Managing Your Team Through Turbulence

Inevitably, teams go through times of turbulence – unsteady movement, conflict or confusion. What is the best way to manage through turbulence?

The starting point is to acknowledge that the energy of your team has changed and you are managing in an unusual environment. Then, you can shift your focus to managing in that environment. When I was working for a federal agency, I was managing team turbulence as a new Presidential administration came in with a very different policy focus from the previous administration. At that time, considering we were a policy team, team members were understandably concerned for their jobs and uncertain what was to come. There were early signs from the new administration that our division could be eliminated.

As I focused on managing the team through this time, I openly acknowledged to them the uncertainty we were in and validated their feelings and concerns. We had a lot of pressure on us in our programs, so I had to find a way we could keep going and get our work done. Some team members were looking for transfers within the government or new positions. I met with the team and told them we had to strike a balance. I asked them to commit to spending the major part of the day on our programs. I told them I would be flexible if they had to spend some work time addressing their future. We charted our path forward together. I also emphasized the need for open communication. I would keep them informed of developments within the agency and asked them to let me know if they were seriously considering another position. I said that uncertainty was just that – uncertain. I did not want us reacting to something that would not materialize. We made it through. One team member did leave. Although the nature of our work changed to conform to the new administration’s policies, there were no layoffs.

When managing team turbulence, keep in mind the importance of acknowledging change, being flexible, setting a focus for the team and maintaining close communication. With this approach, you have good prospects for keeping the team functioning and achieving the best results for all of you.