HR Lesson From Houdini

The Chinese Water Torture Cell.

September 21st, 1912. Berlin, Germany –

Harry Houdini introduces the world to what would become his most well-known and dangerous act.

In Houdini’s own words:

“Imagine yourself jammed head first into a cell filled with water. Your hands and feet unable to move. Shoulders lodged tightly in imprisonment. Never, will there be a more dangerous or difficult stunt for me to perform”. 

Gasps and shrieks rang out as the audience witnessed a chained Houdini lowered upside-down into the water-filled chamber. The top of the tank secured by lock. A drape thrown over the glass. Houdini had 2 minutes to escape.

This was the trick that would captivate the world and sensationalise his name.

As a business owner or manager, you may have more in common with Houdini than you ever imagined.

Especially when your business is going through hard times.

Times of change and challenge can make it feel like you’re the star in your own Houdini escape act.

Not only do you have to steer your ship away from the rocks of financial ruin. You need to do it without mutiny from the crew and deserters jumping ship.

So how do you keep staff committed during the hard times?

How a poorly understood Houdini performance principle can help you navigate through the tough times

While Houdini became famous as an escape artist, few people realised what he really was:

A master illusionist. 

And what is illusion?… It’s simply the art of directing attention.

Houdini seduced his audience’s attention. Captivated their imagination. And took them on a journey through the story he was telling:

“Where attention goes energy flows” – author James Redfield.

Now my question to you is this: 

Are you allowing your employees to engage in negativity, spread rumours and influence the direction of your business?

Or are you actively managing your employees’ focus, maintaining positivity and being the director in the story of your future?

What follows are 13 strategies you can use to manage your employees’ mindset and keep your best performers on board and committed.

However before you start with these strategies, it’s important that you understand where your employee’s are at mentally and emotionally right now.

To help you do this I’ve put my Employee Pulse Check template online for you to access, at no cost.

It’s a simple 12-question employee survey that will give you insight into your employee’s attitudes, opinions and motivations.

Download it now and deploy it to learn whether your employee’s are at risk of jumping ship, why and what you can do about it.

Once you know what’s wrong, take a look at the following low-cost strategies and pick the ones that are most relevant for your challenges.

13 strategies to keep staff motivated during difficult times or times of change

  1. Set clear expectations for each individual: What does success look like for them? If their success is based on areas of the company they cannot control, look at other ways you can support them. Re-clarify their expectations during this process. This should be both in terms of success output (quantitative results) as well as behavioural.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Keep regular lines of communication open and transparent. Be as honest as you can about where you company is positioned and what you need from your team to be successful. It’s important to let employees know who and how they can speak to someone if they have any concerns they would like to discuss.
  3. Intercept rumours and untruths: If you hear incorrect information be sure to correct it immediately.
  4. Recognise the small wins: Recognise hard work and effort and positive displays of supporting other team members. If staff are hearing negative news around them it’s important to ensure this is broken up. This recognition needs to be in the authentic voice of the manager or leader.
  5. Don’t make promises you cant keep: There is nothing worse than managers making commitments they can’t deliver or control. Employees may need frequent assurances. Give them access to your time and be honest with them.
  6. Get employees involved: Don’t forget to ask your employees. Your employee voice is important during difficult times. They also hold a view of what the business could be doing to thrive. Use the Employee Pulse Check template.
  7. Focus on areas you can make a difference: This may be offering flexibility, professional development, introductions to mentors and so on.
  8. Keep the little routines: Sometimes things like weekly lunches, Masterchef competitions and employees of the month can make manager’s feel awkward while negative things may be going on around them. Keep these positive regularities where possible.
  9. Keep the doors open where possible: Make sure you’re regularly checking in with how people are feeling and provide them with an opportunity to vent if they need to. However, always try to finish the conversation on a positive note where possible. It’s important to find out what each employee needs to stay on track.
  10. Don’t take anger out on team.
  11. Focus on career goals: Where you may not be able to control your employees’ futures within the organisation, you can spend time helping employees work towards fulfilling their career goals.
  12. Stop negativity: Separate, move and address negative or dissatisfied employees. Often moving on will be the best thing for all parties. Enquire how you might help them improve their work experience.
  13. Get out of the office: Try to find a way to get your team outside of the office (whether it’s a lunch, dinner, BBQ, sporting event, etc.).

Any questions?

If you have questions on this topic or any others, feel free to reach me by email or set up a free one-on-one consultation session, or drop me a comment below.
Thanks for sharing!