Motivating & Inspiring Your Employees in Difficult Times

As a leader, you can’t simply order people around and expect them to do what  you want.

They may follow your directions if you are watching, but once they’re left on their own, they’ll go back to doing what they They may follow your directions if you are watching, but once they are left on their own, they’ll go back to doing what they think is important.

More than ever before,  leaders today have to win people’s  co-operation. And the two main ways of doing so are through motivation and inspiration. Although the two words are often used interchangeably, they actually mean quite different things and which one you use depends on what you want to achieve.


Motivation is about moving people to act in a way that achieves a specific and immediate goal. When you are motivation people to do something they may not necessarily want to do, you have to offer them something they want to return.

When coaches give their teams a pep talk at halftime, they are using motivation. They want their players to charge back onto the field or the court with renewed energy and focus, even though they may feel too tired or disheartened to try. Their reward? Victory. To motivate your people.

  • Tell them exactly what you want them to do. Motivation is all about getting people to take action, so don;t be vague. Avoid generalities like “I want everyone to do their best”. Instead say” I need you to come in over the weekend so we can get this project done on time”.
  • Limit the amount of time or effort you ask for. It’s easier to ask people to work late one night or even every night for a week than to expect them to work late indefinitely. Set an end date.
  • Share in the sacrifice. Leaders don’t ask people to do what they themselves aren’t willing to do. Don’t tell your people to work over the weekend if you have plans for a spa day. Roll up your sleeves and share the load.
  • Appeal to their emotions. Fear focuses people’s attention and can be an effective motivator: “If we don’t get this done right now, we’ll all lose our jobs.” But if you keep resorting to fear, you’ll end up de-motivating people. People are also motivated by–and prefer to be motivated by– positive emotions like excitement, pride, a sense of belonging, and the thrill of achievement.
  • Give people multiple reasons for doing what you want. You can give your own reason or the organization’s for requesting the action: “If we don’t get this project completed on schedule, we’ll lose the contract. “But the best reason of all is always personal. If you can, offer your people extra days off or even a bonus, Or talk about something as intangible as the camaraderie that comes from having achieved something important together. Most likely, things being what they are these days, the best you may be able to offer is the hope that no one will lose a job.


Inspiration, on the other hand, involves changing the way people think and feel about themselves so that they want to take positive actions. It taps into people’s values and desires.

The best commencement speakers, inspire their audiences. They talk about the challenges  the graduates will face, either personally or collectively, and the possibilities of making a differences. Inspiration appeals to the best aspirations of people, and its underlying, often unspoken message is “you can become what your want to be”. No reward is promised, other than the reward that comes from within — the sense of personal satisfaction.

As a leader, any time you talk about values, about identity (either the corporate identity or each person’s identity), or about long term goals, you intent — whether you know it or not — is to inspire.

To inspire your people:

  • Be the change you want to inspire. Your reputation, your character, your behavior will inspire people more than anything else. The only way to call the best out of others to expect the best from yourself.
  • Tell a story. Stories don’t tell people what to do, they engage people’s imaginations and emotions and show them what they’re capable of becoming or of doing.


Motivation and inspiration are not the sole province of professional speakers and preachers. They are tools leaders use all the time — in one-on-one conversations, in meetings, and in formal presentations — to bring out the best in their people. It’s just a matter of knowing the right time and the right situation.

When there’s an immediate, short-term, specific goal that you what your people to achieve, you need to motivate them. When you want to shape people’s identity and their long term aspirations and commitments, you need to inspire them.

Antoine de Saint-Expuery, the French aviator and author of The Little Price, wrote.” If you want to build a ship don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. “Sometimes you need to do both. You need to enlist and organize people to do a specific task —to build a ship according to specs, on time and on budget — and sometimes you need to activate people’s desires and stand aside. Who knows? You may be surprised by what they do.

Why Emotional Intelligence is Important

For most people, emotional intelligence is more important then one’s intelligence to attain success in their lives and careers. As individuals, our success depends on our ability to read other people ‘s signals and react appropriately to them. Therefore, each one of us must develop the mature emotional intelligence skills required to better understand, empathize, and negotiate with other people, particularly in our global economy. Otherwise, success will elude us in our lives and careers.

