Expert tips on managing and motivating staff during coronavirus

In just a short time, many businesses have had to get comfortable with virtual interactions and collaboration. So, how do you keep staff motivated and engaged as businesses look to reopen across the city?  

This was the question posed to local business leader, Dr Edwin Trevor-Roberts, in Council’s recent Lord Mayor’s Business Excellence Workshop. Keep reading for a wrap of his advice for managing people through coronavirus. 

The only way out is through 

Founder and CEO of career transition firm Trevor-Roberts, Edwin believes the jury is still out on whether the majority of organisations will go back to how things were before the coronavirus pandemic, or if they’ll use this time of change to radically shift away from the status quo.  

“There will be businesses that seize this as an opportunity to innovate and accelerate the thoughts and ideas they’ve had,” he said.  

“But I get why a lot of business owners and staff feel exhausted at the end of the day – we are torn between all of these competing demands at the moment. Challenges with communicating with teams remotely, the uncertainty and grappling with the practical questions of, ‘What next?’” 

This uncertainty and new way of operating has called for managers to rethink how they lead.  

“This transition we’ve all made has meant we’ve lost the traditional objective markers of success,” he explains.  

“In the old days, if you were successful you’d have a nice car and maybe the corner office. 

“Now the markers are more subjective and your staff might be wondering what success looks like to them in this new landscape. This presents a challenge for leaders trying to motivate people towards an unknown ideal.”  

Get comfortable with novel thinking  

As work is redefined and we’re given opportunities to adapt our way of operating, Edwin encourages leaders and business owners to take this time to be open to everyone’s ideas – even the pie-in-the-sky ones.  

“Read widely, pick up a magazine or something that you wouldn’t usually read,” he said. 

“Now is the time to be able to come up with new ideas and think in different ways, and look at what all this change means for your business. Look at the opportunities to tackle things with a new strategy.”  

You can teach an old dog new tricks 

Despite the adage, Edwin believes contribution and connection are key to staff success. 

“You can teach new skills so long as there’s the desire to want to make the change. Right now we’re seeing a trend towards soft or human skills. They are vital for our new ways of operating - things like communication, agility and the ability to adapt,” Edwin explains.  

“These are really important when you are looking at how much you spend on professional development, which is traditionally spent on improving technical skills. 

“I challenge you to think, as we move forward in each of our businesses, where do you need to spend your time and money to develop the human skills in your teams?” 

What should leaders focus on?  

Edwin shared these top tips for leaders to focus on right now and help their staff:  

Co-creation. Help tap into the motivation for the individual as a way to keep them connected. Work with your team to find opportunities for them to step up, offer support on a new project and build their skill set.  

Foster the creation of experience sets. Enhancing the experience your staff has in particular areas is critical, especially in smaller organisations. Edwin offers the analogy of thinking of experience as a piece of Lego: “As we learn something new, we get more Lego pieces and if we build enough of these you can rearrange them to take advantage of new opportunities. Our current situation is an experience set and it is important to seek opportunities for your staff to learn something new.” 

Mindful motivation. We will struggle in roles or teams where we cannot find meaning. Leaders can help their staff find meaning, and in turn motivation, by offering plenty of chances for autonomy (a sense of control over the work we do), competence and connectedness.  

Keep learning 

Interested in more expert business advice, new skills and business support? Register for upcoming Council business events and workshops using our business events calendar and join in the discussions in our Business in Brisbane Facebook group.  

Related links

Date posted:
Last updated: 17 June 2020

Brisbane City Council acknowledges this Country and its Traditional Custodians. We pay our respects to the Elders, those who have passed into the dreaming; those here today; those of tomorrow.