Crises: Turning the Worst of Times Into the Best of Times

Written by Jo Owen Thursday 02 April 2020
Unlocking motivation is key to making the best of a bad situation
Person smilling

Crises are the best of times and the worst of times. During the crisis, they can feel like the worst of crises; after the crisis they can feel like the best of times, when everyone was really making a difference, stretching themselves and pulling together.

This is the time when you can help your team members rediscover or strengthen their intrinsic motivation for their job. Intrinsically motivated team members do not need carrots and sticks to reach peak performance: they want to reach peak performance anyway. There are four standard pillars of intrinsic motivation, and here is how you can ensure the crisis strengthens rather than weakens each pillar.


We are all suddenly discovering how much we miss apparently mundane jobs. After this we may value transport workers, hospital janitors, café workers and delivery people a little more. The truth is that every job matters because ultimately we are all helping someone else in some way. This is your chance to help your team rediscover why their jobs have meaning and purpose. Every job has its share of dull tasks such as meetings, emails and reports. But those tasks help someone, somewhere, somehow. Focus on that, and even a dull routine becomes meaningful.

Supportive Relationships

Hierarchies are rarely supportive: by their nature they are command and control. But you can not control people so easily when you can not see them because everyone is working from home. Use this crisis as an excuse to dial down your command and control instincts, and dial up your coaching and support role as a manager. When people work remotely, they often discover how much they need their boss for help and advice in dealing with uncertain and ambiguous situations. This is your chance to shine and be the boss they want to follow, not the boss they have to follow.


Most people, but professionals especially, crave autonomy. They do not like being told what to do and how to do it. This crisis is the perfect opportunity to push autonomy. You can not see them in the office all the time. You have to trust them to make things happen while you are not looking.


Autonomy and mastery walk hand in hand. Autonomy with incompetence is a recipe for chaos. But true mastery demands true autonomy. This crisis provides a perfect opportunity to help team members with self-development: while at home they can take an online course or read a book. And to make it stick, why not set up a film/book club where your team can discuss a book chapter or film clip and see how it might help them in their context? That will help build their skills, build the team and build intrinsic motivation by creating more supportive relationships across your team.

Crises are when you live life with the record button on: you are laying down vivid memories for the rest of your life. Make sure this crisis leaves you and your team with great memories.

You can find more tips on motivating your team on our Knowledge Bank.

Image: Unsplash

Jo Owen

Jo Owen

Jo Owen is an entrepreneur and author of Resilience (“Ten habits to sustain high performance”) and Global Teams.