Learn how to motivate employees once December's celebrations are over...
For most businesses, January is a critical time. A new calendar and, often, a new fiscal year bring new opportunities and challenges. It's a great time for your team to take on big, new challenges since your employees have likely had some time to recharge their batteries. It's also a great time to engage with customers and clients who are also working to re-establish their own priorities. January can be an extremely inspiring time for your team - a time of possibilities.
There are, however, some particular motivational challenges that face managers after the holidays. Employees can have a hard time getting back into their routines after so much time off. In addition, the new year can be overwhelming for your team members as they face all the projects that had been put off prior to the break. Finally, managers may need to deal with "strategic drift" as team members come back with new ideas, fresh points of view, and differing interpretations of what had been agreed prior to the break.
Fortunately, the same good leadership skills needed year round can be applied at year beginning to get your team a great start... Here are some ways to motivate your employees!
First, figure out how to motivate yourself:
You won't be able to get your team fired up if you have your own case of the "blahs." You can overcome this with a little bit of game planning. Start by clearly defining your own vision for success in Q1 before the first day back at work. In addition to business goals, get clear on your personal & social goals for the quarter. Be honest with yourself about likely challenges, write them down, and think through ways that you might overcome them.
If after this exercise, you still feel anxious, overwhelmed, or uninspired, call up or meet one of your mentors and talk it through. In addition to the great advice you'll likely get, you'll feel better having gotten your feelings out in the open.
Re-establish team direction and momentum:
While only a couple of weeks in "real time," the Holiday period seems much longer. It may be difficult for your employees to remember exactly where they left off on projects or your latest direction to them. Strategies and plans that were crystal clear in December can seem really fuzzy in January.
The first thing you need to do as a leader is to recognize and accept this. The second is to schedule a "Year Beginning Kickoff" session for your direct reports in the first week post-vacation. Make this a comfortable, non-threatening meeting focused on priority sharing within the team. Start the meeting by reconnecting as humans, maybe with open discussion about any interesting trips or experiences employees want to share, then move into business.
Verbally present goals, strategies, and measures / KPIs for the organization in Q1 - having these on a handout is also a good idea. Have each of your direct reports then share their own priorities for the month and quarter. You can gently push team members on course if needed with questions or with followups after the meeting.
Make it personal:
As noted earlier, after being away for so long employees may need a few days to re-establish their relationship with their jobs. They may also need to re-establish their relationship with you!
Take the time to visit each of your direct reports. In addition to personally catching up, highlight something that they're working to deliver that has you personally excited. Knowing that you have interest in their work priorities will be highly energizing.
Make it visible:
You can make your goals "stickier" and get your organization on board more quickly by ensuring there are visual reminders around the office. Something as simple as a big sign outside your office with "Q1 Priorities" can make a big difference. Do this as early as possible to limit any new year drift.
Make it fun:
Coming back to the routine of the office is hard but you can make it easier. Although there's a lot to be done, you should build a little fun into the schedule with lunches, recognition events, and social activities. We've created a calendar of employee engagement activities that you may find helpful. You can keep expectations and productivity high while helping your team to ease in to the year. You can be even more effective by combining the "fun" with your direction setting efforts.
However you decide to start the year, recognizing the challenges we've laid out is more than half the battle. Awareness, compassion, and good basic management will make you a winner.