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Every business goes through difficult seasons. Perhaps it’s due to sales drop-offs. It might even be due to the departure of a beloved team member. Or it may simply be the natural ebb and flow of morale. These rough patches will come, and regardless of their cause, leaders must remain proactive in motivating their employees.

Of course, it’s typically much easier to motivate employees during the good times than during the bad—but that’s not to say there aren’t ways for leaders to set a positive tone.

How Leaders Can Motivate During Challenging Seasons

Here are just a few possible approaches:

Lead by example. You’re not going to be able to motivate your team members if you’re not somewhat motivated yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to put on a smiley face and pretend like everything’s fine, or deny that times are tough—but it does mean remaining enthusiastic, hopeful, and committed to the work that must be done.

Offer incentives. During hard times, a little extra reward can go a long way. Tracking the progress of your team members, and offering some sort of incentive to those who meet a certain performance threshold, can be a meaningful way to encourage action.

Look for the downers. Be alert to the team members who tend to be downers—the ones who tend to complain or to drain the enthusiasm out of the room. Be proactive in counseling these employees and urging them to shift their attitudes—and if they don’t, consider whether you really want to keep them on the team at all.

Focus on development. One thing that can encourage employees is the chance to develop themselves and advance their own careers. During stormy seasons, consider what you might do to offer those changes at professional growth, and to show that you are invested in your people over the long haul.

Remember: Even when times get tough, the leader’s job is to unify, engage, and ultimately motivate the team.