How To Keep Your Strategy Team Motivated

Brainstorming and setting business strategy for the upcoming year is beyond an easy process.

But nothing drags this task out more than having the energy and motivation zapped from the team that is driving the creation of this strategy.

We’ve talked in a previous post about how to conduct successful strategy meetings, but what we did not talk about is how to ensure your team stays energized and positive in regards to getting this strategy done and implemented.

Don’t disillusion yourself. If you are in charge of the sessions, every member of your team will probably at one time hate you or try to form a mutiny. Every team member will probably hate each other as well — there is just no way around it. When creative people get together to discuss and implement something with global impact within the business there is going to be friction.

As the leader, you set the tone for these meetings and can, come hell or high water, ensure the process is not only successful in achieving its mission but also as painless as possible. Here are some pointers in to keep moral high and the body count low in your strategy sessions:

Check Egos At the Door: The people chosen to be on the strategy team have all been chosen because of their expertise, innovation or or creativity. Everyone’s ideas are welcome — whether they are implemented in the final plan or not. And every single team member needs to feel like they can contribute. Coach your team to speak to each other respectfully and demand their actions to each other follow suit. No one’s opinion is any more important than any one else’s. This is a brainstorming team — not a royal court.

Shake Up the Meeting Location: Meeting in the same old dark board room every single week for 6 months is just too much. While your meetings are a regular thing, your location doesn’t have to be. Take your meeting outside or to a restaurant. Even schedule an offsite if you can and combine a few meetings into one day.

Nix Negativity ASAP: As the leader, you need to be in tune with what the overall feel is on your team. And while you most certainly aren’t the team’s babysitter, you are responsible for keeping the meetings on track, as positive as possible and putting a stop to any type of negativity.

If you notice tension between any of your team members, don’t call them out in the meeting setting, but pull them aside individually and see if you can facilitate fixing the issue. Also make sure the troubled members understand this process is important and their roles in it is also vital, but, if they can’t get past it, you’ll ask them to step aside as the company’s performance depends on the outcome and implementation of this strategy.

The bottom line is your team is a reflection on you and your leadership. If you can’t help draw out and relieve negative pressures within your team, your strategy will not be formulated with the attention to detail it deserves.

Notice Strengths and Focus Them: The group of people you have assembled are rock stars. You’ve diligently recruited the best of the best. But not everyone is good at the same thing. So, pay careful attention to each member of your team and how they interact with each other. What aspects of your discussions excite or ignite a passion in each member?

Figure it out and then allow that member or group of members focus on that particular area. Your team still comes together to discuss the big stuff during your sessions, but their offline work could be honing in on particular aspects of the strategy.

If you are successful in letting each member or a few members own a section of the strategy and implementation, you’ll find that with your gentle guidance, they will fashion a section they are willing, able and excited to stand behind.

Don’t Be a Dictator: You’re a leader — but you’re also a member of the team. Early in my career, I had a major blowout with a person who told me I had fantastic ideas, but conveyed them as edicts instead of ideas up for discussion.

Enthusiasm and a strong personality can sometimes be construed as standoffish or even unapproachable. As a leader, you are there to help shape ideas and to help keep the discussions on track.

You are also there to make decisions when consensus can’t be reached and to also keep everyone accountable for their deliverables and although leadership means you take a lot of the heat from management, it also means if you lead successfully, you get the praise, too. … just don’t forget your team deserves it as well.

Keep An Eye Out For Burnout: This is a long process. It’s likely your team is going to start dragging their feet at some point.

When you sense your team would rather be anywhere else than attending your meeting, don’t just cancel it. Organize a happy hour, an afternoon at the movies or something else. Get your team out, having fun and getting recharged. Forbid them to talk about work at all. In fact, I had a happy hour with a team of mine and we made people pay a dollar every time they mentioned work! It was kind of a running joke and ended up paying for a happy hour later on in the process.

It does not make you weak or too girly for noticing the mental exhaustion of your team. In fact, it makes you a leader who is in tune with the team members and able to recognize when your people aren’t mentally available to do the best job possible. A little recharge will do a world of good and your entire team will be ready to get back to business.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help: If your team is stalled and you can’t seem to find the solution, don’t waste any time asking for help. Whether it be a manager, another coworker or even HR, don’t mess around trying to find the pulse of a team who really needs the paddles.

Asking for help doesn’t mean your weak – it means you understand there is a situation you’re not qualified to manage alone. And in reality, recognizing that is the sure sign of a great leader.

If you can’t pinpoint the team’s troubles, ask someone to come in and observe a meeting then give you the observations afterwards. You may be surprised at what you find from a person who isn’t invested in the process. You’ll not only figure out how to fix your problem, but might find out some valuable lessons about your leadership abilities.

Recognize When It’s Time For Change: Obviously, many situations play into an individual being distracted. But if the entire team is unable to gain back momentum, there is a larger problem at play. There are times when the team chosen has done all it can and new people need to be brought in. There are also situations when underlying issues just can’t be fixed and the team needs to be adjusted.

If you’ve done all you can and just can’t find the solution to the roadblock your team is facing, then retool it. Get rid of dead weight, find new blood and pick up where the former group left off. The problem isn’t having to redefine your team – the trouble is not recognizing it in time to get the job done.

This isn’t the end-all list of how to keep people motivated and the process moving forward, but it will certainly help you in the process of making your strategy sessions productive. Motivation is so much more than money – and if you are willing to understand that and realize great leadership is one of the best motivators out there, then you’re well on the road to keeping a team inspired and developing winning strategies.

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