What Does a Leader Do When the Team is Deflated?
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

What does a leader do when the team is deflated?  This is a challenge for all leaders.  A leader may be excited about a new opportunity or a leader may see a problem and want to tackle it head-on, but the team appears exhausted.  There are countless signs when the whole team, or certain members of it, show signs of needing rest or rejuvenation.  What can a leader do about this?

I have learned that the first step is NOT to ignore it.  Pressing forward without acknowledging it and simply having a conversation about it will likely result in a failed attempt. When a leader openly admits that he or she sees signs of weariness it provides comfort to the team.  I remember more than a few times where I was with a sleep deprived, hungry, and deflated group of soldiers and the opening line from our leader was, “I can see we are all tired and in need of a good meal and some sleep.”  Sympathy goes along way.  But, that was not the end of the discussion.

The next part involved reminding the team of the criticalness of the mission – when we have a greater “why” we can find the means to the “what.”  Leaders need to spell out why it is still critical to act despite current feelings and conditions. A team that is mission-focused will rally to tackle the greatest of challenges.

But, I have found the best, and often missed, next step is to ask the team members how they would accomplish the mission given the current circumstances.  After sympathy and mission awareness, the leader can engage the collective wisdom of the team to map out a strategy that takes into account the weariness of the team, or some of its members.  When asked to offer insights, the engaged or energized team members will go out of their way to volunteer to do more and assist those in need. You can witness true self-sacrifice – and it motivates the entire team! Also, as a side benefit, it gives the leader a sense of those who will come to the aid of others in order to accomplish critical tasks. These are the ones we can nurture and promote into leadership roles.

Next, the leader needs to tend to those who do need a recovery.  Sometimes it can be as easy as a few hours off.  Other times, it may need greater efforts.  But, it is worth it to get a key individual back to an energy level that truly contributes to the effort.

Finally, the leader needs to pitch-in on whatever is needed to get the team through the challenges.  Nothing motivates an individual team member more than the leader acknowledging the condition of the team and doing what it takes to help the mission get accomplished.

One of the greatest rewards of a leader is witnessing how compassion and proper efforts can assist a team in accomplishing incredible outcomes when the team is deflated or suffering.  You can literally feel the energy and pride during those times.  So, what do you do when your team is deflated?