Here’s some recession news that can hurt your bottom line as much as declining profits: “Even if companies haven’t literally lost their employees, many have lost them psychologically,” says Jon Gordon, author of “The Shark and the Goldfish: Positive Ways to Thrive During Waves of Change.”

Tired of working more hours for less pay under the threat of termination, many Americans have mentally checked out of their jobs. But with limited funds and deadlines that still need to be met, what’s a leader to do? That’s where the sharks and goldfish come in, Gordon says, along with his nine strategies for boosting morale and engagement:

1. Focus on people, not numbers. “It’s not numbers that drive people, but people that drive numbers,” Gordon says.

2. Model good behavior. “Leaders need to be humble and hungry,” Gordon asserts. “Humble in that they seek to learn, grow, and improve every day, and hungry with a passion to work harder than everyone else. Now is not a time to be barricaded in your office. Now is a time to be in the trenches with your people, leading, working, and building a successful future.”

3. Practice positive leadership. “It’s time to regroup, refocus and unite your people to create a winning mindset, culture and positive team environment,” he advises. “With a winning team you create strength on the inside that can withstand the negativity, naysayers and adversity on the outside.”

4. Fill the void. In the absence of clear and positive communication, people start to assume the worst, and will act accordingly, warns Gordon. “Make transparency the norm, not the exception,” he advises. “Host frequent town hall meetings in which you listen to employees’ fears, concerns, and ideas and share your vision for the future.” 

5. Get “energy vampires” on board. You might be tempted to think that a few non-conformists and cynics won’t prove to be a major problem if the majority of your people begin to share in your positive vision, but Gordon insists that you’d be wrong. He calls those who are a constant source of negativity “energy vampires” because they suck the energy and life out of everyone around them. “Once you’ve identified the naysayers on your team, approach them and give them a chance to get on the bus and share in a positive vision,” Gordon advises. “However, if energy vampires refuse to get on board, then you must get them off the bus. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Even if your biggest complainer happens to be your highest performer, his negative energy outweighs his positive contributions. One cancer cell can multiply to destroy the body.”

6. Forbid complaining. Let your employees know that they are not allowed to complain unless they also offer solutions, Gordon says. “Complaints are just noise and nothing more, but each one does represent an opportunity to turn something negative into something positive.”

7. Teach your people to be heroes, not victims. “In a rapidly changing world, it’s important to choose faith over fear,” Gordon insists.

8. Focus on the small wins. “Keep in mind that employees might currently be discouraged or burnt out right now, so make sure to really highlight and celebrate the small wins in order to foster loyalty, excitement, and confidence,” Gordon urges. “After all, championships are won as the result of many small wins.”

9. Make sure you have sharks in your key positions. (I know, I know – finally, the point of today’s tip!) Gordon suggests looking at your team and figuring out which people display the characteristics of driven, go-get-’em “sharks,” and which are “goldfish,” or more natural relationship managers. “Your sharks are the people you need in sales or business-driving positions,” Gordon suggests. “Your goldfish, or relationship managers, are better suited to answering phones, taking orders, and cultivating customer goodwill.”

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