There’s plenty of bad economic news to digest. Most recently, I saw a story on 60 Minutes that suggested the mountain of red ink in state budgets is going to crash the economy again. It’s one thing after another.
Tough economic conditions create a difficult environment in which to nurture teamwork. As orders dry up and profits shrink, organizations start taking steps (often drastic ones) to meet their goals. Employees resent being asked to do more with less and worried about losing their jobs.
Resentment and fear don’t help people stay on their best behavior. Effective teamwork requires great communication, mutual respect, support, and accountability. Hard times create an environment where gossip, backstabbing, blaming, and team members protecting their backsides are all too common.
So what can you do to keep your team together when times are tough? Here are several strategies that will help.
- Share what you know. Some team leaders try to protect people from the truth because they assume it will make folks more nervous. People are smart enough to know when things aren’t great. If you don’t tell them everything you know, they will start making up their own versions of the truth, and their versions will likely be quite a bit worse than what it actually is. Be honest and forthcoming.
- Lighten up on the goals. If the conditions make it impossible to meet goals, neither cheer-leading nor demanding is going to change the fact that it isn’t going to happen. You may want to back off on the performance expectations for a particular goal or take one or two goals off the table altogether, allowing the team to focus on what is achievable under the circumstances.
- Keep a lookout for people who are stirring the pot. Let’s face it, when things get tough there are some people who handle it better than others. If you know people who are creating more fear within the team, it’s time to provide them with some extra support so that you minimize the damage they cause. Remember to help them work through their concerns rather than threatening them. The latter will only create more unproductive behavior that will be harder to discover as they take their concerns underground.
- Use slow times for team development. When things are booming we don’t do development work because everyone is too busy. If things are slow, it’s the perfect time to do some skill development that will strengthen your group’s teamwork. Three topics that can always help are communication, conflict management, and change management. Check out some of these workshop ideas. Invest in your team’s future.
- Provide a good example. You certainly don’t want to strut around wearing rose-colored glasses. People will think you are either manipulative or clueless. But you can stay positive, focus on the work at hand, and remain optimistic about the future. People look to their leaders for cues about how they are supposed to respond. Model the behaviors you want to see.
If the economic conditions are affecting your team, don’t wait until things improve, take action now. If you need help with a specific issue, contact us so that we can discuss some of the team building services that might improve the situation.