How Great Leaders Keep Motivation and Morale High

Jul 11, 2022

The way teams work together is evolving, in many ways for the better. To prevent times of change from causing uncertainty, leaders have to learn new ways to keep motivation and morale steady. High morale leads to higher commitment, retention, and buy-in from employees. It also means each team member is functioning at their best and most creative.

Many of these tips are anchored in themes we already know, like time management, avoiding burnout, and self care. Here are some of the most impactful lessons leaders have to share.

Build trust through transparency. 

Policies and best practices are changing fast. When you need to make an adjustment for the greater good of the business, make sure the team understands what is expected of them and why. In uncertain times, when information is lacking or constantly changing, people fill in the gaps with their own imaginations. Communication and transparency build trust and security.

Working remotely? Make the most of virtual meetings.

Virtual meetings help people feel connected, but too many can be exhausting and have a negative effect on productivity. Make sure only people who need to be in a meeting are required to be there, and keep the meeting focused on a specific project or issue. Encourage people who feel like they aren’t being heard to speak up in a chat feature or to follow up with you personally.

Add optional social meetings, like a weekly “happy hour” at the end of the week for those who want to keep in touch.

Incorporate intentional breaks into the day.

When times are extra stressful, it’s easy to sink into working all day without taking a break, but this quickly leads to burnout. Designate times in the morning, lunch time, and in the afternoon for everyone to get away from their computer or workstation to move and stretch, have a snack, listen to music, go outside, or do whatever makes them feel calm and happy, especially during the “afternoon trough”. Don’t just call break time, because half of the time this will lead to checking email or doing something that doesn’t recharge the mind. 

Daniel Pink’s book, When, lays out how productivity and attention shifts throughout the day, and how leaders can use well-scheduled breaks to help their teams get the most out of their time.

Encourage deep work, not multitasking.

Along with intentional breaks should be daily periods of deep work, when each person is focused for 20-30 minutes on one, high-value task with zero distractions. Close email and messenger apps, be unavailable for meetings and phone calls, turn off notifications of all kinds, and dig into accomplishing one important thing. Taking a short, intentional break after this time is over will leave each team member with a real sense of accomplishment and calm. 

Deep work avoids the feeling of having been busy all day without actually getting anything done, which is especially common when working remotely.

Embrace flexibility and empathy in time management.

When disruptions cause the workplace to go remote, team members who are also parents or caregivers may need flexibility. Periods of deep work and rest, and even meetings, may have to happen at different times of the day for different people. 

Shift the focus to accomplishments and tasks achieved, not what time the work happened.

Communicate what you expect them to accomplish and listen to what time schedule will help each team member be successful. 

Take care of YOURSELF, and the results will be contagious.

Set an example. When you ask your team members to do all of these things, you should be doing them yourself, too. You also need to make sure you get enough sleep. In the Harvard Business Review, professor of management at the University of Washington, Christopher Barnes, emphasizes that sufficient sleep is non-negotiable for creativity, productivity, and overall health. The deficits of sleep deprivation spread those around you, “Leaders who discount the value of sleep can negatively impact not just emotions but also behaviors on their teams.” 

You are the not only the professional leader, but the thought leader of your team.