In today’s economic climate, layoffs seem to be a fact of life. The newly-unemployed take the biggest hit, of course. But layoffs and restructuring cause difficulties for those remaining, too.
Last week’s post was about pre-layoff decisions that a leader must make. This time I want to talk about post-layoff situations that leaders must often navigate.
Suppose you’re facing a situation where staff has been cut, and departments have been combined and shuffled. Work teams that had years of experience together are dissolved, with their remaining members split up and partnered with people they have no history with. Employees are suddenly expected follow a leader they know only a little – or not at all.
Now imagine that you’re one of those team leaders. You’ve been assigned an unfamiliar team and new objectives. How do you get this new team up to speed and working toward a common goal?
1. Acknowledge the Challenge
The situation is awkward. You know it; your team knows it. Don’t be afraid to state the obvious: A group that has never worked together will not perform as well as one that’s been together for years.
By sitting down with the entire team and acknowledging the challenge, you create common ground. You also relieve the pressure of expecting instant camaraderie, while at the same time setting the team’s first goal: Getting to know each other.
2. Build Relationships
Relationship-building requires time. If members of your team barely know each other, you need to provide specific opportunities for them to interact. Call a meeting with a primarily social agenda. Encourage people to talk about more than work – i.e. topics like hobbies, background, family, etc. This will increase their comfort level for future interactions, when it’s time to really get down to business.
As the leader, you also need to get to know everyone individually. Schedule your own one-on-one time with each member of the team. Be intentional about getting to know them. The better you know their strengths and weaknesses, the better you can help them play to their strengths, maximize their potential, and work together as a team.
3. Develop a Clear Strategy
A new team probably means new goals and responsibilities. Bring everyone together to communicate the big picture for the team. Then strategize with the entire group on how you will work together to achieve team goals.
Creating a strategy helps team members to know their position, which creates clarity and security. They’ll be confident of what they need to prioritize and what they can expect other team members to deliver.
Tough times bring tough leadership situations. But then again, so do good times. Everyone’s saying that this economy will eventually turn around. When it does and organizations start growing, you may again find yourself leading new teams of people that you don’t know in tasks that they’ve never done before. You’ll be able to use this same trust-building strategy then, because it works in good times as well as bad.