Is your team losing focus? Scope creep, unavoidable setbacks, personnel changes, and general burnout can slow productivity to a grinding halt or, worse, derail your team altogether. As a manager, it’s not enough to manage the project, you must also manage your team members. How they feel about a project, themselves, and each other can drastically affect productivity.
If you notice a dip in enthusiasm, a drop in production, or a decline in engagement in any of your team members, it’s your cue to take immediate action before it gets worse and spreads. Treat it like a virus and implement these strategies as the cure:
8 Refocusing Strategies
1. Rethink your plan
If you’ve noticed that your team isn’t focused, the problem may rest with your project plan. Sometimes they lead us down a dead-end. Rethinking your plan doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, it means that you’re smart enough to know when to course-correct.
Perhaps your plan isn’t detailed enough or maybe it’s outdated. What worked well with one customer may not work with another. Be flexible and consider tweaking your plan to accommodate the needs, strengths, and deficits of your team.
2. Identify each team member’s strengths
It may be necessary to reorganize your team. Don’t be afraid to move people around to different positions that better suit their strengths and personalities. You may have hired Margot as an assistant but found that she’s much better as a customer-facing support manager. That’s great news. The longer you work with your team, the greater clarity you have about who works best where.
On the other hand, you may need to say goodbye to those who disrupt your team’s focus. While letting go of people is never fun, it also frees them up to find a position that’s a better fit.
3. Set small, achievable goals along with long-term ones
Along with your main project goals, you should also create mini goals to check off along the way. When your team loses focus, set up close and attainable goals that your team can reach by the end of the day or the end of the week, at most. These mini-wins can give your team a much needed boost.
4. Communicate & be transparent
There’s nothing more demoralizing to a team member than being left out of the loop, whether actual or perceived. In an effort to increase morale, make sure that you pay special attention to communication. Does each team member have everything he or she needs to be successful? If you’re not sure, it’s best to ask. Do a check with each individual team member as soon as you notice a dip in focus, and then make it a habit to check weekly after that.
It’s also a good idea to be transparent about your project’s progression. Do you have any client feedback? Share it with your team, especially if the feedback is positive. If negative, ask earnestly for ways to improve, and make it a group effort so that everyone feels involved with the process. Trouble-solving can work wonders on refocusing your team.
5. Limit email (or get rid of it altogether)
One of the biggest time sucks in the modern workplace is email. It steals productivity because every time a new email pops up, it halts our focus. Even though it may take just a couple of minutes to refocus on the task at hand, those minutes easily add up to hours of wasted time each day. And these wasted hours are robbing your team members of much needed focus on your project. Now, add to that the additional drama of trying to find older communications in your inbox. It’s exasperating.
If possible, get rid of email altogether, and only use it sparingly, for client-facing communication. Use Slack as a simple messaging app for your team (it’s easy to find archived information that way, too). Because others can immediately see your availability status, tools like Slack make it easy to shut down and step away when you need to focus.
6. Avoid meetings for meetings’ sake
If emails are the biggest time suck, meetings are a close runner up. Some meetings are necessary, but most are just a hopeless waste of time. Most of the valuable things that you share in a meeting can be better delivered in a daily status update.
7. Create a social hang-out
Your team’s morale matters. Building morale is one of the best ways to self-correct problems within your team. Sometimes, it’s great to get to know your team members outside of the office. Whether you go out for happy hour or a weekend away on a company retreat, being together without being in work mode can re-energize and re-focus your team.
For those of you with remote teams, consider creating a “water cooler” chat room where team members can “hang out” and talk about non-work related topics.
8. Take time off
Whether you’ve had an epic loss or a triumphant victory with your last project, you shouldn’t immediately rush into the next one. Give your team a chance to recover. According to legendary football coach Don Shula, this is the best way to get your team to focus on the future. After the completion of a project, celebrate it or grieve it, but don’t take it with you into the future. Give yourself and your team time off to get ready for the next project.
If you notice your team is dragging mid-project, grant everyone a three day weekend to regain focus, or push a nagging (but flexible) due date back by a few days. It’s the little things that can recalibrate your team.
Refocusing your team requires a little bit of foresight on your end. When you notice the telltale signs of poor production and sinking morale, get into gear with these eight strategies. You’ll be able to keep that train on track, full steam ahead.