When times are uncertain it's tough trying not to get overwhelmed, and managers can struggle to keep their team morale up. It's your job to steer the ship and get your team back on track, and the good news is that many strategies to improve team morale are just simple changes in behavior that you can implement with ease.
Very often the culprit behind low team morale is a lack of clarity on what we're working towards. Without a clear vision it's hard to see where our contributions are making a difference or what the purpose of our tasks are. Whether it's for the whole company or for your particular team, make sure to create and publish the core strategic goals that will drive you forward. Be transparent about the efforts needed to achieve them and give your teammates a vision to believe in.
When you're working towards a big delivery, a major project or under a heavy workload we often take a "head down and get on with it" approach. Make sure to step back and recognize the achievements of individuals and teams. It doesn't have to be a big presentation - smaller, more regular recognition goes a long way. The important thing is that the recognition is genuine and personal, and publicly acknowledges where a person has stretched themselves.
A great initiative is to incorporate a "colleague of the month" area into your one to one meetings with employees. Before your check-in, ask your team member to nominate a colleague from another team who went above and beyond to support them that month. After the one to one, share that feedback with the colleague directly. It'll not only boost the morale across teams, it'll encourage your direct reports to recognize and appreciate the support they receive from their colleagues.
Make sure that your employees' personal time is as valued as much as their work time. Encourage your team to prioritize their families, hobbies and interests and you'll see inspiration and creativity brought back into their work. If you don't you'll be facing burnout. Not only is burnout dangerous for your employee and extremely difficult to recover from, it also affects their teammates and costs your business lost productivity. While lots of organizations enforce email breaks after hours, be careful also to not to disrupt the flow of work itself with unnecessary distractions and meetings. Let people get things done in their work hours.
Your attitude models the mood for the whole team. In especially stressful times, if you're bringing stress and anxiety to your role you'll be dragging your team down with you. That isn't to say you have to pretend that everything's alright - you can be transparent about your stresses with the team. Just make sure that you're approaching it with positivity and a problem-solving mindset, and encourage your team to do the same.
Be curious - ask your team questions. It can be as simple as asking what's causing their low morale and how can you help. Go beyond the "my door is always open" policy, expecting people to come to you, and actively reach out to your team. If you can, get out of work and have a chat in a new environment. Encourage them to air their frustrations and if they're reluctant, share some of your own - with examples from your own experience.
Especially in larger companies, job roles can be very specific and specialized. Even so, everyone has room to develop further skills. One of the biggest drivers of motivation and engagement is a sense that we can improve ourselves and progress within an organization, and you should be promoting from within wherever possible. Take the time to create a development plan with your team members. Understand their development goals and their signature strengths, and create an action plan together to develop their skills. Give team members the reassurance that they're moving forward to boost morale.
As employees socialize outside of work, pay attention to the activities that recharge the batteries and get people excited. Then encourage the organizers to take those initiatives to the wider team and support them where you can. For example, if employees have started a lunchtime running club together, encourage them to formalize this through your communication channels and invite others to join. As a company you can sponsor team shirts or a charity race for all participants. It not only gives teams a morale boost within work, it shows them that their ideas are valuable and worthwhile to the whole company.
And lastly, try not to take it all too seriously. Sometimes the biggest morale booster is a team lunch, a pub quiz or a group hike. Especially for new joiners, group activities gets everybody out of the office mindset and allows people to relate to their colleagues in new ways.
Boosting team morale doesn't have to be a complex and in-depth process if you approach your team with an open mind and a willingness to listen.
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