How do you get the best out of your team during turbulent times? How can understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs help? Our Managing Director, Lucy Trueman, reflects on how people can only learn, grow and fulfill their potential when their basic needs are met and gives a few tips on how to make this happen within your organisation.
If you’ve done any management training, you may well have come across Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I think it’s worth getting it out again and having another look at it because it’s actually very relevant to what’s happening right now with COVID-19.
Maslow’s Hierarchy is, at a basic level, all about motivation. In order to get to a place where we are motivated to improve ourselves and reach our full potential, there are a series of other needs that need to be met. This is a real hierarchy, with each layer building on the one below. The different level represent basic needs, psychological needs and self-fulfilment needs. The theory is that if something is missing lower down, you can’t get to the top – self-fulfilment.
The first level is physiological needs. A really good example of this level of need is seen in the fact that a lot of schools run breakfast clubs, because children cannot learn (which is at the top of the hierarchy) if they’re hungry, and their basic physiological needs therefore aren’t met. This level is about literal physical needs such as breathing, food, sleep and water and, at the moment, people are worried about how they’re going to get food, so this very basic need is a real issue for many people right now. There have also been studies released showing that most people are losing sleep during this pandemic, so there are some very real challenges to people having their basic physiological needs right now.
The second level is safety needs, which is the second of the basic needs. This is all about security in terms of your body, employment, health, home and family. This will resonate with everyone whilst we are dealing with a global pandemic.
Some of the things that we have often felt so safe doing, like hugging our friends and going to pubs, is no longer safe. That fact attacks us at a very basic level and until we feel safe, we’re unable to reach our full potential. This can manifest itself in worry and anxiety and will be a real concern for most people who may previously never have had to really be concerned about this. It’s also a very real and legitimate time to be worrying about elderly or vulnerable family members, your own health, how secure your job is and whether you can keep up paying your rent and bills.
It’s difficult for organisations to react to a pandemic that is on a global scale that has not been experienced in our lifetimes before, so it can be difficult right now to help people feel safe because there’s so much out of organisational control. But you can think about what you need to do in your organisation. If you’re perhaps going through the transition now of starting to ramp things up, change things, and starting to try and get back to some form of normal, you need to consider these things. Ask yourself ‘what can I do to make sure that my staff feel safe?’. It’s also crucially important, when considering people’s safety needs, to think about the communication you have with your teams that enables them to understand the measures that you’re taking to keep them safe.
Belonging and Love
The third level represents the first of the two psychological needs in the hierarchy, and is belonging and love. This is about friendship, family and relationships. People need to feel part of a team, like they’re part of something, and like they belong. Most teams have become disjointed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some may be on furlough, working remotely or still in work and feel like they’re ‘holding the fort’ to try and keep things going. This creates a more challenging environment in which you need to take some real active steps to keep that sense of belonging and love. That’s not always easy to do when you have a settled team who see each other day, so it’s particularly challenging now, but more important than ever.
In my team we’re doing things like daily huddles for the staff who are still working, so that we touch base properly for a short time (20 minutes or so) every day. We also have a weekly learning for all staff, including those furloughed to reflect on our learning for the week, and a weekly quiz including furloughed staff to ensure we still have some time to have some fun together and some time to check in on what’s going in with other on a personal level. I’m really, actively, keeping in contact with people as much as possible.
Esteem if the fourth level and is about confidence, achievement and respect. It’s hard for people to want to better improve themselves if they don’t actually feel okay about themselves. If they’re suffering from a lack of confidence or feel like they are achieving nothing, they won’t be able to think about learning new things and progressing. This may be particularly relevant for staff who are furloughed and may feel like they have no purpose, parents working from home whilst juggling childcare and for staff still in work who are taking on more responsibility to try and keep things running on minimum staffing. Some things organisations can do to help build esteem are develop coaching cultures, provide mentors, or provide employee assistance programmes.
You need to be asking yourself ‘what can I do to support my teams with their esteem?’ and putting support mechanisms in place to help with that. Recognise the effort people are putting in and let them know you appreciate it.
That then takes us to the fifth and final level, self-actualisation, which is where we learn and where we are reaching our full potential. To reach this level of learning, growing and performing well, all the four levels below need to be in place too.
It’s very difficult for leaders now because these things aren’t in place in the outside world. However, it’s important to reflect on how you can put these in place inside your organisation to give your people the best chance you can. What opportunities can you create to allow people to be creative, solve problems for themselves and see how the work their doing is making a difference?
Psychologically, people need some space and time to let go of old ways of working and feel that these ways were respected and valued. From a staff member’s perspective, change programmes can sometimes feel like an attack on their professional history. Perception of attack can lead to defensiveness, which can then drive unhelpful emotions and behaviour. Allowing and planning for the Endings stage is essential to help people feel respected and positive about change.
We have a range of other blogs and videos on our website including the Change Curve, project management, delivering change, so feel free to have a browse.
If there’s anything in particular you want to talk about, or if you want some specific help on how we can actually help to drive change alongside you in your organisation, then please do get in touch get in touch.