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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Tips for managers to keep staff motivated

Managing staff in this economy can be downright daunting.

Profits are down, costs are up and employees are looking to management for answers.

This is the time when owners and managers need to put aside their own anxieties and step up as leaders if they want to keep staff motivated and make it through this economic crisis, say experts.

>>> Read a report on employee morale, and what this can mean for business  when the economy improves; Surviving Hard Times.

"These are difficult times," notes David Javitch, author of "Anybody Today, but Somebody Tomorrow: 5 Steps to Achieving Power in a Power-Driven Society" (Javitch Associates; $21.50) and president of Javitch Associates, an organizational consulting firm in Newton, Mass. "People are nervous. Managers need to see what they can do to make a negative situation better."

With that said, here's a few tips on being a better manager during a recession:

Communicate: Be accessible and open the lines of communication between yourself and staff, says Javitch. "Communication is crucial," he notes. "Talk to them about the reality of the unknown."

Be empathetic and supportive, he adds. "Show them you understand the turmoil and challenges. . . . Try talking to them one on one. Memos only go so far."

Create a supportive work environment.  Don't be afraid to praise employees and tell them you appreciate their hard work, says Joel Zeff, the Dallas-based author of "Make the Right Choice: Creating a Positive, Innovative and Productive Work Life" (Wiley; $21.95). "The greatest gift you can give to anybody is to say thank you," says Zeff.

Find out what opportunities employees are seeking and give them the support they need to achieve their goals, he notes. "Opportunity is more than money," explains Zeff. "Maybe they want more responsibility or the opportunity to talk to clients." Look for ways to make your people more successful, he says.

Stay positive. Attitude is everything. Projecting doom and gloom creates a negative work environment, explains Linda Berke, president of Taylor Performance Solutions in Melville, which offers skills development and leadership training. "Be a role model for your employees," she says.

Don't stop coaching and training. In addition, pay attention to performance issues and where employees may be struggling, help them improve, says Berke. "You want to avoid lashing out at employees, and sit down and coach them," she says.

Employees may need enhanced skills training to deal with the difficult economy, notes Angelo Mangia, president of Standard Funding Corp. in Woodbury, a commercial insurance premium finance company.

"You can always improve your performance," says Mangia, who increased training efforts this year, with individual coaching provided to some of the company's marketing representatives working in remote locations. "We're seeing the benefits," says Mangia, who used Berke for training.

Take the edge off.  While employees need some attention, so do you. Take time to de-stress and rest before you get tired, recommends Michael Crom, executive vice president of Dale Carnegie Training in Hauppauge. If you're consistently stressed, employees are going to sense the tension, he notes.

Be open to new ideas. To alleviate stress, don't try carrying the burden all by yourself, says Crom. "Be open to new ideas regardless of the source," he notes.

Conduct brainstorming sessions with employees, customers and suppliers. "No idea is silly," says Crom. "If you can get people into a fluent mode of creativity some unique ideas may develop."

For more tips from Joel Zeff, check out maketherightchoice thebook.blogspot.com. (Click here to connect.)

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