Misery Is NOT The New Productivity
Tips to Weather the Recession

Maybe I threw the "recession is over" party too soon. It doesn't seem to be over for a lot
of people. In fact, the biggest concern my clients have is how to keep their people
motivated while asking them to do more with less for some vague and unforeseeable
amount of time.

The same people who have been doing more with less for the past three years. The
same people who are burned out and very worried about the future.

Here are my ideas:

1. Make sure you are spreading the work around.

Don't overburden the workhorses and let the complainers slide. Don't always get
Martha to stay late because Sally complains too much or Jim always leaves at 5 pm.
That is weak leadership and is not fair to Martha.

2. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish.

Training is one of the first things to go when times are tough. I've recently done several
programs that were the only time attendees had come together in over a year. They
had fun, they sharpened their skills, and their morale increased. The cost was very
small for all that return. On-site programs (no travel expense for your team) can be
very affordable. This is a win-win.

3. Tell them how much you appreciate them.

I don't mean as a group -- although that's not bad. I mean one-on-one. Be sincere, be
specific. Don't do it if someone hasn't been that great, only do it for the ones you wish
you could clone. I don't care if you think they know
-- tell them anyway.

4. Slay the vampires.

ou know who I'm talking about: the negative Nellie's, the complainers -- your
problem children. Set your people free! Get rid of them! It's hard enough to keep your
spirits up without these horrors around. Man up
-- protect your people!

5. Stop lying.

I know you haven't been doing this on purpose. It's that darn American optimism! But
we don't know what the future holds, so don't tell them just to hang in there another
quarter if it might be another four years. And quit lying to yourself. You may have to
readjust your business plan, you may have to let more people go, or you may have to
hire others with different skill sets. Come clean and ask for your people's input
-- you
might be surprised how much they will help if they know the real deal.

6. Have some fun!

Many companies cut everything -- the annual company dinner, raises, travel, etc. Fun
is now seen as somehow evil and wasteful. Misery is the new productivity. Well, this
cannot stand! You might be thinking
: "I hate fun, I don't want to have to plan fun, we
don't have time for fun." I say you don't have time NOT to have fun. If you hate fun,
delegate this to one of your fun lovers. Let's work through an example
-- you have a
call center. It's typically NOT a fun job
-- dealing with complaints, billing issues, sales.
Maybe one Friday you surprise them with an ice cream break. Management serves up
hot fudge sundaes. Fun work
s: see Zappos, Traders Joe's, Southwestern Airlines for
great corporate examples. It doesn't have to be expensive and obviously what you
choose to do has to fit with your organizational culture. And if you're waiting for
things to get better to have fun, you might be waiting too long. Recession might be the
new normal.

7. Can you be more flexible?

Rather than just telling your employees "we can't afford that," challenge them. Tell
them you'd love to help them get whatever it is, but it's not in the budget. Give them
some ideas
: "Ask some of our vendors if they would consider sponsorship. See if that
supplier will negotiate. Is a trade possible?" Your people might surprise you. But if
you just say, "No we're not doing that." The door is closed. Empower them to try and
get what they want—they'll grow and they just might get a glimpse of how hard your
job is! And you know what? If they really, really want it, they'll make it happen.
Everybody wins!

8. Can you be even more flexible?

If there's no money, can you give them control over their time? The younger
generations (people under 45) really value work/life balance. Could you give
everyone a flex hour once a month? They have to get it approved, but you just give
then an hour to do with what they will. Be creative, be flexible
-- you can always try it
and see what the results are. This is all about being open minded and trying some new
ideas. Are you more locked into your old ways than you realize?

9. Redefine your mission.

Everyone wants to feel their work has meaning -- have you reminded your people
lately what they do for others or what impact they have on the world? Get with it,
leader! They need to hear this from you and they need to hear it regularly. Ex.
-- call
center work is easier if I know I'm helping people care for their families or
communicate with their loved ones or lead better lives.

10. Focus on results, let go of things that may no longer matter.

Look at the essence of your people's work. Each one should know how success is
measured for their job. It is number of units sold? Is it the number of calls handled or
HOW they are handled? Is it enough to just show up on time and stand behind the
counter or is there a goal? Do not for one minute assume they know your mysterious
undefined goals. I work with many retailers whose clerks have no sales goals. Showing
up on time and breathing for eight hours seems to be all that's required. Do you want
to employ Susie, who is punctual and couldn't sell food to a starving man, or Sally,
who is five minutes late but moves merchandise like it's on fire? Do you punish your
producer until she no longer produces?

Just give these ideas some thought
-- what we used to do might not work anymore.
And if some of these ideas make you uncomfortable
-- good! Those are probably the
ones you need to try. Recession is hell.

Denise Ryan, MBA, a motivational speaker based in North Carolina, is a Certified Speaking
Professional, a designation of excellence held by less than 10% of all professional speakers. Her
speeches are filled with great real world tips and a strong dose of humor. She is a
blogger  and
author. Her website is
Fire Star Speaking where you can see more articles and sign up for a free

Home Office Weekly
is a BackPorch Publishing site

Join Us Today!

Marcia Passos Duffy, Publisher & Editor
Author of
Be Your Own Boss

Home Office Weekly
Your guide to successfully living & working under one roof!
Join Us Today!
Visit Art.com
Recession Misery? Here are Tips to Cope