My supervisor (once upon a time when I worked at a large organization) came to me in a panic one day because a project waiting in the wings suddenly became the top priority. I was instructed to drop everything, redirect everybody and all resources to this project, and be prepared to work ridiculous hours for the next couple of weeks. I said, “I can do that, but I know my team is not going to be happy about it. It will work best if you stay out of our way and let me handle this. We will get your project done and we will do good work. These are the best humans I know and I need to take care of them if this is going to succeed.” My supervisor told me I was crazy to worry about my team’s feelings when a project of this urgency was at stake. I thanked this supervisor for the input and we agreed to disagree about the importance of treating my team like humans at all times, especially when the heat was on.

Do you ever find yourself under this kind of pressure, knowing you need to push a project or goal and it is going to be hard on your team? If so, you’ve probably noticed that stress makes it more difficult to remember that every person on your team is a human first. I’ve been helping teams learn to become more supportive, more productive and happier, even when tensions are high, for a long time. I know that leading through high stakes situations is simply par for the course.

Here is my list of the top things that are critical to remember about teams under pressure

  1. Every person brings a unique set of gifts and challenges to every team. This applies to you, and to every single person you have ever come into contact with, or ever will.
  2. You can be a better listener. This is true for 99% of the population. This even applies to me – and I have built a business on listening and making sure others feel they have been heard!
  3. Everybody is different in an infinite number of ways. Age is only one factor. The more you can remind yourself that each and every person is absolutely and wonderfully unique, the more compassion and empathy you will develop for them.
  4. Everybody dislikes feedback, including you and me. We have all learned through countless “helpful” encounters that feedback usually sucks. The problem is that we’ve taken a complex set of interactions and given them one flat label called “feedback.” The good news is that you can learn to get better at giving and receiving feedback. Like everything else, the more you practice, the faster you’ll improve.
  5. Holding team members accountable is a never-ending task, but it is 100% worth the effort. Accountability is a major challenge for most teams. We tend to lump many types of so-called negative topics, discussions and systems under the “accountability” term. Mostly, we like to indulge in believing that accountability leads to painful punishments. But the truth is accountability sets you and your team free. Accountability gives you structure you can trust, clarifies expectations and establishes metrics and rewards.
  6. The only person you can control is YOU. If your team member isn’t responding the way you want, no matter their age or experience, you are at least 50% of the problem. This is true in every relationship and conversation you will ever have in your entire life.
  7. Every person on your team has value. Period.
  8. Every person on your team struggles to forgive and trust. It’s human nature. 
  9. Choosing to do things the way you did in the past way will ensure you get the results you got in the past. Many thanks to (supposedly) Albert Einstein for defining insanity as doing things the same way over and over while expecting different results. You have a choice about what you do next. Every time. You can choose to take the action that yields different results, or the same old thing.
  10. You can have a fresh start any time you want. All you have to do is decide. And keep breathing.

If this list seems overwhelming or impossible, remember you are not alone. Your team members think all of these are hard, too. 

What would you add to this list? Leave a comment below to tell us.

I’m offering a program designed specifically to help leaders and managers of intergenerational teams master their thoughts, reduce daily team struggles, and reach new heights of leadership success. It’s called the Great Teams on Purpose Mastermind, and you can join the Mastermind that begins May 21, 2019, or you can bring the program to your organization for a private group. Learn more about it by clicking below.

Kay Coughlin, CEO and Chief Facilitator of Facilitator On Fire, is on a mission to help Millennials, Gen X-ers and Boomers (and Zs and Traditionalists, too!) work together on teams that are higher-performing and happier.

Kay’s Great Teams on Purpose Mastermind helps leaders and managers build amazing multi-generational teams (register here). The skill she teaches in her public speaking, “How to be Heard in a Noisy Business World,” is part of the formula she created to help teams become abundantly successful, together.


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