Leading Through Crisis: Employee Engagement & Productivity

Image for post
Image for post
When things become tough, the culture you have built will shine through.

It has been a few months since the onset of the crisis, and many businesses, both small and large enterprises, will experience the effects for the foreseeable future as each faces their own unique set of challenges. Our ‘Thinking Big’ series is purposefully designed to tackle big questions about various aspects of effectively running a business, strategising around unique circumstances, and what to expect when you make important decisions.

A few days after he announced his upcoming sabbatical, Seni Sulyman (Vice President of Global Operations at Andela) hosted a Q&A on maximising productivity and employee engagement. At Andela, Seni was charged with the task of “turning around the culture” by cultivating a performance-driven mindset, ensuring the team was aligned on goals and outcomes, and measuring those outcomes. Here are some key points and questions he touched on during his session:

3 Pillars for Managing a High-Performance Team

  1. Management:
  • Clarify what your goals are with your team members and make sure those goals are cascaded across all departments, so every person understands how they contribute to those goals.
  • Outline a clear measure of success; streamline your KPIs to 3 major goals
  • For effective performance management, assess what techniques are needed, such as team meetings, progress reviews, creating shared accountability and other effective tools
  • Leave room for the personal lives of your employees. Have regular 1-on-1s with team members to show empathy and understanding.

2. Communication:

  • Be honest about how the business is doing and communicate that with your team. Without context, your team members cannot empathise with what the business is going through. If any changes will affect them, it’s important to immediately communicate that honestly and leave room to answer questions. Times of crises are good for building trust with your team.

3. Culture

  • When things become tough, the culture you have built will shine through. This is the best time to take a good look at your company culture and measure how your team feels about your business.
  • Now is the time to build community and a rapport amongst your colleagues. As a leader, it’s your job to define victory during crises and give them a sense of purpose.

On Striking A Balance Between Being Empathetic & Being Strategic

  • A core part of management is empathy. Performance is about people being in the right mental state and having very clear goals.
  • Establishing rapport with your direct reports enables you to understand them better. Know what drives them and how to empower them to perform better.

On Communicating To A Hardworking Team That May Suffer Losses

  • Effective communication starts with the “why?”. When people do not understand why, they struggle with these decisions. When they understand the reason behind a tough decision, there is a dignity that comes with it and they feel valued.
  • It is important that communication is also occurring between managers and their direct reports, not only with HR. Present it as a discussion, open the floor up for suggestions and feedback.

On Areas Start-Ups Should Focus On During Crisis

This is a time to look inwards.

  • Examine your sales pipeline to predict your revenue generation over the next few months.
  • If you are in a position where you will be losing revenue, calculate how many months your business can survive without earning and start to find areas within your business where you can save money so your business can survive.
  • There are some businesses that will grow through periods like this, but likely 80% of companies will not, so the main goal is to survive.

On Seni’s ‘Firing & Re-hiring’ Ideology

All leaders in an organization must recognize the ways in which their jobs have changed since the inception of this crisis and will continue to change over time.

  • You need to shed or ‘fire’ the version of ourselves from weeks ago and ‘rehire’ the new versions that we need to be today.
  • Most entrepreneurs and leaders aren’t sitting on billions of dollars in cash, and therefore you must become a war-time leader.
  • Your KPIs have to be completely adjusted for survival mode; focus on facts, create a culture of transparency within your teams, and don’t shy away from making difficult decisions.
  • Assess how to deliver on commitments to your customers and achieve the same results with less money?

On Driving Performance Of Your Team

  • The starting point is ensuring it is very clear to the manager and the team what it is they have committed to doing, and what completing those commitments successfully means.
  • Using the right tracking tools to list deliverables and specific details behind ownership to hold your team accountable and measure their performance. Encouraging transparency with tracking makes it impossible to hide a lack of productivity.

Ultimately, how your team performs during a crisis is closely related to your company’s hiring philosophy. Seni Sulyman encourages leaders to “hire for self-motivated people and self-starters…people who are hungry to prove themselves”. Taking the time to know potential employees will give you an edge in hiring individuals who can contribute to building a high-performance team. Watch the full video here.

Written by

Endeavor is leading the global high-impact entrepreneurship movement. We are accelerating the growth of Nigeria’s high-impact, scaleup & growth-stage companies.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store