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As a supervisor, you are probably familiar with the times when nothing seems to be going for your team--projects don’t come together, laughter feels forced, and energy levels are really low. Usually at this point you have no idea what you should do.
Don’t give up. Even though everything appears to be pulling apart at the seams, keep your head up. There are ways to resurrect the teamwork, trust, and focus among your team members. But it will take some work.
We outline some steps below, but the all-important first step is re-discovering your vision and sharing it with your team.
If your team is already in a downward spiral then this advice may be coming too late. However, it remains true that the best way to cure negativity among your team members is to prevent it from ever developing. Get to know your team, understand their motivations and what makes them tick. Work as hard or harder than any of them so that they view you as a trusted member of the team, rather than just the leader.
Spending time together and bonding during the good times will make it easier to sustain the ties that bind the team when things are not going so good. Remember that trust will not get built overnight; time must be spent building it.
There are many ways to detect when the negativity is building among your team. For example, if you realize people are leaving early, feeling reluctant to contribute during meetings, losing energy early in the day then it’s about time you stepped it to stop things from getting any worse.
Begin by talking to one member of the team, preferably the one who seems most stressed or the one with whom you seem to have least rapport built. Try to find out what the root cause of the problems are, and then seek out potential solutions together.
If things have already devolved to the state where your best and brightest are disengaged and looking for opportunities elsewhere, then you need to adopt more urgent measures. Think about asking your human resources department if they have an idea about what is going on or it they have gotten wind of any rumors. You could also pull the whole team together as a whole to an offsite location where everyone feels comfortable; and then once there request that everybody shares their honest opinions about their challenges within or even outside the organization.
As leader, you must be always willing to face the possibility that you are the problem and the reason why the team is falling apart. This is difficult but necessary. Be open to the idea of making changes to your leadership style in order to save your team from collapsing.
The responsibility of finding a solution falls to you. Don’t be afraid of claiming accountability when things are going south. Too many times, leaders find themselves in difficult situations with their teams and attempt to look externally for a solution.
If turns out that there is one person who is the source of too much of the negativity then know when it is time to make the tough decision to make some changes in personnel. Sometimes, cutting one negative influence or underperformer is all you need to get your team back to their best.
Leading a team today can be something of a balancing act. Organizations are chasing many things at once, and leaders have to maintain the focus and a culture of learning and accountability while allowing team members the necessary freedom to take appropriate chances. Expect to drop the ball many times as a team. Fortunately for any leader armed with effort and positive energy, nearly every team can be brought back from the brink when that happens.