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How to keep your team motivated in times of high-stress

Like most entrepreneurs, founders and CEOs, Andreas has had to make some tough calls these past few days. Read the interview (conducted over the phone because...social distancing) where he shares his genuine, honest and relatable advice.


Andreas Thorsheim is building Europe’s number one residential solar energy company, Otovo Solar.

Like most entrepreneurs, founders, and CEOs, Andreas has had to make some tough calls these past few days. Read the interview (conducted over the phone because...social distancing) where he shares his genuine, relatable and honest advice.

How do you keep your team motivated in times of stress?

It's pretty hard now. Some of our people who may have moved to Oslo or Stockholm to be part of our adventure now find themselves alone in an apartment in a foreign city without family around and can feel isolated. Others have the opposite problem with three kids in their lap 100% of the time while trying to work.

This is taxing on people, and that is even before considering the public and personal health impact when a colleague or their close ones get ill. I ask how it's going in every call I make, and I try to call around the team as much as possible. I also record a one-minute video address every day that I share on Slack and we have all-hands meetings every week. With 90 employees and typically 75 on such a meeting, I'm impressed that Google Hangout is holding up.

What advice would you give young/first-time leaders and bosses on how to handle times like this?

There's no guidebook for this situation. I think what we're living through here is quite unique. But general principles of caring for people, communicating a lot even when uncertain and making contingency plans that take account of many different outcomes should be a good place to start.

What are the best things an employee can do for you in crisis times?

I got really happy yesterday when one of our project managers shared a message from one of our installers telling us that they had been working on a roof and then the neighborhood had started applauding them. That picture is quite motivating: Workmen on a roof, solar panels in the sun and the neighbors applauding!

I always love a great story from a happy homeowner who's decided to 'go green', and in times of crisis it's even better. We're really focusing on creating five-star customer experiences now that volumes are lower.

What is the biggest challenge amongst employees in times of crisis, and what is your advice to employees to continue to support the overall mission of the company?

Nobody knows what's going to happen, so there is a lot of doubt. People are different in how they react to the situation, just like they are different in many other aspects of their lives. You need to be able to communicate in a way that resonates with each one.

We've said 'stick to the routines' as a way to guide the work when everything is changing. It's hard to make good decisions when you're stressed, so you should revert to what you've planned for in normal times.

Gut feelings vs. analytics. What’s your take?

Heart, mind and heart; in that order. Some simple things you really don't need to analyze: Hotel guests don't like dirty hotel rooms or cold food, for example, so you might as well act on that without needing to analyze. A lot of companies analyze a lot of stuff they could have solved with common sense and a little bias for action. But other things necessitate some thorough thinking. And then the hardest things don't need analysis either: You make decisions based on your ethics and integrity.

What are your best tips for working remotely?

Right now I have no idea. I had a three-year-old in a tiger costume over my shoulder on all my video calls this morning and felt like a lousy parent and an inattentive co-worker. It's a mess. We’re all learning I guess.

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