“Your EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work co-operatively with them,” says Howard Gardner, the influential Harvard theorist.


1. Self-awareness:

The ability to recognize an emotion as it happens is the key to your EQ Developing self-awareness requires tuning in to your true feelings. If you evaluate your emotions, you can manage them. The major elements of self-awareness are:

  • Emotional awareness: your ability to recognize your own emotions and their effects
  • Self-confidence: sureness about your self-worth and capabilities

2. Self-regulation:

You often have little control over when you experience emotions. You can, however, have some say in how long an emotion will last by using a number of techniques to alleviate negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, or depression, often recasting a situation in a more positive light. Self-regulation involves:

  • Self-control: managing disruptive impulse
  • Trustworthiness: maintaining standards of honestly and integrity
  • Conscientiousness: taking responsibility for your own performance
  • Adaptability: handling change with flexibility.
  • Innovation: being open to new ideas

3. Motivation

To motivate yourself for any achievement requires clear goals and a positive attitude. Although you may be predisposed to be negative, you can with effort and practice, learn to think more positively. If you catch negative thoughts as they occur, you can re-frame them in more positive terms, which will help you achieve your goals. Motivation is made up of:

  • Achievement drive: your constant striving to improve or to meet a standard of excellence
  • Commitment: aligning with the goals of the group or organization
  • Initiative: readying yourself to act on opportunities
  • Optimism: pursuing goals persistently despite obstacles and setbacks

4. Empathy

The ability to recognize how people feel is important to success in your life and career. The more skilled you are at discerning the feelings behind other’s signals, the better you can control the signals you send them. An empathetic person excels at:

  • Service orientation: anticipating, recognizing, and meeting client’s needs
  • Developing others: sensing what others need to progress and bolstering their abilities
  • Leveraging diversity: cultivating opportunities through diverse people
  • Political awareness: reading a group’s emotional currents and power relationships
  • Understanding others: discerning the feelings behind the needs and wants of others

5. Social skills

Developing good interpersonal skills is crucial to success in your life and career. In today’s cyber culture, you can have immediate access to technical knowledge. Therefore, you must possess a high EQ to better understand, empathize, and negotiate with others in the global economy. Among the most useful skills are:

  • Influence: wielding effective persuasion tactics
  • Communication: sending clear messages
  • Leadership: inspiring and guiding groups and people
  • Change catalysis: initiating or managing change
  • Conflict management ability: understanding, negotiating and resolving disagreements
  • Ability to build bonds: nurturing instrumental relationships
  • Collaboration and co-operation: working with others toward shared goals
  • Team building: creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals

How well you do in your life and career is determined by both IQ and EQ. IQ alone is not enough; EQ also matters. In fact, psychologists generally agree that among the ingredients for success, IQ counts for roughly 10% (at best 25%); the rest depends on everything else-including EQ. A study of Harvard graduates in business, law, medicine, and teaching showed a negative or zero correlation between an IQ indicator (entrance exam score) and subsequent career success.


Tips for Conducting Employee Evaluations

Employee evaluations are among the most difficult staff management aspects of any supervisor’s job. Even if you’re a seasoned professional accustomed to conducting regular performance reviews, judging your employees’ performance and communicating your findings to them can be stressful – especially with anxious employees. And if you’re new to the job or the company, being the “newbie” who delivers feedback can pose an extra challenge.

It’s important to recognize employee evaluations for what they are: opportunities to have a dialog about progress and performance in a one-on-one setting. They’re valuable tools that allow supervisors to acknowledge improvements in an employee’s performance, as well as his individual contributions to a company’s success. When necessary, it’s also the time to discuss areas where an employee could improve and offer suggestions to do so. An employee gains insights into his supervisor’s perception of his performance and receives acknowledgement for his achievements. This is his chance to discuss strengths and weaknesses, and to see how his progress fits into his overall professional goals.

The Evaluation Procedure

Though frequency and methods vary from company to company, evaluation procedures generally consist of three steps:

  1. gathering and recording performance data
  2. evaluating that data
  3. communicating findings to the employee

As a supervisor, you possess the key to making evaluations a success: superior communication skills. It’s your responsibility to lead the conversation and ensure its tone is optimistic, objective and open in order to foster a cooperative atmosphere that allows both parties’ points to be expressed effectively.

