Dear Manager,

There’s a tendency in trying economic times to think solely in terms of our own personal issues and adversity. No one else completely understands our day-to-day concerns or the global organizational issues that come into play; we own them all, along with all of their complexities.

Just as we can’t fully comprehend the adversities of others, neither can we assume an attitude that suggests our problems are of greater significance than those of others. “Problems” are clearly a relative issue. Historically, adversity cuts a very wide swath, affecting not only ourselves, but also many of those on whom we’ve come to rely.

In times of prosperity, there’s plenty of excitement, anticipation and recognition to be shared by all; everyone’s on a roll and there are consistent opportunities for reinforcement and feeling good. Times of adversity, by contrast, have the tendency to foster distance and introspective thought. Few want to discuss their challenges, let alone risk further disenchantment by participating in an atmosphere of negative influences. Rather than admitting that yes, we’re feeling a real sense of urgency toward the challenges we’re facing, we instead hunker down and work through it on our own, in very personal – and isolating – terms.

Islands Are Formed

Team building is most beneficial in a tough business environment. The dynamics of a challenging climate, however, often produce the opposite result. I’m sure you’ve observed and possibly felt just how uncomfortably quiet it can become. Conversations that would’ve been common in the past often no longer exist. Enthusiasm in ones voice, including our own, is replaced with less patience and sounds propped up with false encouragement. I address these tendencies to determine if you, or any of those with whom you work, outwardly display these common tendencies. I guarantee, if you’re feeling it, your staff is feeling it too.

If so, it may be a good time to check the pulse of your company’s morale. One of the biggest mistakes management can make is to paint an unrealistically rosy picture when everyday reality suggests the contrary. Management should promote optimism, but must be authentic in its approach. Your team wants to believe, but only if you address current issues realistically and compassionately. You will only earn their confidence through showing a few of your own vulnerabilities.

Who Needs Your Attention?

They all do in some form. I’d begin with the lowest common denominator. Look closely at those who were “on the fence” in more casual times. They may be highly talented individuals, but lack the experience, confidence, and exposure to survive an up-hill climb. Those who display the potential to survive deserve additional attention. Is there an opportunity to provide them with a mentor, coach, or advisor from your current team?

One of the best ways to overcome personal challenge is in the process of assisting others with their own obstacles. Fundamentals are revisited and reinforced for both parties. Additionally, by asking an individual to provide assistance to someone else on the team, you’ve displayed significant confidence in the individual providing the assistance. Often this alone will supply the confidence boost your top performers may be looking for in dealing with their own sense of adversity.

Don’t Create Your Own Island

As referenced earlier, we may have inadvertently detached ourselves at a time when we must become much more visible. Periodically there’s an opportunity to become much closer to your team, and this can be it! Why not develop new strategies never employed in the past? When was the last time you took your team, collectively or individually, to lunch? I encourage you to be somewhat discreet, suggesting in an upbeat manner that your intentions will become clear during the lunch. Your sole objective is to share your appreciation and to simply…

Say “Thank You!”

Management often fails to share these simple magic words, particularly when we may be highly focused upon our own current agenda. This must be the focus and total agenda of your meeting. Challenging times hold great opportunity to bring a group of individuals to a singular focus. We all remember times (and survival) of challenge; and we will always remember those with whom we successfully scaled the mountain. The potential for establishing a long-term bond is clearly at hand.

If appropriate, this may also be a good time to share your candid thoughts in reference to your own individual and collective challenges. While there’s certainly a responsibility to remain focused on a positive outcome, you must also be realistic and cognizant of your collective reality. I know this is a very fine line. Address some of your own current challenges in addition to addressing some of theirs. This suggests a full understanding and appreciation of their perspective as well. We must remind ourselves that we aren’t the only individual being personally challenged. Begin and conclude your meeting with a heartfelt acknowledgment of appreciation and personal thanks.

Enhanced Recognition

National studies consistently show that recognition of one’s staff is VERY high on the list of motivators for fulfillment in a professional setting. In more challenging times, this only becomes magnified.

In looking back, I can see instances where I failed to provide an adequate level of recognition to my staff. It’s so darned easy to get caught up in our own scenarios and expectations. While this was a priority for me personally, I feel I may have become too predictable in its application. Yes, I recognized individuals in my monthly memos and during our periodic sales meetings. While it may have been appreciated in some form, it more likely became, “haven’t we all been here before?” The recognition process can become very pat, seriously lacking in spontaneity and sincerity.

Check Your Motives

When does recognition become overdone? When it becomes something less than authentic. If the intent in offering recognition and acknowledgment is simply to challenge others to “step up” their own performance, the true impact and opportunity has been lost. While recognition may or may not provide this side benefit, your objective must remain pure. You’re here to sincerely show your appreciation of the best and the brightest.

To avoid the “grand stand impact”, you may wish to meet with individuals on a personal basis. In this scenario there can be no question of your intentions. As you develop this recognition strategy, allow spontaneity to become your new best friend.

When was the last time you sent a personal thank you note, acknowledging the outstanding efforts to a team member? This provides two things. It certainly suggests your appreciation but, often more importantly, shows your awareness of their efforts, participation, and significance to the organization as a whole. In the very least, consider getting back to updating and using that list of staff birthdays!

Recognition of “the Little Things”

What may seem to be routine occurrences today may have been considered significant victories in days gone by. It’s so easy to take these smaller day-to-day victories for granted, particularly in a more challenging economic environment. Pay attention to these small victories and recognize them once again. Revisit, perhaps reminiscently, just how amazingly far members of your team have progressed over the years.

This process will do wondrous things for your staff and their/your collective morale. And yes, there’s a significant byproduct for your effort as well. You’ll find inspiration and fulfillment in personal terms that you may not have found in any other form.

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2011. Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL/INTERPERSONALBIZ.ORG as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM