Has your team lost sight of its purpose and the goals you’re working toward together? If so, it might be time for a team reset that focuses on realignment. Or, maybe your team just doesn’t feel like a team anymore? Maybe team members feel disconnected, invalidated, or frustrated, and even minor issues are creating friction? In that case, your reset must focus on revitalizing your team dynamic. This article focuses on some approaches that managers can use to address alignment gaps to jump-start a new, healthier, happier team dynamic.
Is your team feeling stuck, stymied, or just a bit stale? Have you fallen into routines that are no longer serving you? It’s okay; teams need occasional course corrections, even in calm waters. And in today’s stormy seas, you might need to chart a whole new course as we navigate return-to-office and hybrid work arrangements. The good news is that resetting your team can be easier than you think.
Your first step is to reflect on what feels off. You can think about it in two broad categories. First, is the problem that your team has lost sight of your purpose and the goals you’re working toward? If so, your reset will need to focus on realignment. The other possibility (and it could be both) is that you don’t feel like a team anymore. Maybe team members feel disconnected, invalidated, or frustrated — so much so that even minor issues are creating friction. In that case, your reset must focus on revitalizing your team dynamic. Here’s how to navigate both of these approaches:
You’ll want to prioritize realignment over revitalization for two reasons. First, many team dysfunctions manifest as trust issues when, in fact, they stem from discrepancies in goals, priorities, or expectations. Clearing up those misunderstandings often resolves what you thought were interpersonal issues.
Another reason to start with realignment is that it allows you to tie your reset to external shifts rather than individual behavior problems, making it less likely to trigger defensiveness. When you realign, you’re not judging anyone; instead, you’re asking how you need to evolve to capitalize on opportunities and mitigate emerging risks. Here are some anchor points for realignment. Choose the ones that best match your situation.
Reset your team’s mandate.
The first possibility is that your team’s purpose needs to evolve. You can explore that possibility with these questions.
- What external trends require us to adapt? What are the most salient changes in the external environment, and how do they change the context for your team? For example, if you’re a content marketing team, how does ChatGPT change your team’s value?
- How does a shift in company strategy affect your role? Does your organization have a new vision, strategy, or KPI that alters what your team needs to deliver? For example, if you’re an HR team, does opening European offices require new capabilities or activities?
- How is your value within the organization evolving? As organizations grow and change, the role of teams can evolve. How will changes in your organization structure require you to refocus? For example, how will you tailor your offerings if you’re an R&D team now supporting two units instead of one?
Reset your team’s goals.
If your mandate has changed, you’ll certainly need to revisit your goals, but even if your purpose is unchanged, your goals might need a refresh. So, consider these as reasons to move the target.
- How will you build on prior results? What did you accomplish in the last quarter, and how does that change the trajectory you want for the next few quarters? If you’ve been achieving your goals, are they ambitious enough? On the other hand, if you’ve been missing consistently, do you need to lower your goals or risk demoralizing everyone?
- How will external factors affect your goals? Is there anything external that might suggest a goal change? For example, do you need to temper expectations in light of an economic downturn, supply chain backlogs, or labor shortages? On the other hand, if your team benefits from new technological advances, could you accomplish more than planned?
- What can you do to improve your measures? Are your goals fuzzy, or are your metrics nebulous? Your fastest way to improve alignment might be to tighten your definitions or tweak your metrics, making it more evident whether you’re getting traction.
Reset your strategies and tactics.
Any changes based on your mandate or goals will necessitate reexamining your strategies. But don’t limit a strategy refresh to situations where the targets have moved; considering new possibilities can be a good reset anytime.
- Are your strategies aligned with your mandate? If your mandate or goals have shifted, how must your strategy change in response? For example, if your team has been tasked with adding professional services to your software offering, what will it take to make that business model successful?
- Where do you need revised tactics? If you’re still working toward existing goals, what’s been working, and where could you change your tack? Conversely, what do you need to abandon? Where could you double down?
- What contingencies might emerge? Even if you’re sticking with your existing mandate, goals, strategies, and tactics, you can reset by considering new scenarios and preparing your contingency plans. What assumptions are embedded in your current plan? What would negate those assumptions? What would be the leading indicators that something is changing?
Reset your roles.
It’s possible that your team is on the right track but that you’re not optimizing the energy and talents of team members. In that case, consider these questions about individuals’ accountabilities.
- Do people need a change in role? Are there any changes in roles or responsibilities that would make the people in your team more effective? Do you need to change someone’s portfolio? Could you shake up who’s in what role for multi-skilling, development, or succession advantages? Who might be reinvigorated by a new challenge?
- How could you make accountabilities more straightforward? Are there opportunities to fine-tune people’s responsibilities to make them more compelling? Are there spots where shared accountabilities are diluting people’s sense of obligation? How could you increase alignment, efficiency, and effectiveness by clarifying who owns which decisions?
One of the most constructive ways to reset your team is to refocus on what your organization, colleagues, and customers are counting on you to do. Rekindling your team’s passion and reminding them what you’re fighting for is the best place to start.
The second type of reset is to revitalize your team dynamic. Does it feel like you’ve devolved from being a true team into a loose collection of people where the whole is no more than the sum of the parts? Or worse, is mistrust or unhealthy conflict making it feel like teamwork is a net negative? In that case, your reset might need to focus less on what your team needs to do and more on how you do it.
Reset your communication habits.
Over time, teams can become lazy and fall into communication patterns that dilute connection. Revisiting your communication habits can help you reconnect.
- Can you reset your communication channels? Do you default to certain modes of communication that aren’t optimized for the content? For example, if you’re using Zoom to inform and email to debate, you’ve got it backward. Can you use richer communication vehicles for more novel content, contentious discussions, and unfamiliar participants? Can you shunt informational items to email?
- What warrants synchronous communication? Research shows that the average person has more than double the hours of meetings than before the pandemic. Which types of information could you share asynchronously instead to allow people more control over their schedules?
- How could you implement blackout periods? In addition to the deluge of meetings, most people are also inundated by a torrent of emails. How could your team enforce blackout periods where people can turn off notifications and work without communication obligations? How can you increase the opportunities for people to work without distractions?
Reset your meetings.
- How could you optimize your standing meetings? Meetings tend to be more effective when they have homogeneous content. Could you clean up your meeting structure to separate content that requires different mindsets and behaviors?
- Does the participant list need to change? One way to reset the conversation is to change who’s party to it. Is it time to step out of some meetings and let your team take the reins? Would new voices and new perspectives bring some productive conflict?
- Do you need to prepare better? Inefficient meetings are infuriating meetings. How could you use better primer documents to prepare team members to contribute in evidence-based and thoughtful ways?
Reset your team dynamics.
- What would be your new ground rules? Maybe you’ve had ground rules and stopped respecting them, or you never had any. What behaviors have you been tolerating that need to stop? What would be a welcome addition? Revisiting the principles for how team members behave can be an excellent way to reset.
- How could you resolve conflict debts? If your team has been avoiding difficult conversations about priorities and trade-offs or trust and disrespect, you need to get the issues out in the open to move beyond them.
- What activities would foster insight into each other? If your team dynamics are suffering, you might want to enlist outside help with formal team development activities. For example, psychometric tools or group coaching could foster trust and promote candor.
If your team is accomplishing plenty but finding it’s harder than necessary, these different approaches will jump-start a new, healthier, happier team dynamic.
And finally, a personal note. While you ponder your team reset, it’s an excellent time to consider whether you need to reset your own approach. For example, has work started consuming more time and energy than is healthy? Are you taking on too much and delegating too little? This is also the perfect opportunity to consider what reset you need as the team’s leader.