Recently, I shared an article that I wrote for the Charlotte Five, 5 Corporate Team-Building Activities Worth A Shot In Charlotte with several Charlotte area leaders that are in my network. My hope was to earn their business to facilitate team timeout sessions for their organizations. While I did generate some interest five people responded with different variations of the following quote:
“When our financial results improve we will invest in some team building and your offerings look really fun and interesting”
At first I was disappointed because I would like to do more of this work for Charlotte clients, but then I began dissecting the thinking behind the statement. If the business is not performing well and the organization is in cost cutting mode, then what are they doing to improve performance? I strongly believe the key to improving performance starts with having motivated employees who are working together as a high performing team. Budget cuts and poor performance causes employees to disengage which usually only furthers the problem. For more on this topic read Why Cost Out Often Equals Culture Out Too
There is a war for talent heating up around the country with baby boomers retiring and the next generation of ready now leaders in high demand and short supply. The millennials are free agents who want to work for companies that inspire them and give them opportunities to learn and grow. The best employees are the first to seek out new jobs when their employer goes into cost cutting mode.
A tough business climate is something all businesses will face at one time or another. The key to persevering is in how leadership handles the tough times. Being a leader when things are going well is easy in comparison to leading a company through tough times. Leaders must consider the impact of their actions as well as the intent. The intent of cost cutting initiatives is to improve the bottom line, but the impact on culture and morale can be disastrous.
With profits down and stakeholders/shareholders to please, what should leadership do to improve performance? Cutting costs, cutting program and cutting headcount are all defensive tactics that have residual negative impacts on morale and can cause an even more rapid downward spiral. “If all you play is defense, the best you can hope to do is to tie at zero”. Playing offense means investing in the morale and the performance of your team. The best time to make the investment in team building and calling a team timeout is when things are not going well. It is an opportunity to recharge the team and to get everyone back on the winning track. Sports teams call timeouts more often when things are not going well than when they are winning. There might be a good lesson here for companies as well. A team timeout is a small investment in terms of time and money that can pay huge dividends when a turnaround is required.
Let your team timeout be the catalyst for improved performance not something you do as a result of improved performance.