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How to Motivate Your Team Through Stressful Times Pushing past the tough stretches is essential to quality leadership.

By Nadine Greiner, Ph.D.

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It's impossible to eliminate stress entirely, and a little bit of stress can actually be positive. The key is to create an environment that helps your employees perform and remain productive, even under trying circumstances. It's one of the most important things you can do as a leader.

It starts with company culture. Research has shown that working in an environment with supportive leaders and coworkers is the most powerful indicator of reduced stress. Poor culture and uneasy interactions with coworkers cause what's called encounter stress.

The stress doesn't even need to be real. Stress is not based on objective reality. Instead, it's based on our perceptions and how stress is processed by the brain. A stressor for you may not be a stressor for your coworkers. You have the power to create a stress-less culture and to motivate your team. When stress infiltrates your culture, lack of motivation ensues, and even the simplest tasks can feel challenging. When motivation is lacking, it causes low employee morale and poor-quality work.

Related: Become a Better Leader By Helping Your Team Manage Stress

A good leader can pick up on low motivation quickly and get to the root of the problem. The best leaders know instinctively how to engage and motivate individuals and teams. I can show you how in-depth in my Stress-Less Leadership book, but in the meanwhile, here are four steps that you can apply to ensure you and your team thrive, even when stressed.

1. Time-management training

How strong are your time-management skills? You probably wish you had more hours in your days. The good news is that you have a lot of tools at your disposal. You can organize or run time-management training for your team. You'll likely want to enlist the help of an expert, unless you consider yourself to be qualified enough. It's important to help your team evaluate their time-management skills by asking them to assess how much time they spend on various tasks each day. Try to pull out the complete toolkit and introduce them to to-do lists, calendar apps and other tools to stay on task. Consider investing in a time-tracking software to ensure that your team has a crystal-clear understanding of how they are dividing their time. When you teach your team members important time-management skills, you empower them to take control of their time. They're more motivated to approach their work with less stress and a stronger sense of conviction. This is when your leadership really shines.

2. Delegate whenever possible

Albert Einstein once said, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." Your team members thrive when they are constantly learning. When they're learning, they stay motivated because they're leading more fulfilling days. As a leader, try to spend as much time as possible, helping your team grow and learn. A great way to do this is to delegate your non-critical tasks whenever possible. Just make sure you have the time to train team members and check in on their progress. You should also map out exactly what's expected and required, including information on timing, resources, milestones and deliverables. When you delegate, it's a win-win situation. On one hand, you're able to focus more thinking about how to set your team members up for success. On the other hand, you're able to give your team members a chance to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills so they can advance in their careers.

3. Encourage vacation time

Your team members will lose motivation if they're overworked or burn out. Their telomeres shorten, which causes their cells to age faster and die younger. The result sometimes causes irreparable damage to their wellbeing. Everyone needs time away from work. It's important to encourage your employees to take vacation time. This starts with you. You should model healthy behavior. You should also manage expectations and reduce workloads so that employees feel comfortable taking time off. Many of your employees, especially the top performers who often need vacations most, will be naturally inclined to resist time away. It's important to explain that time away from work can help them gain a new perspective and return to the office rejuvenated, less stressed and more productive. Thanks to the neuroplasticity qualities of the brain, neural connections have time to rewire, and overall wellbeing increases. A vacation can be like an Extreme Makeover for the brain, and a lot less expensive.

Related: Team Burnout Is Real and You Might Be the Cause

4. Prioritize clear and consistent communication

Your employees look up to you and are counting on you as a leader. It's important to be there for them and have constant check-ins. You should make sure they understand what is expected of them and how they will be evaluated. Your team members need to know how their work bubbles up into broader company objectives. Why not organize town halls to ensure that team members are kept informed, engaged and inspired? When you set up strong, constant communication, it reduces stress levels. Your team members feel more secure because they understand what's expected of them and the direction of the company. As a leader, you want this for your team. Strong communication channels also help create a more cohesive environment, which boosts morale and lowers stress levels.

You have a responsibility to create an environment that minimizes stress and enables your team to stay motivated and perform at peak levels. When you motivate employees, everyone feels more fulfilled and committed to the mission. You're all on the same team, so take these four steps to create a stress-less work environment for your employees to thrive.

Do you like this article? Forward it to a colleague or friend who could do with knowing more about stress. Most importantly, take good care of yourself.

Nadine Greiner, Ph.D.

Human Resources Executive

Dr. Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. is a Human Resources executive. Her book, 'Stress-Less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and Life,' was published by Entrepreneur Press. She believes that the world needs great leaders and has dedicated her career to helping them.

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