Managing a team isn’t easy, especially when things aren’t going well. When morale lags, so does productivity and output. These days, a lot of managers seem to be facing this problem. A recent U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that productivity is growing more slowly than it has in the past.
It can be easy to blame your team when you find yourself in this situation, and to point the finger at them to turn things around. But, if you’re in a leadership role, there is a lot that you can do to shake things up and to boost productivity and morale. Start by implementing some new methods and approaches yourself, instead of just looking to the team to make the change.
1. Get real about your impact.
When morale drops, there are a few signs that the manager might be to blame, not the team. For example, if there has been a lot of employee turnover, it’s worth taking a good long look in the mirror to analyze how you may be contributing to the issue. Communication issues, or lack of trust and respect can also impact morale. Is your team grappling with any of these issues? How do you contribute to them? Getting real about the impact you’re having on the situation is a great first step.
2. Solicit the right kind of feedback.
It’s only natural to have some blind spots where self-understanding is concerned. It’s not easy to see yourself clearly. So, you should solicit 360-degree feedback in order to better understand how your management style is impacting morale. This means asking for a review by supervisors, peers and employees who report to you. You might even ask the team to look specifically at how you’re impacting morale. Engaging in this type of process should help you learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses.
Stress is an all too common reality for many workers today. Over time, it can take a real toll on morale. As a manager, you have the authority to direct your workplace away from the culture of overwork that pervades so many offices. One of the best ways you can encourage self-care, as a manager, is to set the example yourself. Don’t brag about staying at the office super late. Take your vacations. (And don’t be all over email while you’re away. Model how to take vacations properly instead.) If you have healthy self-care practices, your team members are more likely to follow suit. This should help to reduce stress and improve productivity.
4. Cancel meetings.
A lot of workers really dislike meetings. Some rare people actually enjoy them. But, the truth of the matter is that those people tend to be managers. Paul Graham, an essayist and venture capitalist shared his perspective on this discrepancy in his essay Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. The basic idea is that managers think of their schedule in terms of blocks of time whereas employees think about the tasks they need to accomplish. Perhaps this is part of the reason that meetings are so unpopular. They can feel like a huge waste of time. Consider shortening meetings, reducing them, or even replacing them with an alternative. It could be great for morale.
Always remember that your main job is to lead your team, not to manage it. Managers rely on control and leaders inspire trust — there is a big difference. Instead of always pushing your own agenda, realize that your role is to understand the goals of the organization and to give words and direction to that shared vision. Be the kind of leader that focuses more on the people following you than on the work you expect them to do. It could lead to a fundamental shift in morale and productivity.
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