Leadership Teamwork

Pull Your Team Out of a Rut

If your team is in a rut or heading toward one, you need to take some action. This article provides you with a plan.

It can happen to any team at any time. A little too much routine. Not enough excitement. Boom. It’s in a rut.

If you suspect your team is in a rut or heading toward one, here’s what you should do.

Call a meeting with your group. Make it a special meeting, not just a routine staff meeting. You might even take the group out of the office for the better part of a day.

Tell people the purpose of the meeting is to assess the team’s effectiveness and generate ideas for making it the best it can be.

The point of this meeting is to involve everyone in creating the change. You need to let the team’s members fully engage in the improvement process. It can’t just be your idea. The changes have to come from the group.

Structure the meeting around three questions and see what happens. Allow yourself to be open to what emerges.

What makes us proud?

Sometimes people need to remember what is working. It becomes so easy to take successes for granted. A discussion about the positive is sometimes enough to pull a group out of the doldrums. As it begins to feel better about itself, the group’s collective ambition and confidence return.

What keeps us from reaching our potential?

Most people in the group have an opinion about something that is not working. They typically don’t share those opinions because they are afraid of being labeled complainers. Give the group some time to put the problems on the table. Figure out which ones are getting in the way and require attention.

Once you know what needs work, spend some time working the problems. This might take up the better part of the day, but hey, how often do you take time to tune your team’s effectiveness? Make this time count.

What dreams do we have for this group?

The first two questions prepare the group to deal with this last one. It’s in this question that ruts get busted.

New and fresh equals excitement. Most team members have a variety of ideas. Again, unless you make time and space to discuss them, they will go unspoken.

On the surface a rut might appear okay from the leader’s perspective. The work gets done. People do what they are supposed to do.

Left unattended, the rut can lead to bigger problems. People become bored and leave. Some stay and create unproductive drama. The group’s malaise affects customers.

A rut is often the beginning of serious problems. Deal with it now before it’s too late.

Need help? Let’s talk.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce is a speaker, consultant, writer, facilitator and coach. Since 1996 he's helped workplace teams improve performance.