How To Manage Your Team’s Declining Performance During Crises

Recently, my inbox chimed with a notification from one of my favorite newsletters – the Harvard Business Review. The article talked about “team regression” and managing team performance during challenging times.

It explored the fascinating psychology behind a team’s sudden resolve to tackle a critical situation and the following lag in performance and emotional coherence once the initial crisis passes.

Like most businesses, dental practices have had to work hard to manage teams during the Coronavirus pandemic shut down, transitioning back to regular business, and now as everyone is seeing patients again. The lockdown added an extra layer of challenge as extended periods of inactivity take a toll emotionally and can negatively impacting overall productivity.

Have you had this experience with some or all of your team members?

If so, read on – the article discusses actionable tips on how to keep yourself and your team functioning like a well-oiled machine during these challenging times.    

What is regression?

To put it simply, regression is our mind’s emotional defense mechanism that kicks in when it gets muddled up or faces uncertainty. 

Regression presents itself over time and in phases. Initially, when a crisis strikes, the urgency of the situation galvanizes both management and the team. Everyone puts in their best effort and is willing to go the extra mile. Decision making is swift, clear, and decisive.

The next phase is the move into regression – a state of emotional, psychological, and functional incoherence. The state of confusion leads to a lack of direction and can result in unwanted friction among team members thereby disturbing the team’s harmony, and productivity plummets.    

It is your job as a leader to be vigilant and to actively monitor when regression starts to happen. Otherwise it can turn into an uncontrollable downward spiral, taking your practice off track. 

How to manage regression?

Experts believe you cannot skip regression. However, if you spot the signs early enough, you can minimize its impact and take your team’s productivity to pre regression levels. Here’s how to go about it:

Watch for signs

1. Look for the Signs

Your first task is to determine the intensity of the regression. If simple decisions are taking unusually long, there’s a lack of enthusiasm and unnecessary bickering among team members – these are all signs of acute regression.

You must thoroughly evaluate your emotional state as well. Do you feel like giving up? Has your temper become increasingly unpredictable?            

reset button

2. Press the “Reset” Button

If you see your team engagements growing more chaotic by the day, it is time that you took a hard look at your team dynamics.

Some of your team members will be naturally better than others at handling pressure and uncertainly. The ones that don’t fare well in such situations will likely sap the entire team’s morale. Your job as a leader is to identify which team member isn’t adding value and then “give them a short break”. The idea is to give them a chance to step back and recalibrate their emotions.

It is crucial that you act decisively and without a soft corner. Once done, you now need to assign new responsibilities to each team member with clear lines drawn. Ask your team if they need additional resources to help them perform their duties better.

The goal here is to give them clarity and an understanding of what is expected of them during such times and to eliminate confusion while allowing yourself the space to focus on the strategic aspects of your business.

Listen

3. Listen to what your team has to say

The added frustration is often the result of one’s inability to share their opinion. Maybe there is something that’s holding them back. Maybe they have reservations about a certain protocol you implemented at your practice.  

Your job is to provide an atmosphere where they can express their opinion and suggestions freely and without the fear of being judged negatively. Encourage your team to speak up and constantly remind them that you will listen and value their point of view.  The goal here is to address their underlying insecurities and find a way to move past them.

Not only it helps clear emotional and psychological roadblocks, but it also fosters trust and camaraderie thus reviving team productivity.             

Big Picture Thinking

4. Focus on the big picture

It is instinctual for a business owner to narrowly focus on tasks that will ensure the survival of their business during a crisis. However, you must acknowledge that putting out fires day in and day out can run down even the most dedicated teams. Crisis management is an emotionally taxing endeavor.

Encourage your team to focus on a better future. This perspective will go a long way in shoring up their confidence and motivation. When a crisis hits, many business owners view themselves as victims. Your goal, instead, should be to help your team see your business’ larger social impact. Understanding that their efforts towards a bigger purpose will help transform your team’s perspective and revive their will to push forward.

And you don’t need to be a global corporate behemoth to benefit from this philosophy. It is just as effective for a small dental practice owner and their team. Taking out some time every now and then to discuss your vision and practice’s long-term growth and development goals can help reboot your team.

In essence, the key to effective regression management lies in actively watching for the signs among your team members and yourself. The sooner you act the better your chances of minimizing regression’s impact.    

You are invited to attend a no-cost online training event, Dental Practice Excellence, where we examine strategies for ensuring your team is engaged and working to their potential. And you can always give us a call at 954 323 2220 to talk about how we can specifically help your practice achieve success.   

Alex Nottingham, JD, MBA

Alex Nottingham, JD, MBA

Alex is the CEO and Founder of All-Star Dental Academy. He has authored the dental practice game-changer book “Dental Practice Excellence” and co-wrote a bestselling book with Brian Tracy. Alex has shared the stage with Michael Gerber (the author of “The E–Myth Revisited”), and lectures nationally and internationally to prestigious dental organizations. He is a former Tony Robbins top coach and consultant, having worked with companies from $1 million to $100 million. His passion is to help others create personal wealth and make a positive impact on the people around them. Alex received his Juris Doctor (JD) and Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Florida International University.

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