As a leader of teams, families, corporations, and nonprofits, you may be doing all the “right” things, using all the “right” words and find that those you lead simply aren’t following. They seem to be disengaged, working just hard enough, or even actively moving in a different direction than you intend. Try these three strategies to push the reset button and get everyone working together again.

Change Your Perspective

As leaders, we’re often focused on our goals. That might mean meeting particular metrics, completing certain projects, or reaching specific sales targets. All that focus can give us tunnel vision. When all you can see is your plan and how others aren’t living up to it, it’s time for a perspective shift. Set aside a window of time – at least 30 minutes – and think about the way others on your team may be feeling. What’s important to them? How are their priorities intersecting with yours? What do they have too much of or not enough of? Maybe they need more or less guidance, more or less time in meetings, more or less room to ideate and innovate. Where are their pain points and sparks of joy? How can you address those issues and still deliver on your responsibilities to the business?

Assess the Dynamics

One of the more interesting elements of teams are the way various personalities effect one another. Put Suzy and Jim together on a creative collaboration and it’s like magic. Ask them to project manage together and it’s a hot mess. Or think about the kid who causes trouble in class. She can be punished with a trip to the principal’s office or put at a desk in isolation from her peers. Or, a teacher familiar with group dynamics may see that the child just needs a different role. When she’s asked to hand out papers, collect assignments, or take a note to the nurse, she transforms into an incredibly productive pupil.  Look with fresh eyes at who on your team is doing what and how that works for them – and the group. You may find switching desks, roles, tasks, or timing can re-engage previously check out staff.

Call an Audible

Sometimes getting the attention of an unmotivated team can be as easy as zigging when they think you’re going to zag. Have a staff meeting every Monday at 9am? When everyone arrives, tell them how much you appreciate their hard work then set them free and give them back an hour of their day. Have tickets to a fancy fundraising luncheon? Ask a staffer to join you or even give the tickets to a couple of team members and stay at the office while they represent your organization. Do you always run the goal setting meeting? Turn it over to a staffer next time or even consider leaving the room and trusting your team to develop the framework of the next steps. Calling an audible might just be the pop of adrenaline your team needs to get back in the game.

The truth is, even the best leaders sometimes lose the attention and dedication of a follower or two from time to time. Don’t let the natural ebb and flow of human behavior throw you off your game; stick with the plan but know that your approach may need to include a couple of twists and turns to keep everyone going in the same direction.

Talk to you next week,

Amber D. Nelson


Cover of Amber Nelson's book, "Talk to Me"

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