One of the bigger challenges facing managers today is finding ways to optimize the performance of downsized teams which may be facing morale issues.
Studies have shown that many employees lose focus after events such as restructurings because they are unclear about management’s expectations, and/or their managers are unable or unwilling to provide them with adequate time and support. A University of Wisconsin-Madison survey of several hundred downsized US companies found that voluntary turnover rates “increased significantly” after a downsizing as a surprising percentage of survivors simply left, leaving the company much leaner than it intended.
There are numerous factors that impact the degree to which change is felt and the ability of each individual and teams collectively cope. To bring a team through the change and re-establish a sense of common vision and purpose, it’s essential for leaders to plan strategically and implement appropriately.
Managers who take the time to understand and address the post-restructuring issues (or other issues) surrounding their teams will see their investment pay off in spades. How to begin the process? Do a diagnosis, beginning with the team leader. One or more coaching sessions with the leader will help identify his or her management and communications style. Then develop a team session built around an employee survey. Properly constructed, the survey can help pinpoint where every team member resides on the change curve. The survey should of course be anonymous and confidential.
If the questions are sufficiently open-ended, the results can reveal a great deal about the state of change within an organization and the impact of the changes on the team. When working with teams, think beyond the box. For example, a team I interviewed recently indicated that one of the issues was not having enough access to their leader. The restructuring had dispersed them geographically and some members of the team felt cut off, so one of our initiatives included creating a series of off-site meetings which has helped the team feel much more connected.
For leaders in the new economy, the keys to optimizing team performance are:
- Understand where team members are on the change curve
- Tell less, discuss more
- Remove uncertainty by clarifying roles, goals and vision
- Act on legitimate team concerns
- Keep the communications lines open
- Understand that change doesn’t happen overnight
Team optimization isn’t just about managing people; it’s about managing people’s expectations as well. But change doesn’t happen overnight. Employees are people after all, and even top performers need ongoing support if they’re to continue to achieve at the highest level.