Evaluation Tips

Some companies provide supervisors with strict guidelines on performance evaluation; others allow managers to implement those techniques they deem most fit.

Whatever the situation, you can streamline your procedure and make it more effective.

  • Decide on an evaluation system. Depending on your field, employees’ performance measurements may vary from sales numbers and production output to customer satisfaction ratings and client retention. Determine the most telling aspects of performance assessment for the situation and decide how, and how often, to gather data. For example, if you’re a sales manager, you can keep daily records of each employee’s sales and review them each quarter.
  • Let your employee know she’s being evaluated. Always inform the employee that she’s being evaluated. Explain to her what aspects of his performance are under review; how you will gather data; and how often you will evaluate.
  • Keep records diligently. Most companies have tracking systems to record certain aspects of performance such as sales or project completion. However, you can also note numerous small and large things on a daily basis. Did a certain employee provide a solution to a problem that had the rest of the team stumped? Did he go out of his way to finish a monthly report on time? Did she work effectively with another colleague to develop a more streamlined workflow? Keep a weekly or monthly file on each employee with notes on both positive and negative observations.
  • Ensure the evaluation is an accurate reflection of the entire term. When you track an employee’s performance and review your files on a regular basis, you’ll be in a better position to present a comprehensive review with accurate feedback during actual evaluation meetings. Don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on the last week or month before the meeting.
  • Don’t let personality get in the way. Whether you get along with the employee or not, you should never let personality differences get in the way of an objective assessment. You should review only behaviors, actions and performance. Whether you appreciate the employee’s sense of humor or shyness is irrelevant. Maintain a professional attitude and present your findings in an objective manner from the company’s point of view. If you observe yourself or the employee becoming frustrated, upset or angry, reiterate the objectives of the review, suggest a short break and resume the meeting when both parties are calmer.
  • Keep the tone constructive. Negative feedback is never easy to deliver or receive, so deliver yours in the most positive manner possible. Refrain from comparing the employee’s performance to that of a colleague; instead, use company goals as a benchmark.
  • Leave room for dialog. A performance review isn’t a one-way street. Allow the employee to his voice concerns and observations, as well as his short- and long-term objectives. In addition, ensure there’s room for the employee to add to your review if necessary. For example, if you’ve omitted to note actions or achievements the employee valued highly, make sure he has room to communicate them. When both parties understand what achievements the other values and what the respective goals are, it becomes easier to determine an effective workflow.

A smart supervisor knows how to get the best out of her people at all times. With a strategic approach to employee evaluations, you create a win-win for your company’s objectives and your employees’ careers.

Communicate with Power

Many of the defining characteristics needed for effective leadership — like having a vision, integrity, commitment and resilience – are innate. Fortunately, another quality, as essential for success as the others, can be learned–the ability to mobilize a fire-in-the-belly effort among employees to help the leader realize ambitious goals. Leaders can acquire this ability by observing and learning from the behaviors of leaders who deploy these skills, by being coached or by incrementally stretching employees beyond the nom to generate the needed commitment.

The power of the leader’s position alone cannot command enthusiasm and dedication from today’s workforce. Instead, employees must be convinced that the leader’s objectives are achievable, understand that meeting the goals will provide a personal payoff, and be inspired to make their own full force contribution. To generate the needed support from everyone in the organization, leaders must put their leadership on parade: They must be visible, crystal clear about their message and take every opportunity to demonstrate– live and in person– their passion for their goals. Unless they show how deeply they cares, few others will care and their plan may be seen as another flavor of the month.


Some leaders believe it is sufficient to communicate their goals to the workforce through the organization’s internal media, such as employee publications, intranet, or videoconferencing–the more sophisticated the technology the better. Many have become enamored with blogging because it makes possible instant communications with large numbers of employees– assuming they make the effort to log on. Tlhis is useful because it allows for repetition of the leader’s message, which is essential for making an impact. But using media is not a substitute for interacting with employees face to face. Media cannot convey the intensity of feeling the leader has for his plan nearly as well as human contact does. The very fact that the leader is there, and has left the comfort of the office to communicate with employees, gives the message importance.

