7 Tips for steering your Team through the unexpected

Smooth sailing is rare – we are always surrounded by some degree of change.

But at times it’s more choppy than usual; more uncertain than the norm. Leading your team well in those circumstances is more important than ever. Team members may feel worried, angry or frustrated and not perform to their best. So what can you do when you find yourself in turbulent times?

Here are some practical solutions, which you can adapt to your specific context:

1. Meet regularly

Have regular quick check-ins – face-to-face, on video call or phone. Make people feel that they are not alone, that you support each other and are stronger together. Have some fun together and make time for laughter and casual conversations too.

2. Find answers to questions

Uncertainty and turbulence create questions. What will this mean for us? How will we resolve this? How will I be affected? Make sure you create frequent opportunities to talk as a team, so you understand concerns and hopes – and where possible, provide answers. Follow these four principles of dealing with questions transparently:

  1. Try to answer the question.
  2. If you don’t know an answer, say so.
  3. If you cannot answer the question now, make a commitment for when you will and honour it.
  4. If you know the answer but cannot say currently, say so and make a commitment to share information when you can.

3. Focus on strengths

Everyone in a team contributes in their unique way. Give each other feedback based on individual strengths and attributes. When people are able to use their strengths, they are energised, which is a vital resource when faced with uncertainty, as it can give a real boost of innovation and determination.

4. Focus on your purpose

Remind the team of their purpose and how important their role is within the organisation. Stay focused on that purpose and get on with the task at hand. It’s easy to slow down when faced with uncertainty. Keep the team moving forward. Adjust goals, plans and tasks if needed, making sure the team keeps progressing.

Don’t waste time in the “uncertainty void.” Show that it’s okay to make mistakes. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn (from what went wrong). Use the disruption as a way for the team and its members to develop.

5. What could go right?

There is never just one way of looking at a situation. You probably know people who have expressed that some of their greatest learning, insight and growth have come as a result of (unwanted) change.

Help your team to reframe a situation by exploring what it could bring from an optimistic standpoint. Ask team members to share the moments when they’ve experienced a good result during a time of uncertainty. Use a crisis to pull the team together. Create new solutions together.

6. Balance bad news with good news

When things are turbulent, the news we encounter is typically not very positive, and endless exposure to bad news has an effect on people. It’s hard to stay optimistic when all you read and hear is on the negative side. There is always more good news than is immediately noticeable. Make a point of finding the good news and sharing it with your team – and encourage them to do the same.

A company that banned bad news from the workplace during the recession found that it increased performance. People were of course allowed to read what they wanted to outside of work, but they decided that it wasn’t the focus they wanted people to have while at work. The results? Higher productivity, employee engagement and sales.

7. Celebrate Success

To celebrate successes is always important, but particularly so when facing turbulence. That’s when the pat on the back and sense of achievement can really make a difference. Say thank you. Celebrate the milestones and encourage continued effort. Take care of each other. Be proud of your team – and show it.

A version of this article was first published in City AM in 2017.

Author: Mandy and Elisabet

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