• Although the past 100 years have seen substantial improvements in working conditions around the world, particularly within the knowledge economy, our work is not yet done.
  • Consider that even skilled workers — who have recently benefited from higher levels of freedom and flexibility, not to mention access to meaningful jobs and careers, and employers who express the intent to improve workers’ health and well-being — suffer from chronic low engagement and productivity levels, while stress and burnout continue to rise.
  • Add to this the pressures of economic uncertainty and a potential recession, the threat of artificial intelligence automating jobs and skills and disrupting entire industries, and the sense of languishing and loneliness that increasingly permeates the work experiences of many, and the overall picture is rather bleak.
  • In our view, there has never been a better time to rehumanise work. That is, in an age when a large proportion of our everyday interactions with others (e.g., clients, colleagues, and bosses, and even spouses and kids) are reduced to sterile technological exchanges, while our careers seem to have been optimised for efficiency, it’s no surprise that many workers feel deprived of their creativity, curiosity, and humanity altogether.
  • The implication?
  • If you want to compete for talent, and create truly appealing environments in your team and organisation, where people thrive and excel, you must help them rediscover the human (and humane) qualities that make work more than just work.
  • This is particularly critical for those who manage people, with studies showing that around 30% to 40% of the variability in team morale, performance, and critical organisational behaviours (both good and bad) can be explained by what managers and leaders do.
  • Simply put: Bosses play a key role impacting the well-being and success of teams.
  • There is no shortage of historical examples to illustrate this consistent research finding: from Catherine the Great’s nation building, to Sir Alex Ferguson’s record-breaking Manchester United, to Satya Nadella’s radical transformation of Microsoft, effective collaboration between people is dramatically enhanced with effective leadership.
  • With that, we see three potential action areas for managers and leaders who want to enhance their team’s morale, well-being and performance, particularly during tough or uncertain times.


1. Revitalising:

  • In any organisation, the level of energy and output differs as much within as between individuals. The same employee may be highly productive one year and unproductive the next.
  • In the presence of adverse circumstances (e.g., economic crisis, political instability, a global pandemic, etc.) dips in morale and performance are likely in many teams. Thus, managers and people leaders should focus on revitalising their teams, which is fundamentally about energising and motivating people again.
  • A good way to achieve this is to start with the why, consistent with the notion that a critical aspect of leadership is to “manage meaning.” Humans crave meaning, and leaders are well positioned to shape meaning, helping us make sense of the world.
  • The most important task is to emphasise — often — why the work a team is doing matters. Even in tough economic conditions, most people have alternative options for their careers, bringing doubt and uncertainty about where to go, what to do next, and how to decide.
  • When leaders help people to remember and embrace the why, they are more likely to believe that they matter to the success of the company’s goals. This is energising, and can make people feel re-energised.
  • One way to do this is to celebrate past achievements and link them to future objectives and successes.
  • Emphasise social ties among team members and remind team members of their shared history and past challenges, to help them feel connected to each other, and to the team’s mission.


2. Repairing:

  • This is about using the power of leadership to heal existing and past wounds, restore well-being, and address human rather than business problems.
  • All human relationships are subject to breakdown via misunderstanding, disagreement, conflict, and failures. Smart leaders help their teams learn from failures and turn them into valuable lessons.
  • To achieve this, vulnerability goes a long way, enabling psychological safety and candour in your team. Be open, transparent, honest, and self-critical, all in the interest of fostering an open dialogue and uniting the team to pursue collaboration and progress.
  • In our view, one of the best ways to assess your leadership talent is by examining the proportion of bad news to good news you receive as a manager or leader


3. Refocusing:

  • Help your team regain focus by aligning team members on key priorities.
  • Remember that you can never over-communicate, while under-communicating is easier than you think and a major cause of most team problems.
  • In particular, shying away from difficult conversations and avoiding conflict are sure-fire ways to ensure worse conflict in the future.
  • Consider starting the new year with a clear strategy session, aligning people on key goals and execution plans.
  • Your key objective should be to ensure everybody understands the what, why, and how, to get them excited about being on the bus, going into an enticing destination, and playing their role to help everybody achieve challenging goals together. In this way, the journey can even be enjoyable.