We’ve all been there: A project or task doesn’t go the way you thought it would. This can affect not only the business result, but also employee morale. So how do you pick up the pieces?
We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to find out how they recover from a company mistake:
“How do you boost employee morale when a project or task isn’t going according to plan?”
Here’s what YEC community members had to say:
1. Turn It Into Opportunity
“When something doesn’t go as planned, which happens nine times out of 10, it’s best to remind everyone involved in the project that it’s OK and that no one is to blame. Employees and partners can feel like they are responsible for something that is out of their control. Use it as an opportunity to regroup and reaffirm that you have to fail in order to succeed. It’s part of the cycle.” ~ Sarah Ware, Markerly
2. Go to the Movies
“The best thing you can do is get a change of scenery and build a bond among your team members. It always works to get the project back on track.” ~ Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects
3. Listen to Them
“As the president, I’ll often make assumptions about why a project has taken a turn. In reality, though, I’m infrequently right. My role is to highlight the issue and listen to my staff to help them uncover why the issue is occurring, then help them set a new plan to return to progress. That keeps them feeling respected and supported so they can return to doing great work.” ~ Corey Blake, Round Table Companies
4. Emphasize That Everything Is Experimental
“I emphasize to my team that everything we do is an experiment. Sometimes our experiments are successes, and sometimes they’re failures. Training your team to not be afraid of failure makes them open to experimenting with innovative, risky ideas. Send them messages from the top down that failure is acceptable and, at times, even expected. It’s a natural part of being an agile, high-growth company. ” ~ Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media
5. Recognize the Small Wins
“When you’re working toward a large goal, product launch or target and things aren’t really going according to plan (which is common in the startup world), it helps to have small achievements and milestones to keep the feeling of accomplishment and success in the team. It will boost productivity and keep everyone smiling.” ~ Christopher Pruijsen, Afrostart.io
6. Acknowledge the Elephant
“Pretending the house isn’t on fire doesn’t make it burn any slower, but you’d be surprised how often leaders try to force something that just isn’t working. Instead, acknowledge what’s wrong and collaborate with your team to solve it with alternative ideas. When a team overcomes an obstacle, they feel empowered, and that boosts morale.” ~ Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving
7. Have a Warm Environment
“We all know that in business (and in life), things don’t always go as planned. If your team is putting forth a strong effort but facing challenges with a project or task, I think it’s important to create a warm and encouraging environment where they feel they can talk honestly with you about the challenges. That way, you can work together on a game plan for moving forward.” ~ Tracy Foster, ONA
8. Create a Different Solution
“When something goes wrong, you need to address it and not ignore it. Take time to think about the potential benefits of the situation and how you can capitalize on them. If there are truly none, come up with some new innovative strategies for your company, and get your employees excited about pursuing them.” ~ Carlo Cisco, FoodFan
9. Have Some Humor
“When we have a project or task go awry, many times I’ll make lighthearted comments to generate a smile or laugh. Ultimately, there is nothing we can do about the past except learn from it and push forward. Dwelling on a failure is going to generate lower productivity. Happy team members produce more, so I always encourage doing things to improve attitudes as quickly as possible.” ~ Raoul Davis, Ascendant Group
10. Reward Them
“Reward them when they least expect it. Is your commission-based sales team in a slump? Hit them with a bonus when times are tough. Just as the best time to invest is in a down economy, if you want your team around for the long term, the best time to invest in them is when times are tough.” ~ Matt Wilson, Under30Experiences
11. Relate to Them
“Keep the project in perspective relative to progress that’s being made at the company as a whole. As long as team members feel like big picture goals are moving forward, the ups and downs of an individual project should be less discouraging.” ~ Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics
12. Remind Them It’s a Team Project
“Amidst the craziness at a startup, people often forget why they’re there to begin with and that everyone else is alongside them for the same reasons. A break to get everyone on the same page brings back the trust, communication and respect that’s worked so well before.” ~ Derek Flanzraich, Greatist
13. Re-focus on the Big Picture
“People want to work on things that matter. So if morale is low, take a moment to remind your team of their important contributions and the impact that they make. People need to be inspired, so don’t let your team lose focus on the big picture. Do what you can to create an atmosphere where everyone feels they’re a part of what’s happening, and be sure to allow some time for doing some fun things.” ~ Dries Buytaert, Drupal
14. Communicate Better
“Communication and always setting clear, manageable goals can really help boost employee morale. A goal that is too large to be fully handled can be damaging to morale. Make sure all employees are on the same page and squash rumors immediately. Always be sure to keep your team in the loop as much as you can.” ~ Jay Wu, A Forever Recovery
Motivated Photo via Shutterstock
I like some of these but, honestly, I think a lot of companies miss the boat in boosting employee morale. I’ve worked for corporations who think they’d doing something wonderful by arranging company outings to bowling alleys or having pizza and beer at the end of the quarter. If you’re a big company, reward your employees with bonuses – for effort and a job well-done. All the pizza and bowling in the world won’t pay the power bill and many employees are struggling. Just my two cents.
Kim, I like your comment..
Kim is right -what staff really want is MONEY. Pure and simple. Anything else is trivial
While money is important handing out money for a project that isn’t on track simply won’t happen…at least if the project leader or sponsor hope to keep their job. Money also tends to lose its effectiveness once someone has reached a certain level of comfort.
My experience has been that people want to have an opportunity to win. Projects usually don’t go as planned…even when we have the best executive sponsor and project manager money can buy. When I have led a project that appears to be headed off the rails we get to a win by clearly identifying the reality of the situation in a constructive manner. I also find humor helps put people at ease so they can focus on the problem rather than feelings of inferiority that often occur when we fail. Rather than heading out for a movie or “team builder” I find teams usually want to identify the problem and tackle the issue(s) creating the problem. Perhaps the project was operating under incorrect assumptions. Whatever the issue, spending time constructively breaking down the problem and developing real solutions makes people feel better and creates energy. When these moments turn into wins…well THAT is MOTIVATION.
It’s not true to say that all employees want is money. It is better that your CEO, MD/ business leader takes the time to understand what it is that makes their employees tick. Throwing money at me is not going to motivate me necessarily – often the little simple personal touches speak louder than having more money, and will let your employees feel cared for. And the business owner should expect loyalty, passion and respect in return.
Employees are not working for money only, they are human beings they needs non monetary benefits also
I don’t get why people think that it’s all about the money. It’s true that we all need money but every person and every company differ. It’s just a matter of proper implementation. Would you rather get a bonus than to have a good relationship with your bosses and colleagues? Money alone can’t give you the “needed” motivation to work. Money is a factor, but it isn’t the main factor.
There is a psychology behind all these and these are even taught in management classes. These things are proven and there are studies that could support it — therefore it is not trivial.
Maslow’s Hierarch of Needs may help you understand this concept.
Sean Connery’s character in Finding Forrester offers this advice; “An unexpected gift, at an unexpected time.” I find it’s true.
Unexpected gifts are a real morale booster just as is an early bonus. The issue that I take with it is that you shouldn’t have to reward your employees just to get them to perform at their job. The job is the reward and in today’s tough employment market, people are lining up waiting for others to fail.
I Agree, the idea of earning a good salary should be enough, however for me the best morale booster is recognition in my efforts, be it a pat on the back or a simple thank you. Money is not everything after all.
Once our business grows, we tend to forget about the littlest things and for this instance, our employees. But then they are the people behind the organization. Without them, the company will be nothing. So it is very important to keep them happy. Happy employees equals a good and lasting business.
If I may add – when you combine #5: Recognize the Small Wins with gamification, the results must be awesome!
Working in government, cash rewards is an issue. However, I like many employees appreciate the boss (board, supervisor, etc.) noting the extra effort taken or a problem solved on their own.
What I found is that government employees have more intact benefits. I don’t know if it is different in other countries though.
“Take a moment to remind your team of their important contributions and the impact that they make.”
Organizations that encourage financial literacy among all of their employees have much better luck with this. When the entire team is aware of just how important each individual role is and how their efforts build the big picture (i.e. how they affect the bottom line), the employees are inclined to stay engaged with the work they are doing.
Also, it is good to bond with employees outside of the office. It allows you to get to know them as people.