In business, as in life, one's perspective determines one's morale or attitude more than any specific situation does.
In network marketing, we often attribute low team morale to common challenges, such as recent company changes, cuts in commission, or leaders leaving the company. These issues are real, and so is the impact they have on people. Let's not diminish the emotions tied to these issues that can cause morale to become lowered.
However, to improve morale is to change the team's perspective, rather than looking for a golden answer. An organization can spend all its time focusing on such circumstances and continue to experience negative emotions, or it can choose to change the perspective of its members. Which do you think is more productive and advantageous?
In some situations a company may hire a motivational speaker to address their group about a tragedy, and as a result, the audience gets motivated and becomes eager to make the best of its situation. Why is that? What happened was a change of perspective.
Gratitude Precedes Success
When a leader is faced with low team morale, his or her job is to hold team members accountable by teaching them to be grateful before they can be successful and happy—even if they are not necessarily content.
We all can be grateful for what we have, but we often forget to think about the good in our lives. A young couple is disappointed when they find out they are having a baby boy when they wanted a baby girl, while just across the street, there is another couple grateful to be finally pregnant after years of trying to conceive.
It is no different in the business world. One gentleman is upset and feels he is not being treated fairly because his company has done away with company cars and special bonuses. Down the block, a couple is struggling to figure out where to live because they just had to close their small business and file bankruptcy, and they can't pay their bills.
Life is about perspective. Smart parents around the world tell their children to be grateful for what they have, because there is someone out there who has it a lot worse. (Ironically, those who have it worse often have a much better perspective.)
Sympathy versus Empathy
It does no good to sympathize with team members when they are complaining about the loss of benefits or commission cuts. In fact, when leaders start sympathizing with their teams around such struggles and the "unfairness" of the situation, it only makes morale worse. Their intention may be to show compassion and empathy for their team members and therefore (hopefully) help them turn their attitude around, but instead, they end up confirming all those reasons why morale should be bad in the first place.
To improve a team's morale, a leader must change their perspective. This is not a cold or insensitive approach, it is an empathetic approach that says the feelings the person is having are real but may not be necessary, be helpful, or have a purpose. The leader's job is to give the team members hope and understanding, not sympathy.
When a team complains about some top earner who left the company, the leader might point out how there is now a great opportunity to step up even more than before. A leader will challenge his or her team members to step up and own their business, not in a cheesy, "you can do it" way, but in a sincere tone that says, "This is what it will take, and each of you has to decide if you are committed and willing to do it."
Happiness versus Contentment
"Money can't buy you happiness," goes the old saying, and we have all heard the rejoinder, "Maybe not—but it can buy the things that make a person happy!" But is that really true? Yes, everybody ultimately wants to be happy, but happiness is a state of being, not a destination. People are not happy as a result of being successful, they are successful as a result of being happy.
A great leader must insist on all team members being happy, and if anybody is not happy, they should find a new business or team to hang out with.
Being happy is not the same thing as being content. Life, like business, is an ongoing game of competition with oneself. As business leaders, we must always strive to be better. When we stop trying to improve or learn, we become bored and content (and actually unhappy).
Contentment, in fact, is a major contributor to poor morale. It is like quicksand: anybody can fall in it and it will continue to pull you down until a leader challenges you and pulls you out.
If an organization is having a morale issue, look at the happiness and contentment of the team. Contentment is like bad breath; sometimes we aren't aware of our own breath and we need someone to tell us so we can change it. Get in a happy state of being and challenge yourself and your team to never be content.
Difficult times do not cause bad morale, the lack of gratefulness does. Leaders need to take a look at their team and their situation, and know that they are the only ones who can change it.
Morale is a result of the actions or lack of actions of the leader and the team. By taking on this positive attitude, the individuals win, the team wins, and the company wins.
In every crisis, every challenge, every difficult situation, there is always a choice. One can stay and complain and be miserable; one can leave and hope for something better; or one can truly change one's perspective, be grateful, and move forward with purpose.
NATHAN JAMAIL, bestselling author of
The Playbook Series, is also a motivational
speaker, entrepreneur and corporate coach.
As a former executive for Fortune 500
companies, and owner of several small
businesses, Nathan travels the country helping
individuals and organizations achieve maximum success.