a transparent honest boss is a great leader

How to keep staff happy without giving them more money. (Or less work.)

Okay this is not something I’d normally put in writing but with inflation, cost of living, energy bills and soaring prices it can be difficult to imagine your staff are happy without a pay rise.

Add to that the buoyant labour market, the fast changing trends in what employees really want, the speed in which they will jump ship and now is not the time to be losing your great team.

Over the years I’ve worked with many disgruntled teams who have been plonked in front of me for me to work magic when the management know there is no extra money available and yes that annoying new tech is still rolling out across the company and yes you will need to cut your department budgets again!

When this happens, the management team step back (because you will never win that conversation) and I take over. I am going to share with you how to make a difference to your team, protect your company and not overload your own work commitments.

Here’s 9 proven strategies to help you and your team today;

More money

Hang on Mand, you said you weren’t giving anyone more money! I did, but it doesn’t mean you can’t address the elephant in the room. Some businesses are choosing to give a cost of living pay rise to their staff however, as Michelle Wicker from Little Rock Employment advises “This pary rise is discretionary, so not something that is required by law.”

So if you can’t afford it, and you know the next 6 to 18 months are going to be challenging (to say the least!) then be honest about that. If you’ve read my article https://www.mandieholgate.co.uk/essential-recession-proofing-knowledge-strategies-to-thrive-no-matter-what/ then you will know some ways you can recession proof your business and motivate your staff, however this is not enough when you feel there’s an unspoken question that needs addressing.


Leading on from the elephant in the room, it can be tough to host these difficult conversations. That’s why with many managers and leaders we have a coaching session where I teach them many strategies from across coaching, NLP, CBT, CAT, DBT, psychology and even philosophy before we talk to the team. This will enable you to tell people honestly that at this time there is no more money and keep your amazing team.

As an example, I coached a team of 240 people recently and I knew from management that the first thing they would say they wanted/needed was more money. The management team had told me that they knew they had some key issues to address to support their team through this tough time;

1.        There was new processes and IT being rolled out across the company, some departments already had it and hated it and the rest were dreading it’s arrival. (Yes, change management and resilience is a big part of our time together.)

2.        Staff felt they were working far more hours because of the current climate and point number 1.

3.        Staff had received a basic pay rise, but many felt it wasn’t aligned with what they were worth or what they needed.

In the initial 3 hour session, the first question I asked was “If we could give you anything, fix anything, solve anything or address anything that impacts on your, your job, your team or your colleagues what would it be?”*

(*This is a great opening question as long as you have ground rules – my ground rules are simple and effective to ensure you get guilt free, honest, no judgement responses).

Do you know what?

Money was not the first thing they said! That didn’t arrive for another 40 minutes. The reason is that as uncomfortable as you are in addressing the money issue, so are most people to rise the issue either! (That’s why coaching is so powerful because you don’t have to be combative – it’s productive and everyone feels heard and respected.)

There are lots of articles on my site on communication skills for leadership, difficult conversations, and happy productive teams but if you don’t see what you need, email me or telephone me. As a general rule;

  • Don’t use negative words. Or Don’t, Can’t, Should, Won’t. Absolutes never work well in situations like this.
  • Avoid “But” like the plague.
  • Repeat the very words they use. The exact words!
  • Say things like “I hear what you are saying about XXX” or “Let me clarify, in your view….”
  • Don’t look to get your view across. Look to understand their view and opinion. They can’t be wrong in their opinion. It’s their’ s not yours and you and they don’t share all beliefs, expectations, experiences, values, skills and goals.

Walk the walk

Rocking up in a brand new car will do you no favours but then moaning about the cost of fuel, butter or Putin’s crazy energy wars won’t get you far either. Get the balance between walking the walk and showing you care. Showing positivity and hope without sounding crass and delusional.

Hybrid working is here to stay – I know many of you won’t want to hear that!

Whether you like hybrid / working from home or not, it really can be a win win for you, your business and your team in many ways. I can point you to mountains of evidence on it’s benefits;

  • Reduced stress- happier staff.
  • Less commute time – more family time.
  • More money in your teams pockets with reduced travelling costs.
  • Better faster communication strategies.
  • Better productivity.
  • Covid is a risk factor that many still worry about. It removes this concern and stress.
  • Less office distractions and “Can you justers” (They’d have to pick up the phone instead of concerning you at the coffee machine!” If you don’t know what a Can you Juster is, read my books.)

The list is long and according to Forbes “85% of people would prefer to continue working from home at least a few days of the week in the future.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2020/11/18/the-surprising-truth-about-how-many-employees-want-to-keep-working-from-home/?sh=825062c17b43

I will agree that managers have come to me a lot more for coaching to manage a team remotely. So I appreciate the extra time constraints, etc that a manager can perceive when pre-covid management styles are applied to post pandemic working patterns. I’m happy to share some pointers with you too. (If you flip this around, those staff members that could get snowed in, in winter won’t have an excuse this winter will they if you learn how to communicate, lead and manage effectively?

Save money

Managers may not like WFH / Hybrid working but employees are reporting a desire to work for companies that honour hybrid working. And it could save you money. What other cost saving actions could you take? And don’t assume you need to have all the answers. See I.C.E.S below for more on this.

Know what they really want

Just as there’s an assumption it’s all about the money. This infographic tells the story beautifully and I’ve personally coached many teams on this subject so I’ve seen it in action.

What your team want more than anything is to feel like they matter. To feel like they are making a difference and money is just one way you show your team they matter to you.

Did you know that when you tick something off your to do list you get a chemical hit in your brain that boosts you?

The same is true when you feel like you are making a difference.

(There’s more about chemical responses and the benefits to you and your team in Controlling the uncontrollable.)

In one team coaching session where money was not an option we discovered one thing the team would really love is some time to talk without an agenda. We had joked that all meetings should come with puppies and cake. Okay the puppies were not an option but cake meetings became a thing. The strategy proved useful because it enabled people to share what they working on, struggling with, their disconnect or ideas in a relaxed no agenda environment. Simple things really can have a big impact on your team.

Communication is a two way street

Just as you have to clearly communicate, it’s imperative you give them time and space to talk to you too. A great way to find out what really matters to your team is my ICES strategy. It’s a great technique to chatting to your staff about difficult or challenging subjects without aggravation or confrontation.

Get in touch to discuss how to utilise this strategy. Often managers handle this very badly!

The scariest thing at times like this is to act like everything is fine.

The talk behind your back won’t go away but your staff might. And  consider that it can take 48 days to onboard a new person and on average £11,000 in costs in training, HR, management etc and it really is wise to enter tough times with a team you can trust.

You in the equation

How are you impacted upon by the media? By social media? By negative people?

What beliefs do you hold on to that maybe don’t serve you well in challenging times?

This may seem like a tough time but flip that on it’s head and it’s also a great opportunity to learn more about yourself, what is possible in business and how to help your team and each employee thrive. Give them the tools and strategies to be able to trust you, so lastly assess your own emotional intelligence, attitudes to tough times, resilience strategies and beliefs around what is possible. A transparent honest boss easily becomes a great leader.

I hope these strategies help you as much as my teams. There is a way to ride the wave of tough times, but cutting back on your staff, training and even marketing has been proven in many recessions to not be the best solution. It often results in a smaller business post recession/pandemic/sharknadoe. To discuss your needs please do not hesitate to get in touch and if you benefited from these strategies;

  1. Feel free to share this article.
  2. Get in touch and tell me how.
  3. Treat this hardworking coach to a coffee with a hit of the PayPal button on your right.

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