EVEN the best of teams will fail at some point. There will even be days when your team will not be performing at the level they are expected to. When this happens, your leadership skills will be put to the test, especially with how you rally your team to pick themselves up and bounce back from the setback.
There are many reasons why your team underperforms, or even fails in achieving milestones. One factor is when there are too many things going on at the same time and your team is forced to perform multiple tasks, but they lack the skills to do it effectively. Your team might also fail because they lack guidance on what to do and they do not ask you or their teammates, so they end up doing things on their own. Other team members might even have no interest in improving themselves, or have personal issues interfering with their work. With so many factors affecting their work, what can you do so that your team can pull themselves back up?
Communication is the key to helping your team. People often forget that communication is a two-way process, and it is important that your team knows that they have been heard. Maintaining an open line of communication helps you understand where your team is coming from, while at the same time it helps them understand the limitations of what you can do for them. How you communicate with your team will determine what is the most effective way of dealing with their frustrations and disappointments at work.
Part of communicating with your team is being aware of your own emotions. Whether you like it or not, you affect your team with your own feelings. Team members quickly catch on if you react negatively, or if you are easily flustered. So you need to maintain your composure, acknowledge that your team failed, and then be very clear on what went wrong. After that, encourage your team to uncover what lessons can be learned and how to avoid mistakes in the future. Give your team time to feel the failure so that the lessons are not lost. But after they have been given enough time, pull them back up to the work that needs to be done.
Create a professional development plan for each of your team members and follow through on their commitments. Both you and your team need to agree on what can be achieved for the year and the concomitant reward that goes with it. Sometimes, your team underperforms because they have been promised a promotion—only for it to be delayed for longer than necessary. Your team needs to understand that extra effort means the achievement of their personal or professional development goals, or any reward that has been agreed on. But even without the rewards, your role as their leader is for them to associate professional development with self-fulfillment.
You also need to proactively look for solutions, not fault-finding. It is important for the team to understand that it was a group effort and the failure of one is the failure of all. This helps your team imbibe a culture where they understand that their actions affect other members of the team. This should lead to the realization that they need to pull their own weight so that the team can move forward. This is also the best time for team members to help the weaker members of the team so they can be up to par with the standards. This ensures that no one is left behind.
As their leader, you also have an overview of what your team can do individually and as a group. Know each of your team member’s strengths and capitalize on what they are passionate about so you can motivate them to succeed. Nothing gets a team member more invested than to be given a project that is close to their heart. So, get to know your team individually so that you know what projects can be assigned to whom, and you have a better understanding of the team dynamics.
Of course, there are times when the lapse of one is so blatant that everyone in the team knows who is at fault. In this case, you need to talk privately with that person and come up with a plan to improve their performance. Then you can address the team and discuss that the matter is being addressed by the concerned individual and solicit help from the group on what they can do to help. If possible, appoint someone to mentor the person if you cannot do it yourself. Just ensure that the person gets all the help they need to improve their performance.
After everything has been said and done, you still need to remind them of the team’s targets and what success looks like. Sometimes, your team misses goals because they have become too comfortable in what they are doing that they have become reckless and rely heavily on past successes. If needed, your team might have to be reminded of the consequences of their actions and what they have to do to regain losses. This way, they have a better grasp of how to redeem themselves and regain lost confidence.
If everything else fails, learn to let go of team members who are not performing as they should even with multiple interventions. You need to safeguard your team’s working environment so that your team can perform at the top of their game. That is why in the hiring process, you should include a culture fit assessment so that you can ascertain if the candidate can get along well with the other team members. You need to understand that you are not just hiring for skills but also for attitude. Do not sacrifice attitude for skills because it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the whole barrel.
As someone looked up to by a group of people, you need to exemplify how it is to bounce back from a failure. Adopt a growth mindset so that your team will realize that setbacks are a setup for a comeback. You and your team need to understand that failures are opportunities to adapt and overcome only if you allow them to teach you the lessons you need to learn. When the lessons are learned as a group, the team has a better chance of not repeating the same mistakes again.
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