For a culture of re-motivation and re-start

Andrea Lipparini July 28, 2020

The crisis of this 2020 violently projected entrepreneurs and managers (and not just them) outside their comfort zone. Even the most outlandish hypotheses of scenario change did not factor in the weight of immobility and the threat of the erosion of the relational processes and mechanisms, painstakingly established over time.

After awareness and misery comes the time of reorganization and restarting. Even though there’s a wide range of different situations – there are those who feel they’ve been forgotten and those who, instead, have acknowledged they’re not alone – there’s only one strong topic, considering the relevance that people normally have for every organization: re-motivation.

The tendency to look at the negative aspects is the understandable consequence of this period. Additionally, the soil is fertile for a basic fear to take root and doubts too – always positive for those who wonder about the consequences of their choices, – risk leading to a dangerous paralysis. Now more than ever the time to take responsibility has come.

The organizations with which I am in touch, through their managers, often tell me that people are unmotivated, and they see a shaky future. They say that young people lose most of their potential: they were hired to contribute to a change of pace, to imagine and support change. The change has occurred, but we are walking backwards.

In these cases, to re-motivate and mobilize a group of people to manage demanding challenges, it is helpful to be inspired by the features of adaptive leadership. When it is not possible to access the repertoire of answers put together to face similar situations, what is needed are leaders who are able to anchor this momentous change to the values and skills of the people involved. If the length of the dreams of the human capital has vastly decreased, it is necessary to stimulate the creation of an environment that thrives on the richness of points of view, also on the crisis itself.

Drawing a list of the opportunities linked to the reduction of contacts can be a good starting point. How many of us have reconsidered their priorities, appreciated the first hours of “yard time” after weeks of segregation, tasting the pleasure of the moments spent with their families, enjoyed the exchange of views through the eyes? An entrepreneur confided to me that he took advantage of the crisis to test the strength of the relationships with some suppliers; a manager, who participates in an executive program of Bologna Business School shared his satisfaction in finding that his customers would periodically ask information about the resumption of business.

It is not optimism born out of ‘laziness’. It is the will to restart from the fundamental elements, to demonstrate that no one is as smart as all the members of a team put together (I have just borrowed a famous sentence by Ken Blanchard). Now we really have the occasion to show that motivational training, besides the technical one, had a foundation; that we are a team, not a simple group, because everyone assesses the impact of their choices and actions on their colleagues and on the other stakeholders.

The adaptive leader recognizes that we are fallible anyway, also because of causes that do not depend on the company strategies. Such a leader promotes a new culture of the error and of testing, with the awareness that solutions can come from everyone and everyone must have a role to play to restart. Perhaps this crisis highlighted the importance of the enhancement of aptitudes or, at least, I like imagining this is the case. Certainly, people have had the demonstration of their ability– or lack thereof – to resist and manage defeats. Now they are asking for leaders able to listen and understand intuitively.

Anna Maria Giannini, Professor of Psychology at the La Sapienza University in Rome, in a recent exchange, underlined to me that this period is characterized by the so-called ‘post-traumatic growth’ that highlights the need to develop new forms of resilience and control. Raising the awareness of individuals and organizations on the challenge (‘I must fight’) is important to avoid denying the obvious or choosing to give up.

Social distancing, in some cultures like the Latin one, has had a particularly strong impact: many companies have set up a ‘helpline’ so that employees could have a team of psychologists to support them. We still see the difficulty linked to the so-called ‘energy bottlenecks’, with the surfacing of a deep-seated anger that people don’t know where to channel.

Understanding the anxiety, accepting the challenge, wondering ‘what can I do now’ is what we need. Re-motivation has got to do with the targets we can put on the table, all together. Never before, the feedback – received or given – has been so important. Acknowledging we are not isolated and alone and, most of all, sharing our fears nurtures re-motivation, taking the brake off the challenge.