Motivating Teams During Testing Times

We all have to deal with team members who come from diverse family backgrounds, have different shades of personality; their behavioural patterns are different, everybody’s yardsticks for success are different, their expectations from work life are different, their motivation levels are different. All these diversities make the task of a

Manager all the more difficult.
When the systems are in place, processes are set, team members know their responsibilities and similar set of processes are being carried out for a fairly long time with more or less the same team members, the life of a team leader is a lot easier. He just has to catch the early signs of forthcoming problems and take corrective measures.
However real testing of team leaders and team members happen when there are major changes in processes. We all know human beings resist change. It is very difficult to bring back people from complacent zones. Hence transition periods during change of processes and adapting to the new activities are real challenges to be handled both by the Managers and by Team members.
Today I am going to take you through one such transition period of a particular department of a large Corporation. It was decided that the account opening processing activity needs to be decentralized from Head Office to Regional hubs. Necessary planning, software upgrades, mock testing etc was done accordingly.
The result of this change in process was that processing volumes from this activity at Regional hubs was going to increase four times from the day this change was implemented. You can imagine the anxiety in the minds of the teams who were supposed to take charge of this activity.
I am sure most of you will be able to correlate with the different facets of human behaviour and similar situations you would have handled in your offices.
Planning on the part of Team Leaders
You all know the kind of meticulous planning that is required on the part of Team Leaders when you have to carry out change in process of this magnitude.
How fast a Manager realizes the importance of initiatives to be taken so that the team is well prepared for the changes is the key to success.
It was important for Team Leaders to understand that the regular teams who are supposed to handle this herculean task cannot handle this activity on their own at least in the transition period. They needed support from senior resources who could do planning for them and set systems in place, device activities for them in such a manner that efficiency is increased and processing time is reduced. Identifying key Team Leaders who would be entrusted with the responsibility of successful completion of this change is the first step in this process.
The team who was supposed to do account opening was given the task for execution to be done wholeheartedly.
At the same time, since the senior resources were not from the same department and had limited knowledge of this process, they were given a week’s time to get familiar with the activities. They were supposed to start contributing with their ideas and innovations once they were hands on with the new process.
Handling Team Members with different behavioural patterns during testing times 
Handling team members who exhibit team spirit, cooperation, trust and Team synergy is what a manager loves. But what if these members lack trust and faith among themselves? As a manager do you have an option at that time? You have to find your ways amidst this challenge.
If you are not rattled by this, then there is more to come. Different team members will exhibit different behavioural patterns. We have a team player, who is highly efficient and delivers excellent results but is not willing to work extra hours even on those days when we need him the post.
There are team members who though are low on efficiency but are willing to put in extra hours to compensate when it is the need of the hour. Then there is a team member who will never say no to a task but will keep on piling up work ultimately leading to escalations.
And the trust deficit is such that members who are low on efficiency will blame other colleague for not sitting till late. And the colleague who is highly efficient will question the efficiency level of his colleague and how he has to carry out extra work to compensate for his colleague’s inefficiency.
What should be the reaction of a Manager in such circumstances?   
The easy choice would have been to blast out at all these team members for their shortcomings. But we need to think who on earth has come without shortcomings. Will the manager not have his set of shortcomings? Obviously he will have.
First thing we need to realize is that setting basic benchmark for expecting output is fine. But beyond that efficiency levels of two persons can always be different. Hence to understand this point and have faith on the team members who are willing to putting in extra hours during testing times is the need of the hour. At the same time, he needs to understand that the member who is highly efficient is actually delivering results and he could have a genuine problem which requires him leaving office on time. He can make this colleague realize that we understand your problems. At the same time Manager needs to motivate this colleague to put in extra hours at times which are extremely crucial.
The next step is to make team members realize that it is important to accept each other with their shortcomings as no one is above it. We should be willing to understand other’s point of view and build an atmosphere of trust, cooperation and team spirit. When the situations are tough, life becomes a lot easier when we work as a team and display faith and affection.
Interactions between different teams
Transitions of this magnitude require collective efforts on the part of various teams who may not have worked together earlier. This process brings together people from across teams. Most of the team members do acknowledge the help being provided by different teams during challenging circumstances. But these situations also bring friction among members from different teams. There are team members who are very systematic and are always working towards reducing process times to increase efficiency. At the same time, there are others who are unwilling to change and are happy with old processes.
These team members may consider advice given by senior team members from other departments as interference in their daily routines. Some may be even making a mockery of these senior team members. At the same time, it is very difficult for the senior team members to understand why their colleagues from other departments are unwilling to implement newer processes which will reduce their processing time. Why these team members don’t do their job in a systematic way? They feel disheartened that fellow colleagues from other teams are not acknowledging their helping hand in this need of hour and instead making mockery of them.
Manager’s role in bringing synergy between different teams
Manager places a crucial role in bringing synergy between team members from different teams. People have different aptitudes, intelligence and working styles. Manager’s job is to strike a balance between various team members. He needs to sit with different team members to make them understand things from other person’s perspective. He has to handle frustration of the senior team members as well as to motivate other members to adapt to newer processes. Speaking to the team members individually at these times helps a lot in easing tensions and building mutual trust and admiration.
Planning for the post transition era
While the manager has to deal with issues faced by various teams and team members, at the same time, he has to do continuous planning, thinking about forthcoming challenges and ways and means to deal with the problems. Planning and continuous monitoring of the entire set of activities and taking timely corrective measures during transition phase is crucial for the success. Having an eye for detail and understanding the larger picture is important.
Motivating team members for giving extra ordinary results during challenging circumstances
Talking personally to team members, giving them specific targets, motivating them to contribute in the larger goal by delivering on their specific targets, urging for their helping hand does make a lot of difference. When you seek cooperation and people realize your sincerity, they reciprocate whole-heartedly. But as Team Leader, you yourself need to set standards high.
At times, young team members may get de-motivated by the long working hours and continuous pressures one has to go through during times. Team leaders need to make these team members understand the larger picture. They should be made clear that transition periods will always have teething issues. Such situations always bring great learning opportunities for everybody. Ultimately things will become smooth, once transition process is successfully completed.
Planning for infrastructure, capacity building and efficient processes for post transition era
Manager needs to realize that they cannot keep their teams highly motivated and charged up for very long duration. Peak performances can be achieved during shorter periods. Too much of efforts, exertion and pressures will ultimately bring fatigue and exhaustion among team members and will ultimately start reflecting in their performance.
Hence he needs to work towards putting necessary infrastructure, capacity building, man power planning and processes in place so that department starts functioning in a normal manner at the earliest.

There’s a lot more that I can write on to bring out challenges faced by team leaders. But I am sure you all have your own set of experiences to share. I am eager to know your insights into similar challenges in the form of replies to this post.   
Photo Credit : Freedigitalphotos.net

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