Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are a classic dancing team. In this clip, they are having difficulty learning to dance together, and they sing about the need to “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”
We sometimes need to do that with work teams, too. Things can be going fine, and then some disruptive event takes everything off course. It can be internal, such as the time two of my volunteer instructors quit a team because they couldn’t work together. Or it can be external, such as the time a new manager reorganized priorities and canceled a project my team had been working on for a year.
Your leadership approach makes a big difference in helping a team recover after this kind of jolt. Doug Davis has a three-step process for helping get your team back on track.
- Reflect – First, allow yourself to think about what happened and to experience the related emotions. Davis recommends that leaders give themselves at least 24 hours to just feel miserable.
- Review – The second step is to figure out what you can learn from the setback. Meet with team members individually and provide a safe space for them to share their opinions about what happened and what they would do differently next time. Listen without placing blame, and let them know that the team will be moving on.
- Replace – After you’ve learned what you can, it’s time to stop focusing on the setbacks and take positive action. Replace the “can’t” with “can.” Come up with short-term goals and easy wins to re-focus the team’s energy.
In my case, the volunteers never did come back to that particular project. But I reconfigured some things, and they were both able to contribute in different settings. And while our team regretted the work done on the canceled project, some of the lessons we learned were very helpful in moving forward over the next couple of years. Eventually the “start all over again” became the new normal and everyone was contributing positively again.
What have you done when your team has to start over?
Dee Anne Bonebright