How To Lead a Team Through Difficult Times
Times are more challenging than ever, so it has never been more important to know how to lead a team through difficult times. Here are 7 top tips, to help you lead the way when times are tough.
By Todd Bateman and Dr. Martin Douglas Hendry
No pressure, no diamonds
They say, “no pressure, no diamonds”.
Those of us that know can confirm that pressure is commonplace in the function of high-performance teams.
But the key to that performance is the ability to help the team deal with pressure in the workplace. That way, it is diamonds that you end up with.
As of the time of writing this FAQ, times are very uncertain, and teams are facing new kinds of pressure to deliver results. Results which are more critical to the business than ever.
In this FAQ, we will guide you on how to approach pressure and help your team learn to thrive under and anticipate it – equipping your business with the resilience to succeed.
1. An absolute unit
First up, remember your team becomes one when together.
It is a single unit that is focused on achieving one thing only – your team’s core objective.
It is important that this team’s objective is communicated to them regularly and clearly.
You need to operate and execute plans together with this in mind.
This shared objective will help team members difficult times - as they will:
- View their effort as part of a larger coordinated goal
- Find support in the efforts of others within the team
- Appreciate their contribution to the success of the business at the broader level.
2. Turn weakness into strength
Every team has strengths and weaknesses.
Failure is not a team with weaknesses.
Failure is not perceiving and adapting the team to best mitigate those weaknesses.
If one of your team members is falling behind you must take leadership in motivating them and putting them in the best position to succeed.
- Review team members’ strengths and weaknesses
- Offer frank and honest feedback that supports and encourages them
- Delegate them tasks they are best suited to
3. Harness the power of positive feedback
As a leader, it is important to provide feedback to your team consistently.
It is important to make sure that this both adjusts negative performance – but equally recognises and encourages good performance.
It is all too common that in the tempo of day-to-day work, leaders focus on correcting the negative – rather than encouraging and acknowledging good performance.
This sets the environment that great performance is the baseline expectation and can provide the wrong context for high performance.
If a team member is struggling with self-doubt, understanding that they are performing well in other areas can relieve the pressure.
Support each other with positive words and friendly encouragement, but you may also offer incentives which recognise contributions in a more tangible sense.
- Be consistent, set clear expectations refer to them routinely
- Provide positive feedback at a higher ratio to negative feedback
- Reward and incentivise good performance in a tangible and lasting way
4. Squad goals
Think about the all-time great sports teams. To reach a level of peak performance that resulted in historical wins, teams developed into more than the sum of their parts.
You can help build team chemistry by undertaking group projects that involve the entire team, helping them become more familiar with how they work as a collective.
Note: team building should be based on team preferences. If not, this will have the opposite of the intended effect, as members may feel forced to partake in an exercise that doesn’t consider them.
Also, consider suitable ways to build stronger relationships outside of the workplace as a way of building bonds between the team.
Thoughtful and consistent effort will help your team become more cohesive. When pressure rises, a cohesive team will handle it better than individuals taking it on their shoulders alone.
- Use regular group tasks to gel the team
- Be wary of team building tasks that do not consider team members’ preferences
- Develop synergy beyond the workplace tasks to reach the next level
5. Lead the way
As a leader, it is your responsibility to manage your team through pressure. You have to approach challenges and accept total responsibility for the success or failure of your team.
Whether you are a manager or employee, everyone needs a leader in times under pressure.
And it is during difficult times that your leadership matters the most.
A leader must be able to keep everyone focused under pressure, and act assertively if someone is struggling to provide the support needed to help them along.
Use your voice, keep the team communicating and relaxed on the task on hand - offering solutions and new ways to overcome the pressure.
Remember you are looked up to as a leader if you are calm your team will be calm if you freak out your team will freak out.
Leaders are not dictators, and your actions will be the example that your team follows.
- Take total responsibility for the performance of the team
- Lead by example, demonstrating the way forward
- Be aware that leadership is especially important when the pressure is on
6. This too shall pass!
Now when it comes to pressure, it is a mental battle that affects team members’ state of mind.
In the heat of the moment, pressure causes anxiety that can negatively affect them.
However, this can be overcome by empowering through resilience techniques. Meditation, mindfulness and breathing can be used to interrupt a negative reaction to pressure.
Encourage your team to practice and learn these to become a cool head under pressure.
In addition, subscription to a larger philosophy or idea, can provide a “north star” in the eye of the storm.
This can be the business’ “why” or purpose, but moreover something they believe in.
As such, do not underestimate the impact of an over-arching philosophy, in helping your team navigate difficult moments.
- Be aware that in the short-term difficult moments have an impact on team-members
- Encourage your team to use meditation, mindfulness and breathing techniques
- Observe a larger philosophy within the team as a compass in the heat of the moment
7. Goal getters
Last but not least – do not underestimate the power of short, medium and long-term goals!
Setting goals with these different timespans in mind (and which align) provide a success pathway for both individuals and the team as a whole.
Goal setting (with all of the above in mind) will help motivate your team to see the light at the end of the tunnel and re-assure them that there is an end point to balance the pressure out.
Being explicit with your goals also helps all team members stay accountable to each other, as well as provide ample opportunity to reflect on the team’s successes.
This is often overlooked, as teams tend to focus on the next big challenge, rather than give themselves the recognition they deserve.
- Set goals in the short, medium and long term for individuals and the team
- View these as a “success pathway”, of steps, checkpoints and destinations
- Regularly recognise achievement of these goals, to reinforce success
Whether it is in the legal sector, a start-up company, or any fast-growing business - high-performance teams face pressure on a day-to-day basis.
Empowering team members to deal with pressure is key for leaders who are looking to develop truly world-class teams.
A resilient and coolheaded team will find themselves increasingly capable to perform when it matters most.
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