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Motivating a lame-duck workforce

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

When Fiona MacLeod was tapped to become president of BP Convenience Retail U.S. & Latin America, she rolled out a bold plan: 800 of BP’s 1,800 retail outlets would be sold, eliminating 9,500 jobs.

But she needed those employees—whose jobs were being phased out—to stay motivated over the next 18 months.

How did she keep them performing at their peak? 

  • She showed the plan to the company’s “biggest cynics,” asking them for a critique and suggestions.
  • She laid out expectations and charted progress via month-by-month performance objectives.
  • She kept them engaged with town hall meetings, small team meetings and the web.

In the end, tracking measures showed that employees improved and simplified operations, producing $700 million a year in cost savings. And pulse surveys showed morale steadily improved, even though 70% of respondents knew they’d lose their jobs.

“You can do some really tough things as leaders and you can do them in a way that people feel valued and respected,” MacLeod says.

— Adapted from “BP’s Fiona MacLeod: A Change Agent Sees Change ‘Addiction,’” Knowledge@Wharton.

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