HomeStartup Insights15 Ways to Keep Your Team Motivated When the Company Is Struggling

15 Ways to Keep Your Team Motivated When the Company Is Struggling

Startup leaders, what is one way you keep your team motivated when the company is struggling? 

To help you find the best ways to keep your team motivated when your startup is struggling, we asked startup founders and business owners this question for their best insights. From asking the team for help to reminding them regularly of the vision, there are several ways you could get your team well motivated, as you work together to overcome challenging times at your startup.

Here are 15 ways these leaders keep their teams motivated when their companies are  struggling:

  • Ask the Team for Help
  • Strengthen Engagement Among the Team
  • Set New Short-Term Goals That Are Easier to Achieve
  • Involve Your Team in Difficult Decisions When You Can
  • Offer Financial Incentives
  • Empower the Team by Reminding Them of Their Importance and the Mission of the Company
  • Celebrate Accomplishments
  • Help Them understand That Hardships Make You Grow
  • Find Ways to Help Them Accomplish Personal Goals
  • Tell Them What’s Happening and Show How You’ll Get Out of it Together
  • Encourage Upskilling 
  • Be Deliberate With a Positive Body Language
  • Communicate Clearly Your Strategy for Growth
  • Line Up Encouraging Case Studies
  • Keep Reminding Them of the Vision

Ask the Team for Help

I have learned to be as transparent as possible with my team when things don’t go the way they should. In most cases, I ask my team for help. I want to hear their thoughts and believe when things stall it is a great opportunity to make a better connection with them. Ask them if they have any research, ideas, or concepts they would like to share that may help the problem. Get them talking about potential positive outcomes, people like to be heard, but most importantly listen to what they have to say. You will be amazed at the insight, foresight, and brilliant ideas you can uncover if you do.

LT Ladino, CEO & Founder,

Strengthen Engagement Among the Team

When times are tough it is important that leaders serve to keep the focus on the positive. Engaging ways to motivate team members could include pay it forward activities, virtual happy hours or team competitions. By reminding people that they have a support system during troubling times, leaders can alleviate anxiety and stress. Furthermore, providing opportunities for employees to connect, creates positive rapport and deepens relationships within your organization.

Tyler Butler, Chief Social Impact Officer, 11Eleven Consulting

Set New Short-Term Goals That Are Easier to Achieve

If your company is struggling and looks like accomplishing long-term goals will be unlikely, you need to change your perspective. Be transparent with your employees, and set more short-term goals that will be easier to achieve.

As you’re navigating your way out of a slump, be sure to celebrate meeting those new, short-term goals. Recognize the work your workers have put in, clearly communicate that you appreciate their effort, and don’t forget to reward these accomplishments too.

If they see that they’re meeting or even exceeding the expectations you’ve set, they’ll have a sense of accomplishment.

Tomek Mlodzki, CEO, PhotoAiD

Involve Your Team in Difficult Decisions When You Can

Allow your employees to participate in the discussion and work with them to come up with solutions to the difficult issues if you’re experiencing expense reductions or significant economic challenges. I’ve seen this done numerous times, and the team is always more critical of themselves than you might ever be, but they almost always come up with innovative methods to cut costs while maintaining productivity, often bringing to light opportunities that you probably aren’t aware of.

Sanket Shah, CEO, InVideo

Offer Financial Incentives

Some startup leaders use financial incentives to keep their team motivated when the company is struggling. This can include offering bonuses, stock options, or other benefits tied to the company’s success. Others may simply try to keep communication open and positive, so that team members feel like they are part of a larger goal and are not working in a vacuum.

Aviad Faruz, CEO, FARUZO New York

Empower the Team by Reminding Them of Their Importance and the Mission of the Company

Being part of a startup is hard and not for everyone. It takes a special breed of person to take the leap. In my experience, one very effective way to keep a team motivated during difficult times is to empower them and have them remember what the end goal is, which should always be to become a voice of change in whatever industry you are in. By reminding them of how important they are, and what the mission is they will always find that motivation to keep on going.

