It’s no surprise that employees can be feeling a little deflated at the beginning of the year. But they can be easily re-engaged, says Martin Reed
Despite being the shortest month, February can feel very long. Without the promise of a Christmas bonus or a summer break to help motivate employees, you may find you need to go back to grass-roots to motivate and inspire your team. This relatively fallow time of year can be a great time to regroup and reinvigorate your workforce.
The first step in reassessing your team is to understand where they are in the development process and what you can do to support them during that stage. When looking at how best to do this, it’s worth keeping Bruce Tuckman’s team development model in mind – Tuckman proposed four main phases: Form, Storm, Norm and Perform. Each stage has its own criteria for success, and an awareness of where your team is in the process will help you assess where to concentrate your efforts in refining the team dynamic.
Clearly, forming a team is the crucial first phase and success at this stage comes from knowing what kind of team you want to create and what types of people you need in it. A well-balanced team involves people whose experience, skills, perspectives, interests and contributions complement one another, rather than duplicate or counteract each other. In our psychometric assessments, we often see teams made up of one dominant behavioural trait – for example, the board of a company is often comprised of people with dominant and commanding behavioural traits (‘High Ds’), but it also needs a representation of other elements to ensure it’s not totally disengaged from the operation of the business. When putting together a new team, it’s useful to consider the different behavioural profiles to make sure you get a balanced mix of people who will lead, follow, create, plan and deliver.
How to motivate your team during this stage: Team members tend to function as individuals at this point so team leaders need to be pro-active and directive in team-building and sharing vision.
The second phase is where different ideas compete for attention and teams hit a glass ceiling. Lack of understanding of each other can mean team members start to play the ‘blame game’ and point fingers at the perceived shortcomings of others. Self-awareness and an awareness of other people’s work styles are crucial if a team is going to reach its performance goals – there needs to be an understanding that differences are not good or bad, better or worse, but just different. Each member must recognise their own limitations and recognise that there are people on the team who can do things better than them.
How to motivate your team during this stage: At this point, the role of the team leader is to build awareness, either using tools such as psychometric assessment, or simply by encouraging open and honest communication to generate understanding of other’s work styles. The team leader needs to be assertive in bringing conflicts into the open and clarifying work goals and objectives. This phase can be destructive if you don’t manage the situation firmly enough. Encourage your team to reach an acceptance that ‘we’ have a joint problem and ‘we’ need a joint strategy to tackle it. An effective team player knows when to delegate and when to take responsibility and an effective manager knows how to encourage this level of self-recognition and cooperation.
Recognition plays an important part in the ‘norming’ process, which is where a team will start to relate to each other, build commitment and achieve consensus. They don’t have to agree but must concede that others have a valid point of view. Teams fail because of mismatched needs, unresolved conflict, personality clashes and lack of trust. All these can be addressed through understanding and recognising how each person in the team behaves and responds in different situations. In a typical team, there will be people who are systematic, careful and precise but there will also be people who are assertive, driven and goal orientated. Despite these differences, a successful team will commit to group decisions even though they may not personally agree with them.
How to motivate your team during this stage: At this point your team needs to have one clear goal and vision, and as manager you need to celebrate increased cooperation as roles and responsibilities become clearer and agreements on expectations are reached.
At this stage, everyone takes responsibility and has the ambition to work for the success of the team. It’s very easy for a team that’s under pressure or lacking motivation to lose its focus.
How to motivate your team during this stage: A successful manager needs to maintain the ‘vision’ and have the ability to keep a clear focus on what the team is trying to achieve and its objectives in terms of overall strategy. A good leader will maintain high morale by keeping a clear focus themselves and ensuring that vision is shared by team members and they don’t drift too far from it.
Good teamwork is vital in helping a business achieve its objectives and even in the quieter months of the year it’s empowering to know there are things you can do, tools you can use and proven techniques you can employ to make sure your team is focused, committed and performing to the best of their abilities as you face the year ahead.