Bringing Teams Back to Life


As a bystander, you can see it. As a team member, you can feel it. As a leader, you can remain naive that it’s present, or you can begin to go to work and attempt to resuscitate the faint heartbeat of passion and intentionality. No team or individual is immune to it, yet simultaneously, the weight of keeping a consistent strong pulse on culture and excellence is a shared burden. 

However, not all is lost.

So before you begin deconstructing programs, belittling people and remain in delusion about the real issues causing havoc beneath the surface, take a moment to consider a playbook that could give you insight into what’s really opposing your people and gain a new perspective on how to ignite the fire in them again to push them further individually and collectively.

Here are 5 keys to reviving your people and your teams:

1. Prioritize Your People

Our organizations are made up of people. And they are more than props, profit and paystubs.

In many sectors, people show up each day because they are connected to the task on a deeper level. Regardless of why they show up, as leaders, we must consider the greatest asset they are sacrificing to push the vision forward—their time. When your people give you their time, it is the equivalent of them offering you something they will never get back. It’s priceless and invaluable.

Too many leaders underestimate this gift and, in turn, begin to treat their people like cogs in a wheel that keeps the machine running. Should a cog get worn out, it is replaced and tossed to the side. People lose passion when they conclude that their effort is not being recognized or valued. They become distant when their added brushstroke is no longer visible in the big picture frame. Movements can’t afford this type of exchange.

People matter. Period.

Successful organizations that recognize this, place a high emphasis on interpersonal value and attention to detail in the individual. Investments are made into the person and even their families.

Be unapologetic in how much you care for your people. Begin to care about what they care about, and in return, they will care more about what you care about.

2. Lead Them Forward By Taking Them Back

Was it just me? Or when you complained to your mom about losing something, her first response was, “Where did you last have it”? As frustrating as the question was years ago, it is compounded with relevance now.

Days get busy, systems get confusing, information is being distributed at astronomical speeds. In the dust storm of trying to follow, it can be disorienting to keep up in an agile, innovative space.

As leaders, our job is to clarify, simplify, problem solve and remove the cloud of ambiguity. 

Fundamentals aren’t fun by any means, but they can be freeing. Lack of momentum or desire can often be attributed to the lack of a north star. When people first start, they are fuelled by the most potent, boiled-down version of the vision. It’s clean, palatable and constant. In many cases, bringing our people back to the basics provides a new starting block for connecting with the attribute they first fell in love with.

Leaders who are willing to take the time to go back to the basics will be the ones who reap the rewards of their people finding new hope, new life, new joy, new ideas and new perspectives in age-old values and vision. There is something extremely powerful about where we start. Don’t allow your people to forget their first steps, and don’t hesitate to take them back in order to revisit them.

3. Re-write Your Narrative

As leaders, insecure or not, we are some of the best storytellers. Our imaginations are powerful tools, but they can also be our Achilles heel when it comes to our people.

It’s easy to compose a story without facts and figures. After meetings, we replay the script with twists and tones we thought we heard. We imagine situations or portray people in different lights when they decline to serve or call in sick.

To be fair, many leaders give the benefit of the doubt and operate at face value. But allow this to be a cautionary tale…

Maybe you’ve had an employee or volunteer that has a serial history of being disinterested, uninvolved or not willing to participate. Immediately we are hot to conclude that this person wants nothing to do with the environment or team they are with. Granted, every now and then, it is the wrong person in the wrong seat scenario. However, we add insult to injury when we assume a person’s motives or intent. We, as leaders, fall into error when we don’t allow the story to write itself.

Influential leaders all wear optimistic eyewear with grace lenses. They believe the best about people. They err on the side of grace. They operate with “the benefit of the doubt.” They don’t assume and they take the time to seek insight and understanding. Leaders who hold the candle as long as they need in order to give others the best light are willing to burn themselves rather than setting situations on fire by operating out of false assumptions.

4. Show Up & Show Others Off

Leadership is such an overestimated word. It evokes images of hierarchy, exclusive meetings and special treatment. Truth is, authentic leadership is raw, relational, inclusive and servant-minded.

The best leaders are those that serve their teams and not vice versa. Armies who rarely see their commander on the battlefield quickly lose the vim and verve to fight.

Leadership is about making others better in your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.

The greater the distance you create as a leader between yourself and your people, the quicker the disconnect between them and the vision. Be vigilant in being present in the projects, praising others when things go right and bearing the weight when things go wrong.

If the team that follows you begins to lack passion, it may be contributed to the lack of your presence. Sitting at the top is not the end goal. Having subordinates is not the dream. Having a vision, equipping and empowering others to carry it out and carry it further? Now that’s a legacy worth living for.

The beauty of leadership is not found in the corner office; it’s found in the reflection of the vision adopted by others.

5. Bold Enough To Carry It, Humble Enough To Give It Away

Two factors determine effective leadership: timing and influence.

Timing and influence don’t always work in sync. You may have been handed the platform, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gained the attention of the room. (If you’ve ever spoken to a room where you carry no influence, you get what I’m saying. It’s no surprise that public speaking is some people’s greatest fear, trumping death.)

Sometimes, leading positions end up in our laps whether we ask for it or not. If this is you and you’re reading this, do me a favour. Be bold and carry it. In fact, boldness and humility are necessary tools in your belt.

Boldness because nobody is going to follow cowardly leadership.

Whether you lead a paper department or deploy fleets of soldiers, the similarity is that the decision and accountability lie with you. Someone needs to be the tip of the spear. People don’t get behind someone they pity. If this has been a recent season where you as a leader have been crying downward, the depletion in your people’s passion could result from them no longer believing you are willing to fight for them if you can’t fight for yourself.

Humility, on the other hand, is a game-changer.

It can gather people because people would rather follow someone who is real and in tune with themselves. A leader who is bold enough to speak to a crowd, but humble enough to know if what they’re communicating is being received has the emotional quotient that is attractive and open-handed. Self-aware leaders can sway the tides and make way for up-and-coming leaders to step in place in the right season.

Be bold enough to carry the weight but humble enough to give it away in the right season.

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