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How to Encourage Your Team When Results are Disappointing

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How to Encourage Your Team When Results are Disappointing

What do you do when everyone gets an “A” for effort, but the results are disappointing? How do you encourage your team while building a recovery plan?

6 Ways to Encourage Your Team When Results Are Disappointing

It’s easy to lead when your team is on fire with fantastic results. You’re happy. Your boss is happy. Your team is happy. But even the best leaders face tricky circumstances when, despite great plans, long hours, and hard work, the results aren’t there.

Today we share six ways to encourage your team while you work on your recovery strategy.

1. Acknowledge the Stress

If you’ve got people who really care, failure means big-time stress. Sometimes what your team needs first is a bit of empathy.

Karin remembers one black Friday when she was leading a large retail sales team. She’d been up since 4:00 AM and was driving to as many of her hundred-plus stores as possible to ensure everyone was implementing the plan. They needed a huge day to make their numbers for the quarter. As the hourly text messages came in from their automated reporting system, she could see that despite all the planning and execution they weren’t even close to hitting their forecast.

When the Regional President’s number popped up on her phone (he also was getting the automated texts), she was prepared for an angry rant. Instead, he said,

“Karin, pull over the car. I need to talk with you.  I know how stressed you are right now. The results are disappointing. But we had a great plan, and I’m out in the stores too and people are doing the right things. After today is over, we’ll figure out if there’s anything we can do differently next time. But for now, stay safe.  And bring only positive energy into those stores.”

It’s like this reminder from Stell Efti, “Stress just means you give a ____(insert F-bomb here).” If your people do, acknowledge that passion.

2. Take Accountability

When results are disappointing, it’s tempting to look for someone else to blame.

  • “We would sell more if the product line were different.”
  • “Our attrition would be better if our competitor wasn’t paying more.”
  • “My quality results would be higher if I wasn’t assigned to the late shift.”
  • “The employees would be more engaged if this wasn’t a union environment.”

Finger-pointing just wastes emotional energy. Own what you can, and focus on what you can control in the situation.

When Karin’s sales team complained that they needed a different product mix, her favorite response was, “sell the bananas on the truck.” If you have bananas, find the people who need bananas, and meet their needs. Drive to where the banana eaters live. Stop wishing you had mangos. Align your team around what IS in their control, and ask “How can we?” questions.

3. Stay Focused on the Game, Not the Score

When your results are disappointing, it’s tempting to make the conversation about the numbers. But talking about numbers doesn’t change them, behaviors do.

Help your team reflect on the wins. What behaviors ARE working? What best practices move the needle? How can you adapt those best practices to work in other contexts?

Work to identify the critical few behaviors that will have the biggest impact—and have those behaviors at the center of every conversation.

4. Own the U.G.L.Y.

One of our favorite techniques for getting underneath disappointing results is our Own the U.G.L.Y. exercise. Ask 4 simple questions.

U-What are we underestimating?

G-What’s got to go?

L-Where are we losing?

Y-Where are we missing the yes?

5. Celebrate Progress

When you’re so far away from your goal, it can feel silly to celebrate anything, but that may be exactly what your team needs to regain their mojo. Setting milestone goals and incremental wins can inspire renewed confidence.

6. Keep Perspective

Resilience research shows that people are more likely to recover from a setback if they understand that this problem is just one aspect of their life, not “pervasive.” Meaning, just because you didn’t make your goal doesn’t mean your whole life is a wreck. Help your team keep perspective on what matters most in their lives.

Your turn.

What would you add? What’s your best advice for encouraging your team when results are disappointing?

Related: How to Stop the Destructive Power of Sarcasm at Work

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