Pablo Paz, CEO and Founder, Interactive Contact Center

Celebrate Accomplishments

It’s important to celebrate accomplishments. It could be individual celebrations or small company milestones. Leaders need to show appreciation and gratitude to team members in hopes of motivating and encouraging them to keep their heads up. Not only will morale improve, but also employee productivity.

Jodi Neuhauser, CEO, Ovaterra

Help Them Understand That Hardships Make You  Grow

Highlighting that nothing truly good comes easily is one tactic I use to motivate my team when times are tough. In order to achieve great results, you have to push yourself to do things you haven’t done before. In doing so, inevitably there will be challenges. However, if you can keep a positive mental attitude and work through the hardships, you will come out the other side stronger than ever before.

Gerald Lombardo, Founder, The Word Counter

Find Ways to Help Them Accomplish Personal Goals

While the goals of the company at large are crucial, the personal goals of employees are what keep them motivated even when the company is struggling. Find ways to identify each employee’s long-term goals so that you can keep them on track, and ensure they’re engaged and on a journey of growth regardless of the current situation of the company.

Igal Rubinshtein, Founder, Home Essentials Direct

Tell Them What’s Happening and Show How You’ll Get Out of it Together

As a startup leader, you need to have a positive vibe all the time, even when things are tough. At the same time, use honesty, transparency, and respect for your team. It means, telling them what’s happening but providing a clear direction. Show them how together you can get out of it. This will motivate and even excite the right teammates.

Know your people. As a startup, you have no excuse for not knowing your employees at a personal level. And when you have that human connection and know the needs of each person, you’ll find a way to embark on the battle to win any kind of hardship.

Cristina Imre, Executive Coach & Mentor for Founders, Quantum Wins

Encourage Upskilling

If a company is struggling, employees may find it easier to quit as they may see it as a barrier to their growth. To retain employees and change this perception, help them upskill in other ways. Whether it’s through relevant seminars, one-on-one coaching, or in-house mentorship, there are a number of excellent ways you can help employees upskill and keep them motivated through dire times.

Marc Roca, Owner, 4WD Life

Be Deliberate With a Positive Body Language

When a startup blossoms, the team is typically deaf to the leader’s body language. But when the startup struggles, the team keenly listens to the leader’s body language. This is because, at the moment of crisis, your body language as a leader (however supposedly unconscious) speaks volumes of your strength of conviction in resurrecting the startup’s fortunes.

You must deliberately radiate confidence and optimism in your body language. Your gestures, body posture, eye movement, and facial expressions must convey a confident captain certain of the way to shore in a storm. Once defeatism creeps into your body language, your employees will lose confidence in your leadership and start jumping overboard.

Lotus Felix, CEO, Lotusbrains Studio

Communicate Clearly Your Strategy for Growth

We acquired a SaaS company and within just a few months of the transition, the business had lost 25% of its revenue. Obviously, this was a big blow to morale but the worst thing I could do is panic and talk about the world ending. Instead, I wrote a 7 piece growth strategy that outlined exactly what we were going to do to turn the business around. Clearly communicating is the key to keeping people motivated. When there is a plan in place that people can get behind, motivation follows.

Adam White, Founder, SquidVision

Line Up Encouraging Case Studies

When employees sign up for a role in a startup, they are already aware of the risks involved. At the same time, they are also mindful of the rewards that follow these challenges. A great way to validate their decision and encourage them to keep working towards the bigger goal is to line up case studies highlighting situations similar to your startup. You only have to ensure that these studies end on a positive note. In addition to encouraging your team, these studies may also give them new ideas for tackling current challenges. When your team witnesses the stories of others and sees them ending well, they will find the motivation they need to go on despite their present struggles.

Larissa Pickens, Owner, Repeat Replay

Keep Reminding Them of the Vision

Beyond the business struggling, there are a lot of outside factors that can increase pressure on a business. This can easily bleed into company culture. For instance, while the pandemic and now recession are impacting businesses, we’ve tried to frame it as an opportunity at our startup: “If we started a business during a pandemic and are able to grow it through a recession, you can build a career off of that.”

Jonathan Gandolf, Founder & CEO, The Juice

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