This article originally appeared on Forbes.
Lots of organizations today still feel terribly disrupted by the pandemic. Many employees are still working from home, and there’s great confusion over what will happen next and whether we’ll ever find a “new normal.” So it’s no wonder that the reports of growing anxiety and burnout are all over the news. But there are antidotes to these feelings of being cut off and out of the loop.
Bob Glazer, founder and CEO of global partner marketing agency Acceleration Partners and author of Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits and Unlock Success in Yourself and Others, has some reassuring suggestions for how to help employees achieve and thrive, even when times are challenging and people are out of sorts. He has a clear and rigorous vision of inspiring employees so they can be their best and do their best for the organizations where they work. By applying his recommendations, you can strengthen a productive team and start to get an off-kilter team back on track.
Actively seek out new opportunities for your people. The organization and your team members will both benefit if leaders consistently assess each individual’s potential and help them see what their path and prospects could be. When you invest in training and development for your team, you expect a performance boost from the new skills that employees can apply to organizational goals. But employees who believe that you’re investing because you care about their careers also tend to have increased engagement and commitment; their heightened sense of connection and loyalty often motivates them to achieve and contribute in new ways.
At Acceleration Partners, Glazer invites all employees “to come on this journey of growth, and we invest in them… We always have [nonprofit and other] initiatives and calls for volunteers where people can lead because almost everyone who has raised their hand to jump in and do something like that has been a very fast grower.”
Find the right match between the individual and the job. When people find a role that kindles their sense of purpose and lets them build and demonstrate competence, they’re much more likely to perform in disciplined and accountable ways. Glazer emphasizes that it’s crucial to find the match between “Who is this person, what do they do really well, what do they like to do and what does the business need?… At the same time, you should be having honest discussions with them about where they are and where your needs are,” particularly if their current skills and capacities are not enough to meet the organization’s crucial requirements at that time.
Glazer stresses the importance of recalibrating frequently to ensure that both your organizational values and goals are clear, so that you don’t make placement mistakes just to give a good employee a chance at a big opportunity, or to find them something to do. The optimal fit doesn’t always exist when the employee is ready, and it may not be productive to reassign a person who doesn’t truly want the job you need to fill at that time, or who no longer feels passionate about your organization’s mission.
Help people build capacity for the things that matter to them. Glazer believes that an important task of leadership is to help people recognize what they truly want to accomplish, and he makes a crucial distinction between our capacity or potential to do something and whether or not it’s something we truly want for ourselves. He cautions that organizations actually create problems when they push employees to develop in areas that the employees don’t really care about, such as asking a senior engineer who is very happy as an individual contributor to become an engineering manager.
It’s important not to confuse what might be helpful to the organization with what is desirable to the employee, according to Glazer, because growth is most likely to happen when people commit to a significant goal that stretches them. When “I understand what I want most, I’m going to really work on increasing my intellectual capacity to deliver that. When you really want it and you push outside your comfort zone, you typically go further than you think you could go. That is where you get into the mental and physical sort of virtuous cycle of ‘I wrote the 10 pages. Maybe I can write a book.’ It becomes a positive flywheel…. and [when] you get through it, you think, ‘Oh, I did that.’ And then you start to think about the next thing… actually envisioning yourself doing the next thing, setting the bar higher and then doing it again.”
Focus on people who willingly accept feedback.Most employees are grateful for relevant, compassionately delivered feedback. They strive to turn in a good performance and are quite willing to learn how they could do better — once they have a reason to trust you and your judgment. Glazer says that in a business that’s growing at 30 to 40 percent each year, “if you aren’t willing to take feedback and get better, you won’t keep on that curve. [As people learn to] get over their fear of feedback or they’re in a culture that gives good feedback, … they actually become a little addicted to it once they understand how it makes them get better.”
Many employees today feel drained and distracted. If leaders use these four approaches to reengage people intentionally and help them find their best fit, they can reinvigorate their teams and inspire team members to strive to give their best again.
Onward and upward —