How can I motivate others when I can’t motivate myself? An Essential “Tool Kit” for leaders of today

If we are honest as leaders and business owners, we’ve all been asking ourselves this very question at some point over this last year, if not right now. So I wanted to help answer it and to give your minds a bit of needed reassurance, rest and peace. You are not alone in feeling this way and you can get back in control and if you do something now then you, your employees, shareholders, customers and stakeholders will thank you!

Firstly, it’s very important that you don’t feel you are alone because you are not!  If there isn’t someone in your organisation to talk to about how you are feeling right now it’s really important that you find someone who can understand the ongoing marathon that you’re running so please reach out to a friend, family member, mentor or peer who may be at a similar level in another organisation. There are also incredibly supportive organisations out there that can help that don’t cost a fortune and might just help you or your colleagues, or your staff, and that offer lower cost employee assistance programmes. 

Setting the scene:

We have never been in this situation before. The last year as presented a completely new and unchartered territory for us all. There was no precedence, so many unknown factors and still unknown impacts still to be uncovered.  We are all feeling a greater sense of threat right now. We are all feeling like a lack of control with so many external factors beyond our control which are limiting what we can do at this time.

I imagine most leaders are or have asked some of the following questions: How can I lead us through this pandemic, am I making the right decisions?  How can I motivate others when I feel unmotivated myself and do I have what it takes to get us through this? Feel familiar? These questions have been at the forefront of our minds. All this extra worry is leading to a high proportion of leaders pretty exhausted right now. We are asking and constantly being asked questions like; when is this going to end? When can we get back to normal? Questions none of us actually know the answers to and the longer the situation goes on our energy levels deplete and it becomes much harder to stay motivated because, as we know, motivation takes energy but where do find this energy from?  

It is most likely that there are a high proportion of leaders feeling stress and although this might not be the first time they have felt stress, it’s really important to first of all recognise what stress feels like so we can be aware that we are, in fact, stressed.

The first signs of stress include any combination of the following:

  • Tension in shoulders
  • Heart racing
  • Talking very quickly
  • Head is full – non-stop overthinking things
  • Unable to make simple decisions

Why are we feeling stressed?

When we feel threat as humans, our body goes into survival mode and we become focussed on fear meaning our analytical and problem solving brain stops functioning and moves into flight or fight response. Extra adrenaline is then released as glands become activated which then drains our energy. This constant threat we are living with now is what is draining us!

Current fears that are real to business owners:

  1. Financial deficit or loss
  2. Weight of responsibility for others
  3. Fear of letting others down
  4. Making the wrong choice
  5. FOMO Missing out on opportunities – there is a lot of compulsive behaviours – consumer behaviours have changed
  6. Doing worse than competitors
  7. Unable to finish or complete work
  8. Not enough – Time, Skills or Resources
  9. Imposter syndrome can creep in
  10. Losing of control

So what do I do and how can I become motivated again?

You need a plan of action to get you back on track. Right now you are focussing on fear and external factors you can’t control, you need to shift the thinking back to what drives you and what gets you excited and up in the morning.

It has to start with you and your health. You need to make sure you have a good balance of work and breaks and simple things like making sure you are getting enough sleep!

At an organisational level here is what I would suggest you do:

  • Be more agile in your goal setting and be adaptable to change at a fast pace.
  • Change mind-set to open.
  • Focus on perpetuating rather than a win.
  • Trust is key: demonstrate your value for your people.
  • Clearly define the business vision for the future – invite your people to input into the vision?
  • Team motivation stems from your employees feeling they are part of something bigger and that they are in good hands – provide them with a sense of purpose and that your staff can be aligned with.


Tool Kit to get you back on track!

Rest & Recovery – when was the last time you had a holiday where you switched off from work completely? We have to look after ourselves and factor this into the equation because without it we cannot endure what is ahead. Rest is the most important resource you have right now! Just as important as rest is ensuring we are taking regular breaks throughout the day, and exercising and getting fresh air!

Attitude – how do I feel about the situation right now? How open am I? Am I resisting change? If yes, why am I resistant to change? I need to be more open.  


Are you feeling comfortable yet? You need get comfortable feeling uncomfortable right now, accept ongoing change, uncertainty.

Values, visions and purpose – revisiting or redefining your values: are your values and vision still relevant? Identify these and bring your team in to help you define these. This is the best way of motivating you and your team and making them relevant to your business right now. It will broaden your perspective, keep yourself open to opportunities. Bring different views and ideas to the table.


Support: do you have enough support? You as leaders need to support each other within your industry. Although networking is hard at the moment, just reaching out to other leaders to encourage your network to keep moving forward may bring more support your way later on.


Expand your network: looking outside of your industry and network may open up more ideas and solutions that you can add to your tool kit to problem solve.


Research for inspiration: look at YouTube for inspiration on leadership and motivation – Check out Simon Sinek’s video on leading, motivating and inspiring!


Show appreciation  -to your team. If they feel looked after and appreciated, they will be more motivated to continue their work. If your team feel inspired with confidence they will perform better and this will help to remove you anxiety.


Company culture – what culture works long term? Fear or celebratory? We all know it’s a nurturing, celebratory culture where you celebrate the small wins as well as the big ones! This year more than ever you need to make sure you celebrate the small stuff, even if it’s just acknowledging this with an email or a call!


My final words of reassurance to you right now:

You are not alone and if you are, change this! Reach out to your network or sign up with a mentor/coach.

We all want to succeed and adapt and we can. It genuinely has been one of the most challenging times in our careers and the threat has been real! BUT… look how far we’ve come and look where we are now! We want to come out of this bigger and better and it’s not too late to make this happen!

Be proud of what you have achieved!

Coming out of this there will be new opportunities and many speak of a boom period on the horizon so let’s get ready for that.

Remember you are in a marathon not a sprint!

And finally – You are doing an amazing job!

It’s time to reflect and ask yourself what attitude, skills and/or values have helped you get this far? Identifying these will help you focus on what you have got right and what skills and tools you need to keep doing what you’re doing. Are any of these aspects or new skills now essential for your business to succeed going forward? Write them down and don’t forget to test on them when it comes to future recruitment!

Leaders and managers, help is at hand! For a discussion on this blog or if you wanted to reach out for a chat, please do get in touch with Suzy Astbury, Managing Director of Inspired Search & Selection,