Leaders must make his case loudly, clearly and consistently. They should seize every opportunity to speak from the heart in personal engagements with the employees, Thus allowing them express their message with absolute clarity and address any concerns the employees may have about it. As an additional payoff, the workforce’s views about other company issues will come through unfiltered. (Reporting of bad news at these meetings should be encouraged because it can be dealt with on the spot and not spiral out of control.)

Personal interactions with the workforce can take many different forms. Leaders can make presentations before large groups in auditoriums. There can be smaller, more informal departmental or function-focused meetings, where participants will feel freer to ask questions or present problems. Leaders who appear at these meetings without the usual retinue of direct reports signals that they are approachable and welcome interaction.

Leaders also can meet with a cross-section of employees in skip-level meetings, conduct spontaneous walkabouts to fill in the time between planned events, have lunch in the organization’s cafeteria, and drop in on the back office, the factory floor or a remote office where employees may never have seen them and will be particularly impressed. When leaders give employee awards at presentation ceremonies, the awards become particularly special. Praise from an employee’s direct supervisor is a strong motivator; from the organization’s leader it is even stronger. Effective leaders are generous with their praise whenever it is deserved.


Putting leadership on parade does not come naturally to some leaders, particularly those who have led primarily by issuing directives. But presenting with power is a skill easily learned. Once learned, it becomes a habit and each presentation becomes increasingly effective. In any meeting, large or small, the effective leader captures the listeners’ attention immediately, holds it for the duration of the presentation, and creates the kind of energy that generates action.

The leader should organize the message so it is clear and compelling, appealing to both the heart and head. Stories involve the audience and reveal the leader’s humanity, which is essential for establishing trust. They paint word pictures, with characters, settings and action. The leader makes deliberate use of wording, voice, posture, movement and timing.

The most powerful communication tools are the eyes. Steady, warm eye contact conveys credibility. Failure to make eye contact can signal unease, defensiveness or perhaps lack of candor. When talking with one person, the leader looks at the other’s eyes, then moves away to avoid causing discomfort. With a large group, he makes everyone feel included by making eye contact with one person in the audience for as long as it takes to express a thought, and then moves his eyes to someone else in a different part of the room.

When a leader is able to zero in with eye contact toward one audience member, surrounding audience members benefit too; studies have shown that all the audience members in the area around the person being addressed feel they’re being spoken to directly. Using the eyes this way also alleviates whatever anxiety the presenter may be feeling because speaking one-to-one to an individual comes naturally. In contrast, nervous speakers scan the audience, never finding one focal point, which increases their anxiety because the brain has too much information to process.

An academic study conducted by faculty at the University of Akron’s School of Communication in US showed that using the eyes appropriately is the single most important factor for communicating effectively.


Effective presenters do not use a lectern, a barrier that separates the leader from the audience. They have no need for lecterns because they do not read from a written text. They understand that presentations that are read are considered old news and, as such, detract from the spontaneity that creates energy in the audience. Doing without visuals can be a particularly effective when the presentation is intended to inspire the audience rather than convey information.

Effective leaders showcase their passion by putting their whole body into the presentation. They support every statement with an appropriate gesture and make large body movements to underscore important points. They further accentuate these points with dramatic pauses or by raising or lowering their voice. Their choice of language demonstrates they are real because they avoid euphemisms, jargon and office-speak.

Although their presentation may appear spontaneous, they have carefully rehearsed. They’ve put aside extraneous content. They’ve identified Questions that may be asked prepared and succinct and persuasive answers . Though an initial presentation like this may require serious rehearsing, the process becomes easier as the leader seeks out opportunities to continue presenting. A seasoned speaker who gets a deep sense of pleasure from presenting can become encouraged to present his views about significant issues on the national stage. This further helps cement leadership positioning.


The “leadership on parade” process begins with leaders  honestly assessing how the workforce perceives them and how they in turn views the employees. Mistaken impressions can hinder communication and, with that, the leader’s effectiveness.

