Or what to do if a trusted employee suddenly underperforms?
Introduction: Team members are human beings subject to stresses and emotional turmoil. In team building, we pay attention to creating an environment that brings out the best in each person. But what should team leaders do if the best performers suddenly hit a bump?
Every time I conduct a team building workshop, I find joy in seeing that each person opens up and brings out the best in him or in her using exercises and processes that I know are effective. But outside the workshop, what do team leaders do if members underperform?
Serena Williams is considered by many experts as the greatest female tennis player of all time, with a natural habit of breaking existing tennis records. But she always had problems at the US Open – losing her serves, losing her game, and losing her control – it is not the lack of talent, it is an emotional thing. She always thought the crowd roots against her.
At the women’s finals of the 2012 US Open, she was two points away from losing to Victoria Azarenka. She looked at the grandstand and listened to what people were saying, “C’mon Serena, you can do it!” Serena took a deep breath, broke Azarenka’s serve and never looked back. She won her 15th Grand Slam.
Sometimes, even our best team members are out of the zone. For some reason, they underperform. And no amount of team building activity can bring her out of the hole. Instead of criticism, what they need is someone to rally them back to believing in their capacity. Even neuroscience has proven that: positive emotions drive better performance.
Team leaders lead the cheering section
Team leaders who just remain in their offices, sending emails to remind underperformers of their shortcomings are facing the risk of losing valuable office assets. They should learn the dynamics of competitive sports: team members respond well when the belief of their coaches remains even if the scoreboard says otherwise.
If an office achiever suddenly underperforms, lead the cheerleading squad!
Source: By U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Sarah Gregory [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Bringing Out the Pompoms
Here are a few tips for managers who want to be their team’s head cheerleaders:
a. Be Genuine. Make the troops feel that you truly care for them – not just about their task or their output, but about them as persons. To say that: “This is task is too easy for you, you can do it,” is about the work. “I have complete trust in you. You can do it! ”is about the person.
b. Be Subtle. Do not make it obvious. Do not let the whole office be conscious that someone or some team is underperforming. It will add insult to injury. Yes, people will know; but you don’t have to announce it every day. There is no need to send an email to everyone saying, “Guys, let us support Jimmy or the art department. He is/they are having a bad time.” That is not cheerleading at all. That is called unnecessary pressure.
Oracene Price, Serena’s mother and coach, is the model of subtle cheerleading. When her daughter looked at her with gestures of surrender and helplessness, Oracene just looked at her, smiled, and nodded her head. The message was, “I am not worried, and I know you can do it.”
c. Small things count. You don’t need to organize a flash mob or a parade. Sometimes, a simple gesture of bringing coffee, or ice cream, or pizza will do the trick. It creates a very strong and powerful message: “I am here for you, I trust in you. You can do it.”
Team building is not just about ensuring productivity; it also includes protecting your company’s best assets: your people. And that includes guiding them at their lowest points. When someone is in a hole, you don’t push, you pull!
Resource Box: Betty Robinson, one of Philadelphia’s the first female chefs was known for her creative, non-conventional style of cooking. These qualities define her current passion as founder and CEO of Philly Hops & Go Team Building, an innovative team building company specializing in team building activities that build trust and promote high performance teamwork.