Your team can’t seem to get their Sh#t together. 

In-fighting, lack of communication with other departments, arriving late and leaving early. I’ve been there! So, how do you rescue your team (and yourself) from humiliation and possible termination when they are at the brink?

As a leader, the buck stops with you.  If your team is doing well and delivering against objectives you get a well-deserved pat on the back.  When things begin to slip however, you are on the hook. Focusing on what the team is doing wrong can only lead to micromanagement, mistrust and even lower performance. Instead, take a reflective moment, down your coffee (which may or may not have a splash of Bailey’s) and get to work.

4 Things to Get your Team’s Performance On the Right Track

Group Huddle.

It’s time to call a team meeting to figure out exactly what’s going on. For the most part, people who are closest to the problem are also the best equipped to solve the problem.  Let your team know that you’ve noticed some changes in team dynamics and you want to work with them to get things back on track. 

Ask the group open ended questions such as:

  • What team changes have you noticed recently?
  • How have these changes impacted your personal performance and the performance of the team?
  • What do you suggest we do in order to get things back on track?

Listen to what they have to say and encourage everyone to add to the conversation.Teams don’t just celebrate wins together, they lose together. Think about what happens during half-time of a football game when a team is down. 

The coach doesn’t pull everyone aside separately at that moment. Instead, the coach addresses the group, so everyone can hear the challenges facing the group as a whole. This airing of grievances allows individuals to assess their own weaknesses and how they’re contributing to the loss while talking solutions through with the entire team.

Of course, business isn’t a football game (though I’d argue it’s still a full contact sport). If dynamics are strained because of one person, not everyone will feel inclined to raise their hand and speak-up.  That’s why you need to have a private conversation with everyone on the team.

One-to-One.

I’ve had many conversations with founders, CEOs and advisors on The Manila Folder podcast and if there’s one theme that continues to emerge it’s this:  One-on-one meetings are one of the most crucial elements of leadership. Yet, like Larry Cornett, Ph.D. says,  while it’s common sense it doesn’t make it common practice.

For now, let’s pretend you have consistent 1:1s with your team and focus on how to approach a meeting when things aren’t going well. Generally, it’s a good practice to have the employee lead the one-on-one meeting. When things aren’t going well, they should still lead the meeting, but you need to make sure you save enough time to speak with them about the team’s performance..

You can do this by letting them know in the beginning that you want to take just 15 minutes or so at the end to talk through some things. Downside to this is they may feel stressed about what you  want to discuss and will rush through their items or say they have nothing that day. Asking employees to send you an updated 1:1 agenda each time you meet with them can alleviate this a little.

When it’s time for you to bring up the team dynamics make sure you don’t use an accusatory tone or do what many bad leaders do which is to play the “he said, she said” game. This is childish. Address what you have seen, ask their point of view and ask them what they would do if they were in your shoes. Also, try letting them know what you believe are the issues, so they’re not playing mindreader (this is not a fun game for employees or anyone for that matter).

Often, you’ll have to ask probing questions in order for some employees to be vulnerable enough to let you know their honest opinion. This is a skill the best leaders hone and something you will need to improve over your own career.

Team Offsite.

Some of the best breakthroughs I’ve experienced happened during a team offsite. When people are in unfamiliar environments they are slightly uncomfortable and vulnerable. This is a good thing.  Yes, it will take some creativity on your part to relax them and get everyone to open up, but there are many ways you do this:

  • Build in fun to your offsite. An offsite is not just a team meeting that’s outside the office. That would be a waste. The most effective offsites allow the team to build relationships with one another and fun helps build that bond.
  • Ropes courses, escape rooms, improv classes or even cooking classes can do the trick.  Also, much can be said about thrilling activities such as roller coasters, mountaineering, race car driving or zip lining, but it doesn’t have to end there. Think creatively and out-of-the-box when planning offsite employee experiences. According to a Yale study, the experience will be more memorable and amplified since it is shared with others.

At the end of the day, an offsite is a way for your team to build trust with one another. And when team members trust one another you’ll see more communication, collaboration, engagement and productivity.

Look in the mirror.

Want to know why leadership and management books fill the shelves of the greatest business leaders? Because it’s that important. There are as many books about leadership and management as there are leaders who continue to get it wrong. I’m just kidding…there are many more bad leaders.

One of my favorites was penned by Dr. Liz Wiseman. She wrote a phenomenal book called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, that touches on the different types of leaders who hinder stellar performance. Now you’d think they were mostly the Ari Gold type, but you’d be wrong.  Some of the archetypes in her book are people who have good intentions, but those intentions are misplaced and accidentally diminish individual and team performance instead. For instance, a leader who thinks they must know everything and make all of the decisions because they’re the “smartest person in the room” is a diminisher.

Often times, the leaders who diminish team performance were once star performers that took a promotion into a leadership role. These new leaders step into the role with zero training, mentorship or guidance which, as Wade Billings said, is a form of abuse. Want to find out if you’re the reason behind the diminishing team performance?  Take the quiz created by Liz Wiseman and team.

There are many reasons your team’s performance can be slipping and many ways you can go about making adjustments to get things on track. If you want to turn things around, be honest with yourself and your team and then make a plan to improve. At the end of the day, their performance is a reflection of how you’ve performed as a leader.