Managing change and keeping teams motivated in turbulent times

Even as COVID cases have been diminishing in many parts of the world, the dual challenge of generationally high inflation rates and stock markets bobbing in and out of correction territory are enough to make an already weary staff even more anxious about what’s to come in the future. Below are a few tips on how to navigate a variety of change challenges resulting from: business disruption, economic uncertainty, acquisition integration, and growth; which will also help you attract and retain high performance staff. For each challenge, I will share a variety of approaches that can help teams adapts, maintain a sense of calm amidst the storm and most importantly, continue to motivate your teams and help them manage through multiple change curves successfully.


Like most companies, Emburse has been experiencing business disruption on a continuous basis, starting with the outbreak if COVID in 2020 and continuing into a very uncertain economic climate in 2022.

Having the right attitude and approach makes a huge difference in business outcomes. In early 2020, just prior to COVID, we created a new set of values for the company that has brought everyone together and helped us navigate through a wide variety of challenges. The SEE IT core values – Sincerity, Empathy, Empowerment, Individuality, and Teamwork – have been fully embraced across every function and role and for ore than two years now. We regularly recognize how staff are living these values in very concrete and impactful ways via our internal and external social channels, bringing us closer together as one unified company with a common purpose to Humanize Work.


In May 2015, Lexmark purchased Kofax and merged it with Perceptive and Readsoft, creating a unique combination of very different cultures. The biggest marketing challenge became integrating one sizable team of nearly 300 staff within a new marketing structure, as the nexus of control over the software business had shifted for many from the Kansas City, MO area to Irvine, California. I sensed a lot of the team based in Kansas City felt they might be removed from the decision making path, and thus feel like second-class citizens. So I created an organizational development approach and structure that blended talents from around the world was able to elevate and integrate widely dispersed teams from all locations.

Using work-streams, new cross-business unit groups were formed around key marketing functions such as demand generation, marketing operations and product marketing. We documented the various business practices across the portfolio, workshopped to find best practices and accommodate what could be done differently for certain customer segments and geos, mapping out the integration milestones and deliverables over time.  Organizational teams were also blended such that a manager might be in one city, and the team in another to better foster a sense of “one team” across all boundaries. Over the course of the first year, we were able to sustain a very high level of engagement and very low attrition and I attribute that to the people-focused and structural approach of being “inclusive” and empathy that our marketing leadership team expressed in finding common ground with the newest team members. This may seem standard operating procedure now in the Zoom hybrid world, but at that time, it was not a given that remote work could actually work on a sustained basis!


During my tenure at Pega, the company grew from around $200+ million to over $500 million and in that time, the marketing team also more than doubled. As the team grows larger and meets its objectives, it remains a challenge to both managing and motivating the team on a sustained basis. As we reached each successive milestone, the expectations for performance were increasing and I found that some folks were not able to keep pace.

Roles changed and new people were hired. For some, it became time to move on. The evolving position requirements outgrew their natural development path, comfort zone or preferred organizational size. While some left and new people came in, ultimately the organically evolved team was not only able to keep pace, but also increased measurable contributions to the business.


In addition to having strong core values, like the SEEIT ones described above, one of the ways I’ve been able to help my teams navigate successfully through change curves is to establish a peer-based recognition system that recognize and reward team members to adopting the right behaviors to help drive business growth and deliver better outcomes.

In order to foster better team performance, most of the marketing recognition programs I’ve deployed foster these behaviors:

  • Customer Focus/Pipeline Contribution
  • Teamwork/Collaboration
  • Innovation/Process Improvement
  • Communication/Brand Champions
  • Taking Initiative/Effective Leadership
  • Adapting to Change/Digital Savvy

And, during challenging times like these,  it’s also important to adhere to a few key principles and “walk the walk”:

  • Foster the right behaviors
  • Increase communication
  • Get together whenever possible
  • Start/continue recognition programs
  • Maintain a sense of humor and have some fun!
  • Prioritize and stay focused
  • Be present and empathetic
  • Be authentic and human

I’m often said, change is inevitable, so either you embrace change and get comfortable with the fluid nature of business and organizational structures, or it’s going to a much rougher ride through the constant waves of changes that now seem unrelenting.

And finally, take the time to get to know everyone on your staff, meet virtually, in person and in hybrid configurations as often as possible; be understanding of the unique challenges everyone is facing, and have a lot of fun in the process. This type of approach will greatly increase staff engagement and retention. Happy adapting, ever and always!

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