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7 Things That Decrease Team Motivation (Without You Even Noticing)

7 Things That Decrease Team Motivation (Without You Even Noticing)
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Economies are cyclical, there’s just no getting around this fact. And while these last several years have seen an abundance of economic growth, we should all remember the wisdom found on King Solomon’s ring that said,

“This too shall pass.”

In fact, for those who joined the workforce only in the last decade, they have never experienced an economic downturn or recession. The last one started in 2007 and lasted until 2009.[1] So, it’s safe to assume that for a significant number of employees and managers, the next economic downturn will be their first time dealing with the stressors of mandatory layoffs, budget cuts and reorganization.

Motivating teams is never easy; even in good times, team motivation can be difficult to maintain. Just checkout amazon’s collection of books on how to motivate employees, you’ll find thousands on the subject.

But, now add in difficult times for the business, industry or economy and you’ve got a whole new set of problems. Whereas before your employees felt reasonably secure that if they performed well, they could count on having a job tomorrow. Now they can’t, and this lack of security is an added layer of stress that will affect morale and performance.

And while it may be tempting to take the attitude that they should just be grateful just to have a job in these times, that would be a mistake. Fear is actually a demotivating factor. Sure, everyone wants to keep their job, especially in tough times, but uncertainty and fear are distractions that damage effectiveness and hurt productivity.

As a leader, maintaining team motivation during difficult times can be challenging. Issues that might have been a minor annoyance in good times can become magnified into problems that affect the motivation and productivity of your entire team.

Here’re 7 factors that demotivate employees and 7 ways to tackle them:

1. Fear

We touched on this earlier, uncertainty and fear go hand in hand. Fear is a perfectly natural, and most of the time good human emotion. It is designed to keep us safe in the face of dangerous situations. Fear only becomes a problem when it prevents us from making beneficial decisions.

We can imagine our ancestors confronting a sabre tooth tiger and becoming so paralyzed by fear that they get eaten. In today’s world, you are much more likely to becoming paralyzed by internal fears than external ones like the tiger, but it is no less debilitating.

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These internal fears start out as legitimate concerns. Times are tough, others are being laid off or fired, you could be next. But, as often happens with fears, they grow and become exaggerated in the mind. This is when fear can disrupt team motivation and impact productivity.

What You Can Do

From a leader’s standpoint, you need to understand that most of your employee’s exaggerated fears come from an inaccurate assessment of the conditions. From their point of view, the decisions on who gets let go can seem arbitrary and inexplicable. It’s the seemingly randomness of these decisions that fuels the anxiety and fear of I could be next.

So, as a manager, it’s very important that you are constantly communicating with your team on the status of the company and their place within it. Even if that means letting them know that they are being considered for the next round of layoffs.

Letting your employees know exactly where they stand, even if it’s not good, is better for motivation than the uncertainty of not knowing. It can also be a great way to motivate your team into action. Especially if you can give them concrete goals to achieve that will help their prospects of staying employed.

2. Unclear Goals

During good times, employees may be happy to just sit back and do their jobs with little thought of how they are impacting the company as a whole. During difficult times, when you are asking your employees to do more with less, it’s important that they understand how each member contributes to the success of the team.

What You Can Do

As a leader, it’s your job to set clear, obtainable goals for the group as well as the individuals within that group. This is especially important during difficult times, as often the priorities of an organization will change.

During tough economic times, new business ventures and expansions are often cut back or eliminated in order to focus on the “core” business. When this happens, you may need to switch your teams focus entirely to save your and everyone else’s jobs.

But here again, communication with your team members is key. Keep them apprised of any changes to the goals and how it affects their individual roles within the team.

As a leader, you can actually increase your team’s motivation if everyone has a clear understanding of the goals and their role in achieving those goals.

3. Lack of Autonomy

It may seem logical that when times get tough, you should take more control or supervise your teams more closely. After all, the pressure is on to turn out good results.

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But study after study show us that a lack of autonomy kills both individual and team motivation.[2] In fact, giving your team more autonomy is one of the best ways to improve motivation and results.

What You Can Do

Go against your instincts to control. Micromanaging it guaranteed to reduce team motivation.

Now, with that being said, granting your team or employees autonomy does NOT mean that they can do whatever they want.

As a leader, you need to set the basic framework or conditions that they need to work under. Things like timeframe, budget constraints and the functionality of the final product should all be known conditions for your team. But once those conditions are set, let your team decide how to attack the problem. This allows for creativity to flourish and provides a sense of pride and ownership over the finished product that is highly motivating.

