How to Engage Employees During Uncertain Times

When times are uncertain, people disengage. They’re distracted by anxiety and personal concerns, worried about the future, and less likely to view the work they’re doing as an important part of their life.

Leaders need to know how to positively re-engage and refocus their people. In tough times employees look to their leaders even more than usual. Here are some ways to help them stay connected and engaged:

Show emotional support. People who are feeling uncertain and anxious don’t want good intentions. They want emotional support and vulnerability, a sense of genuine caring and concern. The best leaders work hard to support the physical and psychological well-being of their people.

Provide insight and communication. Especially in difficult times, employees want a leader who will communicate and provide clarity. At the core of leadership is the leader’s responsibility to calm people down and engage them in a way that provides comfort and assurance along with honesty.

Foster a strong community culture. People often turn inward as they work to cope with stressful situations, but the resulting isolation makes the situation even worse. The cure for isolation and disengagement is community. Do everything you can to keep your team’s community and culture strong so no one feels they’re going through this alone.

Minimize distractions. When your employees are anxious, when their work schedules change, when nothing is operating normally it’s easy for people to feel scattered and disengaged. That’s when the best leaders step up to help people focus by setting goals and maintaining accountability—while also remembering to keep expectations realistic.

Remove financial burdens. As a leader it is important to emphasize to your employees that you are there to support them. If they need financial support to help them through, be creative in finding ways to provide it, and if money needs to come from somewhere, take it from the top. Recently the CEO of Southwest Airlines took a 10 percent pay cut to help their employees out.

Make sure you’re ready for an economic downturn. I have seen unprepared companies get destroyed in downturns. Your best defense—aside from a stockpile of cash, if you’re lucky—is an engaged and determined team. Help them feel positive about their work and show them the gratitude they deserve for their critical role.

Avoid layoffs at all costs. The last thing you should find yourself doing as a leader is laying off people. Review expenses and debt levels now, and commit to resourcefulness and creativity in leading your team and organization through what may be a lengthy recession. Workforce reductions should be the absolute last resort.

The best message you can give your employees, in your words and your actions, is that you’ll all get through this together. Then do everything you can to keep your company and people engaged and productive.

Lead from within: Great leaders know that managing uncertainty is a matter of putting themselves in the shoes of their employees and delivering the strong, compassionate leadership they expect.


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The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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