I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like that many times. Every team experiences times of decline. What you do next almost always determines how long it lasts and how well you recover.
First, I should say that every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone, from a paid consultant to a friend who leads another team with whom you trade a favor. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.
With those disclaimers in mind, I can offer a few thoughts to shape your current paradigm of thought.
What do you do when your team is struggling? Here are seven suggestions:
1. Admit it. Pretending there isn’t a problem will only make things worse and delay making things better. Most likely everyone on the team and in the organization knows there is a problem. Again, this is where the leader must be humble enough and wise enough to recognize and admit the problem. (I realize the next question is “What do I do when the leader isn’t this wise or humble?” That would be the focus of another post, but hopefully this post will help. Maybe email it to them.)
2. Recast vision. People need reminding of why they are doing what they are doing. You should have a vision big enough to fuel people’s energy toward achieving it. If you don’t have one, spend time there first. If you already do—and most teams do—they may have forgotten it, but it exists somewhere. Now is the time to tell it. Frequently. (For my pastor friends, you have a vision given to you—we know—we just sometimes get distracted by other things. Tradition. Programs. Systems. Stuff.)
3. Evaluate. Now is also the time to ask hard questions: What is going wrong? Who is not working on the team? Where have we lost our way? Where are we stuck? How did we lose our way? What are we missing? This is a great place to bring in some outside perspective if needed. The less you try to protect personal agendas here, the greater chance you’ll have of recovery.
4. Introduce change. You need to try something new, perhaps several somethings new. Now is not the time to resist doing something different. Obviously, what you’ve been doing isn’t working. That’s the point of the post … remember? Explore again. Be intentional, and make sure the changes line up with the vision, but encourage movement. Movement often spurs momentum, especially new movement.
5. Fuel potential. There are usually areas that are working and areas that are not. If no areas are working, you may be looking for different answers than this post can provide. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is working when you are clouded by what isn’t working, but you must try. (Outside perspectives can sometimes work here too.) Often these are things the team is known for or things that are fairly new but are working. Wherever there is a spark of any kind, you must fuel it. This is the best place to spur more momentum quickly.
6. Celebrate small victories. When you have something to celebrate, make a big deal out of it—a really big deal. Put your party hat on now! Seriously, don’t go overboard over something that people will quickly dismiss as nothing, but if you are seeing any signs of hope, share it. People need the energy of something going well to keep pushing forward for even more success.
7. Encourage one another. Remember, the hard times as a team can actually help build your team for long-term success. Allow this to be a time you grow together as a team, figure out this together and help the team to grow and succeed again. Pray for and with each other. Cheer each other on daily. You can do it!
Have you been a part of a turnaround team? What helped?
Ron Edmondson is a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. He is also a church leadership consultant who is passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Prior to ministry, Ron had more than 20 years of business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner. Follow Ron on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog at ronedmondson.com.
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