You know the feeling of just trudging along? It’s like you’re doing the same thing day after day without making much progress. You may feel this in your personal life — hello, dating — but also in your professional life. If you’re a manager or leader, you may see this stuck-in-a-rut phenomenon among your team members.
While the pandemic can’t take sole blame for everything, it certainly didn’t help the workplace situation. Being separated from teammates and juggling work life and home life in the same space often led to pure exhaustion. Many working individuals burned out completely, while others started doing less and simply tried to get by. This wasn’t a time to attempt something new within the team, given that employees were already struggling.
With the pandemic’s three-year anniversary approaching, now is a great opportunity to see where there is room for improvement. Your team is only going to be as strong as their leader, so you need to show them how to forge ahead. Below are three ways to prepare your team members to thrive and tackle fresh challenges.
1. Define Success
Your teammates can’t get an A+ if they don’t know what it takes to get an A+. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to define success. This includes communicating how success will be measured and achieved as a group. Because while every team member should have their own goals, it’s important to know what the group goal is. With a clear objective, team members can avoid getting sucked into day-to-day routines and collaborate creatively to work toward the collective goal.
Every team’s goals will vary based on their purpose. For instance, if you’re leading a product management team, you may be responsible for brainstorming and executing innovative digital products. An editorial team, on the other hand, is responsible for content creation. When a goal is visualized and understood by all, strategic alignment can occur. Strategic alignment is a process of aligning all internal team members so they are focused on the shared vision.
Avoid shutting your office door and coming up with the definition of success yourself. Rather, ask employees what they think the main objective is and solicit their suggestions on new ways to achieve it. The more specific the goal, the easier it is to collectively work toward it. So instead of “create good content,” an editorial team should aim to “publish five engaging blog posts and 10 social media posts each week.” When the team knows what an A+ entails, they’re more likely to earn one.
2. Encourage Ownership
A team member will work harder and longer if they feel connected to a project. Moreover, if they are solely responsible for a particular portion, they are more likely to experience a feeling of autonomy. This autonomy is what enables team members to solve problems their own way and try different approaches.
Once your team’s success has been defined, you can break down the steps of getting there and assign them to individual employees. One person on your editorial team shouldn’t be creating all 15 of those pieces of content. Rather, this end goal should be divided among all team members as appropriate. Be sure to communicate openly what each member is responsible for and how it ladders up to the team’s larger goal.
Avoid handing out assignments; instead ask everyone what part of the project they would be most interested in working on. If they have a say, they’re more apt to enjoy the work they do and feel proud about it, too. Another way to foster ownership is to implement digital project management software. Such tools allow the whole team to see who is doing what and by when, so individual contributors can self-direct. This means that you can track project progress without needing to ride herd on individual team members.
3. Model Positive Behavior
Lastly, getting your teammates unstuck requires showing them how to do it. Let your team in on what you are working on and how you are reaching new goals at work. If you’re taking a course on leadership, share some insights you’ve learned thus far. If you’re working closely with another team manager on another project, explain what you’re hoping to accomplish.
This isn’t a brag session, but it can be a good learning moment, particularly for younger team members. You set the tone for the entire team — if you’re unenthusiastic about the team’s goals, then they will likely feel the same way. Celebrate your team’s wins, especially when someone tackles a new-to-them task or succeeds with a novel approach. This shows that you are rooting for their success and growth.
If the team is feeling down, there are ways to get out of the funk. Suggest a team bonding activity or a group outing. Getting everyone outside of the day-to-day routine can help shake up the overall energy. Through this exercise, you may learn what is really bothering your team members, and you can work toward getting unstuck together.
Communication Is the Key
The common thread woven through these three tips is communication. Having an open dialogue about shared team goals creates a sense of camaraderie, which in turn leads to feeling valued and involved. Communicating your faith in your team members’s capabilities will foster a sense of ownership and willingness to take risks. And sharing insights from your own learning and publicly celebrating wins will encourage team members to stretch themselves. So when you see your team falling into a rut, talk it through to find ways to move forward together.