When you’ve got a stagnant team on your hands, reconnecting them with their purpose and facilitating the process of self-reflection are both key. They are, however, just the beginning of the story. Encouraging growth and progress when people feel like they’ve lost momentum requires a sustained effort, especially on the part of leadership.
To that end, here are a few practical steps leaders can take to help reignite the lost spark in their teams.
Stagnation is often permeated with some sense of “same old, same old.” People feel stuck in their ways, bored with a repetitiveness that engenders a disconnect from the work they do. They slip into autopilot mode, gradually feeling less and less in charge of themselves and their work than before.
To combat this, it’s vital to promote ownership and self-direction in your people. Providing external motivation (often in the form of financial incentives and other benefits) is one thing, but it’s not nearly enough to power the kind of transformational growth that you’re looking for. For that to happen, you need to help people become self-motivated, by taking charge of themselves: of their work, their learning, and their growth.
A small “thank you” can go a long way, especially when it comes to employee recognition. People want to feel seen, heard, and valued. They want to know that the work they do is noticed and duly appreciated by those around them, and especially by their leaders. It might not sound like much, but leaders who do this for their people are much likelier to succeed in reinvigorating stagnant team performance and churning out stellar results from their people.
Take, for example, Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell. When he took the reins, Campbell was on its way out. Conant immediately got to work, taking the time to personally talk to and get to know each and every one of his employees, regardless of hierarchy. He famously wrote 30,000 personalised thank-you notes over the course of his 10 years at Campbell. Upon his departure, Campbell was once more thriving.
As much as we’d like them to, sometimes “the golden days” are just not coming back. Start-ups, in particular, often face this problem as they grow. The early days when the team was small and not so well-off always held the sweetest memories. As a natural consequence of growth, though, things change, and everyone is forced to adapt to newer situations.
When this occurs, it can be discouraging for employees who would’ve preferred things to stay the same as they were in the past. The trick here is to help them re-prioritise personal growth. The reason why the good old days seemed so good in the past was because of the immensity of the struggle and adversity that everyone faced together. Encouraging people to retain that spirit of togetherness and resilience, even as circumstances continue to change, is crucial.