Why Motivation Alone Won’t Get Your People (or You) Through This Crisis

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As a leader, you’re probably a pretty good motivator.

That’s what most leaders do: motivate the people they lead.

I have seen so many pastors and leaders motivating their teams and congregations online over the last few weeks as we all come to grips with this massive crisis.

Here’s the problem: As you’ve likely already figured out, motivation alone is not going to get you, your team or your congregation through this crisis.

You need a much wider skill set, a skill-set that until now, most of us haven’t needed and perhaps didn’t know existed.

Motivation alone is not going to get you, your team or your congregation through this crisis. You need a much wider skill set.CLICK TO TWEET

This post is part of a series on church leadership and the current global crisis:

5 Ways The Current Crisis is Accelerating The Arrival of the Future Church

Crisis Leadership, Christian Leadership and the Corona Virus

How to Lead Through Rapid, Unexpected Change

8 Ways to Lead in the New Digital Default Church

My Top 7 Rules for Leading a Digital Team

3 Simple Ways To Make Sure You Don’t Break In the Crisis

8 Early Tips for Producing Digital Content During the Current Crisis

I’ll share two other leadership voices that will help you lead through this crisis in a moment, but first I’d love to share something I’m very excited to introduce to you today—something my team and I have been working on non-stop for the last two weeks.

HOW TO LEAD THROUGH CRISIS: A NEW FREE COURSE

The world is experiencing a series of unprecedented challenges, and you’re leading in the midst of it all.

I’ve got a brand new online, on-demand course, called How To Lead Through Crisisthat can help you lead your team, your church and yourself through the massive disruption.

The course is the gift from me and my team to you and leaders everywhere. In light of everything that’s going on, we decided to make it available 100% free.

Inside How To Lead Through Crisis, you’ll learn how to:

  • Cultivate a non-anxious presence that inspires confidence and trust.
  • Care for yourself so the crisis doesn’t break you.
  • Master the art of fast-paced, clear decision making.
  • Gather and interpret the most reliable data that will advance your mission
  • Advance digitally to scale past physical barriers and grow your outreach.
  • Lead your team and congregation remotely

While no one has all the answers in a crisis this big, in the course, I share the mindsets, habits, tools and strategies that I believe will help you lead through crisis to get you and the people you lead to a new (and better) future.

You can enroll and get instant access for you and your team here.

Now, back to the question of how to motivate your team.

In crisis leadership, I think there are three primary voices or styles leaders use to communicate in crisis: motivation, interpretation, and transformation.

Knowing when and how to use each voice can be the difference between inspiring trust or losing it.

Here’s why, and here’s how each voice works.

1. MOTIVATION: A VOICE THAT INSPIRES PEOPLE

As powerful as motivation can be, you can’t motivate your way out of a crisis like this.

You have to lead your way through it.

The best way to lead normal change is to focus on motivation…the why behind the what. (Think about how great you’ll feel after! Imagine what we can accomplish together!)

I’ve heard a lot of: Come on, you’ve got this. God has this. Choose face over fear. God is bigger than this!

God is bigger than this and faith is better than fear, but if that’s all people hear from you, you’ll lose credibility because you’ve failed to interpret the situation accurately.

If your only leadership tone is motivational, it signals that you have no connection with reality.

The crisis we’re facing is both real and deep, and only attempting to motivate people or pretending it this is minor and will quickly pass makes people lose confidence in you.

On a very factual level, the stock market has tanked, borders are closing, airports and cities are madhouses or ghost towns, businesses are struggling, people are struggling, freedom and mobility is dwindling to war-time levels, and of course, people are sick and dying.

You can’t motivate your way out of a crisis like this.

You have to lead your way through it.

Which leads us to the second crisis leadership voice: Interpretation.

You can’t motivate your way out of a crisis like this. You have to lead your way through it.CLICK TO TWEET

2. INTERPRETATION: A TRUSTED VOICE FOR ACCURATE INFORMATION AND NEXT STEPS

A significant part of your job in leading in a crisis isn’t motivation, it’s interpretation.

Getting reliable accurate information in this crisis, or wisdom in knowing what to do next, has been very difficult in this crisis.

People are confused. They’re not 100% sure of what’s happening and even less sure of what’s ahead.

