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How To Inspire a Stressed-Out Staff 

Kelly Swanson
Kelly Swanson

Teams today are incredibly burdened with high turnover, low morale, and customers who are more toxic than ever before. Add the personal issues of inflation, mental wellness, and other societal issues, and you have a new level of burned-out employee. As a motivational speaker, I study how to inspire people during tough times.

There is hope, and it starts with awareness. Honoring and acknowledging that you and your people are having a hard time. And giving them the chance to TELL YOU. And for you to LISTEN. And to show them they are heard. That’s step one. What are you doing to give people a platform – WEEKLY – to talk about what they are experiencing and creating a safe culture to do that? If they aren’t talking, why is that? Are you the problem here?

The second step is to show them that you listened. This is not problem solving. This is not fixing. This is not blaming. This is one thing only – to say I hear you, here is what I heard you say. Here is what I see that you are feeling and going through.

Next step is to show that you get it. That you are facing or have faced similar struggles. This is not a misery loves company thing, it’s a human connecting through a common story thing. And it is VITAL to the health of your team, that leadership and your coworkers have verbal empathy for their teammates. What are you doing to create a situation where this can happen, and make them feel safe to do it?

The next step is to take a look at what stories your employees are writing – their inner narrative. Create a safe space where your team can really open up about their fears. Not sure how to do it? YOU GO FIRST. That’s right. Be vulnerable. This is not the rah-rah portion of your day. This is the take off the face and get real part of the day. People need to know they are not alone in their struggle.

They also need to know that others have their backs. So have a strategy session on how you will have each other’s backs. Get specific. Cross departments. Do the unconventional. Mix personal with business. Treat each other like the family you say your business is. If these are the times that try men’s souls, then let’s be the people who heal men’s souls. Forget cute kindness and gratitude memes. Yuck. If they worked, they would have already worked. We need to act like we’re in a support group.

Now some of you leaders don’t want to hear this. You’re thinking of the high maintenance members of your team who were already wallowing in self-pity. That’s why you need boundaries, and you need a mantra. Something as simple as, we are constantly working towards a place of healing and positive, with the intent to move quickly out of what we have acknowledged is our struggle. Or you can be even more blunt like I do in my Happy Ever After Club and say whining is kept to a minimum, and we will always push each other to get from sad to happy as quickly as possible. But you have to start at sad to understand how to find happiness.

For those leaders who think the idea of making your people happy is not a good practice, I agree. Stop focusing on how to make people happy. It doesn’t work. And it’s not really what they crave. They crave to feel VALUED, RESPECTED, HEARD, AND REMEMBERED. And if you think that doesn’t really matter, then say goodbye to your people, because they will leave to find it somewhere else if given the chance. And now, they have plenty of chances. Gone is the day of the toxic boss. People don’t leave jobs, they leave people. So, if all your people are leaving, the first thing you need to do is look in the mirror.

So how can you inspire as leaders? Have some personal stories and examples about the struggles you are going through right now and have been through. Tell us how it made you feel, what you learned from it, and how you are taking that into today and the future. This is not a chance to complain. This is a chance to tell a story about a personal experience. It will create an emotional connection with your team that is vital during this time of leadership. Embody a style of story driven leadership.

And when there is victory, share it. Shout it from the rooftops. Tell all your people. And point them to their part in it. Make one success the success of all. Create a collective narrative of the good that is happening around you and because of your team.

Finally, thread a grateful narrative through your daily work life. EVERYBODY talks about the importance of being grateful and adopting a thankful mindset. It IS critical. But very few talk about creating a process around it. Turn a good idea into a practice that can be measured and scaled.

The only thing we will ALWAYS be able to control, is the way we think. The story we tell ourselves will determine what we believe and how we behave. The story we write about ourselves, our teams, our customers, and our place in this world, will define our steps.

About the Author

Kelly Swanson

Hall of Fame Speaker, Award Winning Storyteller, Strategic Storytelling Expert, Creator of the Persuasion Principle (TM) and Story Impact Academy, Author, One-Woman Theater Show, Cast Member of the Fashion Hero TV Show.



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