4. Re-Invigorating your organisation’s purpose

Finding purpose is not a new challenge, but the disruption of this year has left people with more time to reflect on what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Given the uncertainty of 2020, many people have stuck with jobs that don’t resonate on a meaningful level for them but which protect their financial security.

As the economy recovers and opportunities open up for people, those who have been questioning their sense of purpose will feel compelled to shift gears and look elsewhere.

If this year has shaken your business and your people, perhaps now is the time to refresh your purpose?

Ask yourself some important questions:

  • Do you have a compelling purpose outside of making money?
  • Are you able to give more time helping others in the community?
  • Can you do more community volunteering or sponsorship as an organisation?
  • Are you engaging with your people to find out what they are looking for in the organisation’s purpose and culture?

Purpose is the most complex to master out of these four strategies because it is unique to your business’s DNA. It is critical to carve out a distinct sense of purpose that authentically reflects your business. But there is no rush to get this right, so avoid making rash decisions and opt for a collaborative and ‘bottom-up’ approach.

Consider how you can bring your people together to navigate the way forward: A path that everyone wants to take with you.