Your team is the best. Renowned for being a happy, high-performing ship, but lately you’ve noticed your people just don’t seem as motivated as usual. There’s nothing major you can put your finger on, just a feeling that people have become a bit disengaged with their work. The last few team meetings have been a bit flat and the ideas aren’t flowing as freely as usual. People are coming in late, a few deadlines have been missed and you’re starting to see a worrying spike in absence levels.
This isn’t an unusual situation. All teams go through performance highs and lows. But it’s important to find out what’s behind dipping energy and enthusiasm levels so that you can stop the issues before they get too debilitating and get the team quickly back on track.
Here are eight things to try when you feel your team has lost its spark:
1. Reinforce the vision:
It’s easy for the team to lose sight of what they are trying to achieve and why, particularly if they have been working together for a long time. Make sure people understand the bigger corporate picture — why we do what we do — and have a clear idea of how the work they are doing fits in. If people can see the impact of their work on the organisation, it will help them feel more ‘connected’ with the task in hand.
2. Open up the decision-making process:
Find more opportunities to involve the team in decision-making processes. It is difficult to feel enthused about your work if you are solely a passive recipient of instructions. People who have been involved in discussions about the strategic direction of their team and the work it does are more likely to feel invested in its success. Establishing a regular time slot for open communication — whether it be weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc — can greatly improve morale.
3. Give people more autonomy:
Feeling they have some choice or control over how they do their job is one of the biggest motivators for many people. Yes, of course you have to set clear goals and targets with your employees, but ask yourself whether you are being too prescriptive about the way people carry out their tasks on a daily basis. Give them a bit more room to try new approaches and techniques — you may be surprised at the impact it has on their enthusiasm and output.
4. Review skills and resources:
One of the reasons teams might ‘give up’ trying is that they don’t have the right skills or resources to do the job. It feels as if they are banging their heads against a brick wall because they are not properly equipped to do what is being asked of them. Ask people whether they feel they have the knowledge and tools they need to do the job properly and take action to fill any gaps.
5. Promote the team’s success:
There’s nothing like recognition for a job well done to boost people’s morale. If teams feel they are slaving away and no-one has noticed, they will soon become demoralized. Shout about your team’s successes early and often (at meetings, in the company newsletter, on your HR portal) and make sure they get credit for their efforts and expertise.
6. Improve the environment:
Is your office dark, gloomy and cold? Are people crammed into too small a space? The physical accommodation may be outside your control, but even small efforts to make the environment more pleasant can have a big impact on morale. Think about whether there’s a better way to arrange seating, bring in some plants, add a few pictures and make sure any niggling problems to do with heat, light or non-working equipment get dealt with.
7. Help the team bond:
How well do you know the people on your team and how well do they know each other? When the team was first formed, it’s likely you would have put some effort into helping people bond, but it’s important to continue to follow up with colleagues on a more informal basis. When was the last time you organized a team lunch, trip to the pub quiz or night out bowling? Even a simple team building exercise like the “marshmallow problem” (check out the TED Talk Tom Wijec: Build a tower, build a team). Having fun together can sometimes be just what a team that is feeling a bit lack-luster needs to re-energize.
8. Look in the mirror:
Step back and have an honest self-appraisal about the level of support you are giving the team. Are they feeling demotivated because you are never there or so busy you don’t have time to listen to their concerns? Have you made it clear you ‘have their back’ when it comes to dealing with difficult people, clients or situations? Have you become so pre-occupied with your own tasks that you have lost sight of their challenges and are not providing the direction and leadership they need. If you think you might be part of the issue, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.
Read more tips on how to re-energize your team from the Young Entrepreneur Council.