You’re running a team meeting and a couple of people start whispering to each other. You ask for volunteers, and no one puts their hand up. You stop hearing positive feedback about your people from colleagues. No one seems to laugh and joke around anymore.
Your team is on the brink of a meltdown, and you don’t know what to do about it.
In customer-facing industries, there is no worse feeling. Not only do you need to find a way of turning around a disheartened and disengaged team, you have to fight valiantly for this attitude not to get passed on to the customer.
Customers can sense when a sales manager is not fully present. Customer service professionals tend to lose their permanent smile. A Department Manager who used to bend over backwards to satisfy a customer’s needs is suddenly Mr. Inflexible.
Customers who have bad experiences do two things. They complain, or they never come back. In both cases, this harms morale and results in an ever-downward spiral.
So, when the whispers start, when the hands stop appearing and when the jokes dry up, here are a few suggestions to regain your collective mojo.
Change the record. Shake things up in the team. Give people some new challenges, welcome and act on feedback in changes to the way you work. Remind people that they are in charge of their own destiny, and if they don’t like something, then they should speak up and say so.
Develop them. People are more engaged when they feel that they are learning and progressing. Maybe set up a mentoring system where the younger guys can learn from the older hands? Maybe discuss what they need to demonstrate in order to achieve their next promotion? When people are focused on how they could improve their work, their attitude automatically improves.
Share success. Everyone wants to make a difference at work. Encourage people to talk about the successes of their days – difficult situations that they resolved or customers that they delighted. Make it fun, keep it light and they will soon reconnect with the enjoyment of their job.
Spoil them. Here you need to go above and beyond your job role. Sometimes you need to treat your team to something over and above what they deserve to spark them into action. Remind them what being rewarded feels like again. They will appreciate it.
Empower them. Give them a taste of responsibility above and beyond their normal roles. Take them out of their comfort zones. Let them put themselves in unfamiliar shoes and allow them to appreciate the role of others. Let them get creative and suggest some changes. They need to regain a sense of control over their working lives.
Your team needs to feel extraordinary again. They need to feel free to challenge themselves, to want to go that extra mile, to live and breathe for their customers. Work is such a huge part of our lives – it is a travesty if we feel that we don’t belong.