Teams go through cycles. Not just the progressive improvement: from a group of people meeting each other for the first time, to a highly collaborative corps with a sense of shared responsibility. Once you have achieved that, they still go through peaks and troughs.
I want to look at ten things you can do to re-energise a team that has been stretched and strained and wants a rest – yet still has work to do.
1. Take a Break
Your team wants rest: give it to them. Often, a short, organised break from work for a team activity will re-invigorate your team to the extent that the increased productivity afterwards will re-pay the lost hours within days, rather than weeks.
It doesn’t have to be expensive (a slap-up lunch, picnic in the park, early finish and afternoon in the pub), and it can be work – just a very different kind (volunteering or community service works well).
2. Good News
Make a real effort to identify good news items you can report to the team and provide a stream of honest updates that highlight real progress of the team and the contribution their work is making. Good news from outside, in the form of novelty items from the web can also lighten the mood and create a shared, fun experience.
It is easy to get down under the pressures of deadlines and setbacks. Your team will take their emotional cues from you, so cultivate an optimistic slant: not just shallow “glass half-full” optimism but a real focus on opportunities and solutions. And always demonstrate your faith in each individual and in the team as a whole.
4. A problem shared…
Act as a sounding board for your team members’ problems, frustrations and disappointments. You rarely need to offer solutions – they can do that for themselves. But they will value you most when you can listen uncritically and provide absolute support.
5. Recognise and Reward
Recognise individual and team successes and set up a scheme of celebrating and rewarding them: “person of the month”, “innovation of the week”, or “gaff of the day” can be a reason for the team to get together and feel god about themselves. Token gifts and a round of applause are all you need.
6. … and Tackle Under-performance
Persistent under-performers can sap a team’s energy. When colleagues do not pull their weight, it feels unfair and demotivates us, so deal with the issues to ensure everyone feels that all of their colleagues are contributing fully.
7. Review Milestones and Schedules
Take a time-out to review your plan critically and evaluate your schedule and milestones. Show your team that unreasonable milestones can move or that you are re-prioritising work to meet them, and that challenging milestones are achievable, will renew their sense of optimism and their sense of urgency.
8. Swap Roles
Where possible, re-energise individuals by giving them new roles. This can give fresh eyes to a stale problem, and new energy to a tired team-member. People learn most after a settling in period, and then learning declines, so don’t swap too often, but don’t leave people to stagnate with little new to learn.
9. Greater Authority
If your team has been working together for a while, consider the development each member has been through and review how much autonomy, control and authority each person has. Can you give them more, to both challenge and refresh them and lighten your own load?
10. New Blood
Maybe it’s time for a small change. Bringing in an outsider or two can shake up the team, put them on their mettle, and introduce new thinking. sadly, this may mean benching a valuable team member, but done well, this can be their chance to continue growing, when they have out-grown the role they are in.
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