How Do You Get Your Team Excited About an Uncertain Future?
The old axiom about uncertainty being the only certainty in business seems quaint given today’s headlines: Historically low unemployment. Hiring shortages one day and hiring freezes the next. Creeping inflation. Unexpected layoffs. It’s whiplash inducing. And it’s the world we live in.
As the economy shifts and shudders, leaders are challenged to make strategic decisions with increasingly limited foresight. And employees? They’re left feeling disoriented, confused, and vulnerable. It’s a recipe for getting stuck. People become less willing to make mistakes, to stick their necks out for each other, or to take the smart risks necessary to adapt to the changing environment. In a time when flexibility and agility are critical qualities to success, many organizations find themselves in a state of emotional contraction, unable to zag gracefully forward.
The problem is alignment. Conventional objective-setting tools simply fall short as a way to get everyone on the same page because they’re based on past assumptions rather than the competing signals of the future. Plus, they don’t give employees the right context for seeing themselves in that changing future—much less get them excited about it.
At Emotive, we believe that companies need more responsive tools to adapt to the future—whatever it holds. They need ways to connect to what employees are feeling. And they need to equip their organizations not with a best guess about the future, but rather with a clear picture of how they’ll create their future. When employees feel they have the agency and ability to control their destiny, they lean into the future with an entirely different spirit.
When you understand the emotional state of your organization, you can move forward. Faster.
How do your employees feel? Are they cynical or optimistic? Are they barely hanging on or feeling enthused and inspired? Do they understand the vision for where the company is going? Or do they need more evidence and explanation?
The more understood and recognized people feel in times of uncertainty, the more opportunities you have to deepen trust and allegiance. If you ask, people will let you know how aligned they are with a vision for the future and the strategy to get there. You can identify what dissonances need to be reconciled. Where the sources of doubt take hold. What fears need to be assuaged before they grow out of proportion. Powerful alignment—the kind required to change and adapt with the business environment—is only possible if you have clear insight into the emotional state of your organization at any given moment.
We use the lens of brand to audit the emotional state of an organization and identify alignment opportunities that can reduce friction, create efficiency, and drive growth. Our approach recognizes that businesses are more than just a collection of employees working towards a common goal. They’re complex networks of people with myriad emotions, attitudes, and beliefs. When you actually know what’s animating people’s behavior—the critical emotional drivers—you can craft more resonant, engaging stories about what you’re all working toward.
Emotional understanding only makes a difference if your growth story is clear.
While emotional understanding can improve conventional objective-setting by creating deeper connections with people, you still need to establish a clear point of view that will guide your organization toward its future.
All businesses have multiple critical initiatives going on at any given moment. If the narrative about how they connect is haphazard or unintentional—or confused by external market conditions—people will start quilting their own narratives. The result is multiple, often conflicting stories that lead to different end states. In other words, brand confusion.
We’ve created a wonderfully simple approach to helping businesses fulfill their ambitions. When clients need to realize important outcomes, we work side-by-side with executive leaders to co-author a strategic narrative of how—and why—they want to grow. We call this a Growth Manifesto, and it serves as a powerful tool for cutting through the noise of function-specific goals, objectives, KPIs, and OKRs to make business and brand more emotionally relevant to the people in an organization. It connects major initiatives—corporate strategy, product, go-to-market, brand, people & culture—in a single, coherent narrative that aligns everyone behind the promise of the brand and the actions required to support it.
Your growth story can’t be separated from the quality of storytelling.
In times of flux, business leaders face pressure to leap into action—to batten down the hatches, set a course, and prepare teams to brace for the worst. But what employees most need today is leadership that inspires people with purpose and meaning amidst uncertainty. If your organization is feeling trapped by mounting performance pressure and shrinking time horizons, you must give every employee the ability to see, believe, and participate in creating a future that they know is not only possible but necessary. Emotion is the accelerant, the enabler, the multiplier, and the amplifier that connects powerful ideas more deeply and resonantly to the people who need them.
To grow in times of uncertainty, you need to understand how your people are feeling. You need to address their emotions with a story of how you plan to grow. And you need to get them focused on a future that they are empowered to create. This is how you translate all the ambition that underpins your brand into a coherent set of actions that keep an organization aligned, confident, and positive as it speeds into the uncertain future.