Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Rally the team

Published:Sunday | August 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM

We are all linked to some form of group - family, work, sports, religious, community or social. Sometimes these groups do not do as well as we would like - the team struggles or falls into a rut. Problems remain unresolved, objectives are missed, and team members experience a great deal of pressure.

What can you do to improve those situations?




One common thread that runs through teams under pressure is that some members break and add to the tension - they exaggerate the negatives and breathe doom and gloom.

However, sustained tension and worry tend to have a negative impact on performance. When the pressure mounts, your best contribution could be to help the team to get control of their emotions and to focus on solutions. Fan flames of optimism.




Calming down the team is great. However, they can calmly cave in and give up the fight. You need to get ahead of a potential mood downswing and keep the team motivated to pursue its objectives with purpose. Use past achievements, pride, or the implications of winning or losing to retain focus. Giving up can be contagious.




Another pitfall when the team is not doing as well as required, is if members get into a bout of finger-pointing. They lose the plot and get caught up in laying blame.

Identifying the cause of the underperformance is useful in finding solutions. However, antagonistic and demeaning cross-talk impairs team spirit and weakens performance.

If a team member is not meeting his obligations, approach him with communication that serves to empower him. Help him to appreciate where he is falling below expectations and work with him to devise strategies for improved performance.

If you dump on him and shatter his confidence and self-esteem, is his performance likely to get better or worse?




Undertake an objective examination of what is. Strip away the fears and the hopes. Seek to get a balanced view of what is the true state of affairs. This objective assessment is important if a viable plan of action is to be developed.

This actually requires the courage to look below the surface and the willingness to run the risk of unveiling things that might be unpleasant.

This is the phase in which sensitivities may come to the surface and relationships might get tested. Do your best to proceed on the basis that the team is likely to be together going forward, and these are people who will have to relate to each other.

Smoothing over ruffled feathers and mediating heated spats might be vitally important roles.




Tension, conflict and despair have the tendency to produce inaction. They combine to frustrate progress. It is critical that the team is shaken out of its malaise and prodded to take positive action.

Sometimes it is advisable not to focus on making major strides. The key now is to get some momentum. Do something that gets the team moving again. Get people looking in the right direction.

This sharp refocusing will take hold if it can be supported by an identifiable gain. Celebrate and make a big deal over any success, no matter how small in the overall scheme of things. The objective is to rekindle hope.




We know that problems are not all solved with milk and honey. Not everybody is going to cooperate or pull their weight.

Sometimes it is necessary to confront disruptive, uncooperative and underperforming individuals who present obstacles to achieving success. Failing to call out members who are a challenge to smooth and effective operations puts meeting objectives and resolving problems at risk.

Swimming against the tide is not easy. When a group or team runs into difficulty, it is easy for negative thoughts to engulf them. Strong, informed leadership can avert implosions and guide the team to success.

Now enrolling for the SHRM-credentialed Certified Behavioural Coach programme. Email:

• Trevor E. S. Smith is a behaviour-modification coach with the Success with People Academy, home of the Certified Behavioural Coach and 3-D Team Leader international certifications. Visit