Leaders may misunderstand the workforce’s values, particularly if he is new. They may have come from a company whose employees value making lots of money but their new culture emphasizes a concept like “do no evil.” Judgments from trusted direct reports will be needed because even a small change that runs counter to the culture can have large repercussions.

The workforce may not have a good understanding of the leader either. The leader may have served for many years but not been very visible. Unknowingly, the leader may be sending out contrary signals. Is the leader shirt-sleeved or double-breasted? Occupying a walnut-paneled corner office or at the center of the floor? Each is making a values statement. With these and other choices, leaders must project their true selves.

This is not a call for the leaders to improve their “image”– a mere artifice; honest, effective communication is authentic.

How to Manage High & Low Performers

People who invest their money wisely focus on the investments that have the greatest chance of turning out to be winners. Do you do the same when managing the performance of your employees? If you are sadly like most managers, the answer is you probably get caught up spending too much time with low performers who have a fair chance of being acceptable but not stars. What would happen if y0u dedicated more time to your employees who are acceptable performers yet exhibit clear signs of being high performers? The answer is that many of these acceptable performers will move into the ranks of high performers.

As a CEO, manager, or business owner, how do you identify the employees to focus on, and how can you make the most of your lower performers?

1. Be selective about whom you focus on

Carefully select who will be important for you to invest your time, energy, and other resources in to develop their performance. This decision is incredibly important. If you choose a low performer, your likely payoff will be less than if you select a high performer. This may seem at odds with what you have learned in the past, or it may even seem to go against the grain of democracy or fighting for the underdog. However, if your goal is to maximize performance, then this approach is more likely to yield grater results more quickly.

Anyone can really improve only two or three things at a single time, no matter what multitaskers tell you. Deliberately practicing two or three things is what drives high impact gains in performance and productivity, and that practice can be enhanced with explicit, targeted feedback from mangers. It is far easier, more rewarding, and more effective to leverage strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses. The key is to find strength in one area in the performer and get them to use that strength in an area that requires improvement. Real, sustained improvement takes time. As a manager, you require patience as you need to focus on the long term and not just quick fix. The quicker the fix, the less sustainable the result.

2. Keep hope alive for all performers

Keep hope alive for all performers, even those who are chronically low. What does this mean? As a manager or CEO, you want to make investments, though not equal investments, in all performers. But do not waste a lot of time, energy, and other resources on your employees who, at their very best, will only be average or acceptable performers. These are not bad people or bad fits for your company or not worthy of salary or slackers; they may simply be comfortable in their current position and have no desire to become the company superstar.

A manager who wants to improve performance should demonstrate what psychologists call “unconditional positive regard”. This means that you accept where your staff begins their performance improvement journey: Some may begin behind; others at the right place; and some even ahead. Assess the starting place but do not judge. Then, you can identify the signature strengths of all of your staff, even chronic low performers.

Watch out for the “Pygmalion effect” of your staff rising or falling to meet your expectations. In other words, if you have low expectations, they will move to meet your low expectations; if you have high expectations; your employees will move to meet your high expectations.

Focus on making progress toward a longer term goal and reward that progress, even if it is only one baby step after another. By rewarding small steps towards the larger performance goal, you will also feel less frustration because you know your efforts with the low performers are paying off.

3. Address chronic low performers

Cut your losses early. As a manager or CEO, you are responsible to your boss or stockholders, to your company, and to your customers. There are two ways to address chronic low performers. If, after setting clear expectations, monitoring their performance, coaching them, and then letting them know about the consequences of underperforming, you still see no improvement, you should let them go.

If your company cannot afford to let any employees go to keep the operation running, the second way to address the issue is to reassign chronic low performers. When you reassign an employee, you protect the majority of those who are performing well from smaller group that could persuade them to lower performance across the board of distract the higher performers.

Picture yourself three to six months from now after experimenting with these three recommendations. Not only will you have a plan for all performers, but you will have dedicated more time, energy, and resources to those performers with the greatest payoff. Your time is precious; you can focus on only so much. You have to be selective about what you focus on. When you are responsible for managing performance, prioritize and be confident knowing that your investment will pay off for you, your company, and your customers.