4. Change

Humans are creatures of habit, we get used to a routine and stick with it even if what we’re doing isn’t helpful. Having a routine provides a sense of comfort and security critical to our mental health. This is why psychologist note that all change produces stress.

Even good changes can be highly stressful, think getting married, divorced, having kids or getting promoted. There’s no way around it, change is disruptive and stressful.

Now, put yourself in a position where your industry is in a downturn and things need to change in order to survive. For the industry veteran, the old ways of doing things are now obsolete and an entire new skill set must be learned. For the new employee, the job they do may look nothing like the job they were hired for.

In short, the old comfortable routines have been interrupted and keeping up team motivation on these shifting sands is difficult.

What You Can Do

Be alert and watch for signs. Change is tough for everyone, but some people are more resilient than others.

If you notice one of your employees having an especially hard time, it’s important to address the situation. Often, there are challenges in the person’s personal life that are adding to the stress they feel. In those cases, temporarily reducing their workload or giving them an extra afternoon off can help reduce stress and increase motivation.

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For everyone else, a good rule of thumb is “The more information you can share, the better”. Nothing zaps motivation and fuels insecurity more than a lack of knowledge.

5. Ambiguity in Short Term Goals

Ambiguity is a motivation killer. In order for any team to function well, each member must have a clear understanding of the ultimate or long-term goal of the team. From there, each team member is assigned tasks that contribute to the completion of that goal. In turn, each member can break down their task into individual steps or short-term goals that, when completed get added to the whole.

But what happens when we change the original long-term goal? Even if everyone understands and accepts the new goal, they need to have a clear understanding of their new role in achieving it. It would be similar to starting a new job without any training or guidance from a superior.

What You Can Do

Anytime a mission or goal is changed, it is important for a leader to assign each member of the team a clear role within the group. This should include responsibilities as well as expectations for their assigned tasks.

Depending on the individual, you may also need to help them breakdown their tasks into short term goals on a timeline. As long as your team understands their new goal and the members have a clear understanding of their individual responsibilities in achieving the goal, there should be no problem with ambiguity.

6. Burnout

During difficult times, asking our workforce to do more with less just comes with the territory. But the consequence of this can be burnout. According to the World Health Organization, work related burnout is defined as:[3]

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Over time, burnout will zap your team’s motivation, morale and productivity. The symptoms of burnout include:

  • Becoming cynical or critical at work.
  • Coming to work and have trouble getting started.
  • Becoming irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients.
  • Lacking the energy to be consistently productive.
  • Being unable to concentrate.
  • Lack satisfaction from achievements.
  • Feeling disillusioned about their job.
  • Using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel.
  • Being troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints.
What You Can Do

Leaders need to be aware of these symptoms and take corrective action as soon as possible. Some things you can do to help with burnout include:

  • Talk to your team members about their workload and stress. Do they have any thoughts on how to do things better or more efficiently? Maybe that weekly report they do can be a bi-weekly report instead.
  • Increase the use of non-monetary rewards such as praise (both public and private). Recognition programs such as employee of the week, month, year. And even instituting “Casual Fridays” can be a morale booster.
  • Increase the use of low-cost monetary rewards like, morning donuts, buying lunch for the team and taking the occasional Friday afternoon off.
  • Flextime is another great way to combat burnout. It gives the employee a chance to spend more time with their family and also gives them a sense of control over their time.

7. Feeling Under-appreciated

During difficult times, upper management will often tighten the reins on employees. And while they see it as a way to control costs and focus on core issues, it can be disheartening to the average employee.

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Whereas management used to be open to ideas and suggestions from those in the “trenches” now, more and more decisions are being made unilaterally from the top. This stifles creativity and turns the employees into “cogs in a machine”.

What You Can Do

Communicate the changing parameters and scope of work coming from management as soon as possible. Then, give them as much decision-making authority as you can.

They may not be happy that their budget got cut by 20%, but if they have a say in how that money is allocated it’s a much easier pill to swallow.

Bottom Line

Motivation is a tricky thing, what motivates one person may not motivate another. But, as a manager or leader, it’s your job to manage your teams in a way that produces the best result possible.

During difficult times, whether they are caused by the broader economy or management missteps, being able to motivate your team is critical for survival.

We’ve talked about the challenges of team motivation during difficult times and some of the ways you can handle it. But, when you boil it all down it can be summed up in one word, communication.

Having open communication with your team clarifies their job descriptions and role within the company. It reduces the fear and anxiety associated with the inevitable changes that occur during these times. And finally, it allows your team to have a clear understanding of the issues facing the company and the plan to overcome them.

More Tips for Team Management

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Reference

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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