A significant part of your job in leading in a crisis isn’t motivation, it’s interpretation.CLICK TO TWEET

People need a source they can trust. A leader who can figure out what’s best and who then acts accordingly.

In other words, people are looking for someone who can help reliably interpret events and lead them into the next best step.

A lot of leaders lose credibility because they’re still focused on motivation when what their team or congregation needs is accurate information and some provisional navigation: some next steps.

If you can gather reliable information and present it in a way that helps people make sense out of a very confusing moment (I show you some keys to doing this in the crisis course), then people will begin to trust your leadership.

Don’t worry about certainty for your next steps. You can rarely have certainty in a crisis.

While you can’t always have certainty, you can offer clarity. And simply being able to accurately name what’s happening and point to the next best step (i.e. We are going to abide by all government directives and expand our online services to serve you) can be tremendous leadership during a crisis.

My guess is that’s what you’re seeking. So are your people.

If you’re looking for how to find the right tone, the Stockdale Paradox is an excellent guide. You never lose faith that you’ll prevail in the end, but you confront and accept the brutal facts of what you’re going through. I explain more about that walking in the line between the real and the idea in this post.

Right now everyone is looking for reliable interpreters.

Nothing erodes people’s confidence in your leadership during a crisis than spin, self-interest and partisanship.

Nothing erodes people’s confidence in your leadership during a crisis than spin, self-interest and partisanship.CLICK TO TWEET

3. TRANSFORMATION: A TRUSTED VOICE FOR WHERE YOU’RE HEADED IN THE FUTURE

The third leadership voice to develop in a crisis is usually most helpful as the crisis resolves and the new normal emerges.

I say ‘new’ normal because, as much as everyone longs for things to get back to normal, things will undoubtedly not be the same. They rarely if ever are the same after a significant crisis.

So your job as a leader becomes leading people into the new normal. The transitional leadership voice helps people understand that they’re moving into a better, but different future.

While I don’t think anyone knows exactly where this crisis will land us, a few things might be decent guesses:

  • Restrictions on gathering and travel may not be lifted all at once, as much as we might like them to be.
  • Because crisis is an accelerator, more churches and organizations will become digital-first organizations even after the crisis resolves.
  • Economic upheaval of this depth might bring a surprisingly slow or surprisingly fast recovery. It’s too early to tell.

Either way, normal will be different.

Crisis changes your methods, but it can give new life to your mission.

Crisis changes your methods, but it can give new life to your mission.CLICK TO TWEET

Transformational leaders are experts at gaining buy-in for the new methods by relentlessly tying them back to the mission. They spend most of their time explaining the why behind the what, rather than trying to simply sell the what.

As a result, people trust them to walk into the future.

Motivation returns at this point, but not in a cheerleader way. Motivation shows up as the quiet, inspired confidence that although this might be difficult and it might be new, people have it in them to move forward because it’s the best way to embrace the mission everyone is committed to.

When the why and the what line up and the mission gains new life, you not only have a new normal, you potentially have a better normal.  That’s what transformational leadership enables.

When the why and the what line up and the mission gains new life, you not only have a new normal, you potentially have a better normal.CLICK TO TWEET

THE KEY: USE ALL THREE VOICES

All three voices play a key role. Motivation is almost always in season, but it’s just not deep enough to carry the weight of a crisis.

In the depths of the crisis (where we arguably are now…or where we’re heading into), Interpretation becomes the best voice for leaders.

Finally, as the new normal becomes clearer and the crisis starts to lift, leaders who embrace the transformational voice will be able to lead most effectively.

REGISTER TODAY FOR HOW TO LEAD THROUGH CRISIS

I’ve taken everything I know and have learned from top leaders about crisis leadership and put it into an online, on-demand course, called How To Lead Through Crisisthat can help you lead your team, your church and yourself through the massive disruption we’re all experiencing.

Although the course is designed with the church in mind, it has direct implications for business leaders too. We’re excited to make it accessible to all leaders free of charge.

While no one has all the answers in a crisis this big, in the course, I share the mindsets, habits, tools and strategies that I believe will help you lead through crisis to get you and the people you lead to a new (and better) future.

You can enroll and get instant access for you and your team today.

WHAT ARE YOU LEARNING ABOUT YOUR VOICE IN CRISIS LEADERSHIP?

Leading through crisis is the most challenging thing you’ll ever do as a leader.

What are you learning about your voice and leadership voices in this season?

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