How to Boost Team Morale – Staying Strong in a Shootout

Can Sport Heroes Teach Business About Building Winning Sides?

If you want to boost your team’s morale, start by looking at how the great leaders do it. England football manager Gareth Southgate built his Euro 2020 team by giving his players ownership and building positive relationships. So says the FA’s thebootroom.com website. After decades of dismal performances, England reached the Finals and stayed strong, right through to the final penalties. Gareth Southgate’s achievement has lessons for everyone running businesses.

We can’t all lead our national football teams to glory. But we can improve our work teams’ performance by scoring some relatively easy goals. Join our Morale Boosting Boot Camp and see what tips you can pick up.

Close up of football players' feet in a group huddle

Great leaders like Southgate are great at being able to boost team morale

What’s Coming Up… Anything is Possible

We look at what morale is, and why it matters so much. Boosting morale impacts on personal productivity and employee performance. We consider why being part of a team is so important to our wellbeing. And we end with a plug for Gareth Southgate’s bestselling book.

Anything Is Possible describes the inspirational methods he used to spur England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals. In the foreword he writes, “I hope I can prepare you for your own exciting journey ahead.” We hope this article helps prepare you for your journey, boosting your team’s morale.

Right Then, Let’s Get You Into Shape

Let’s start by boosting your understanding of morale, with some easy wins.

What is Morale?

Morale is the confidence, enthusiasm and discipline of a person or a group at a crucial moment. Teamwork is critical to successful businesses: teams’ morale is equally important.

Does Teamwork Boost Employee Morale?

Definitely! The sense of working together with colleagues for a shared purpose is very important for morale. When employees strive to complete their mission but don’t feel others are on the same side, their morale suffers.

What Can You Do When Team Morale is Low? 

You can focus everyone on the same mission, clear the barriers to achievement and reward team effort. Do that and your team will be unstoppable. Come on, team!

What Causes Low Team Morale?

Three common causes of low morale in business are:

Most problems with morale can be traced back to one or more of these reasons.

Morale Boosting by Numbers

It’s easier to remember items in a list.  So here are some morale boosting facts to keep in mind.

Fridge magnet number 23456

There are many different ways and ideas to boost team morale

How Do You Motivate a Team With Low Morale?

5 ways to fire people up:

  • Focus on both the team and the individual.
  • Give people the specific help they need.
  • Provide both immediate and long term support.
  • Work on changing the things you can change.
  • Be specific about what you’re helping people change – but stay flexible about what that might involve.

7 Steps to Stir Teams to Success

  • Find the root cause of the problem.
  • Help reduce their stress levels.
  • Be clear about your vision and share it.
  • Offer people more individual control.
  • Provide regular recognition.
  • Promote from within.
  • Give good feedback.

Boosting Morale in Lockdown Mode

In the pandemic, this next challenge has been vexing everyone.

How Do You Build Team Morale Remotely?

When work teams aren’t in regular contact, the risk of miscommunication is much greater. One shortcoming of remote working is that people feel out of touch with colleagues. But that’s no excuse for bosses to micromanage their workers with constant email blasts!

Here are some tips to press the ‘remote working’ button and raise people’s spirits:

 5 Ways to Keep Teams’ Morale High While Working From Home

  • Prioritise frequent communication.
  • Keep your company culture at the heart of things.
  • Encourage scheduled work breaks.
  • Recognise people’s individual achievements.
  • Consider implementing a result-driven structure.

Recognising achievement and rewarding results makes a huge difference to employee morale when working remotely. People feel good about themselves because they’re achieving. But they’ll feel even better knowing they’re recognised for it by their boss and colleagues.

9 Ways to Maintain Morale in a Remote Working Environment

Here’s another set of solutions to think about:

  • Stay connected.
  • Keep the vision and message clear at all times.
  • Recognition is key.
  • Make sure it’s not all work and no play.
  • Keep Learning and Development as a priority.
  • Show how much you care.
  • Ask them to feedback.
  • Encourage real breaks.
  • Set up virtual support groups.

How Do You Counteract Low Morale?

Before the pandemic, the American Psychological Association published some ideas to counteract low morale caused by stress. Here are some steps they suggest to put things right:

10 Proven Methods to Tackle Low Morale

  • Connect with your people and spend time with them.
  • Be transparent – if there’s a problem, be honest about it.
  • Give people public recognition for their contribution.
  • Train your managers in soft skills like emotional intelligence and communication.
  • Run your business on a realistic basis – burning yourself out to reach goals is not sustainable.
  • Help people grow – offer them the tools to do it.
  • Deep listening – for instance, allowing employees more control over their time at work.
  • Engage people in team building activities.
  • Deal with problem individuals, when problems first arise.
  • Make work a comfortable environment, physically.

Public recognition of individual achievement is a consistent theme in the experts’ thinking about morale building.

Boosting Morale Will Transform Productivity

One effect of low morale is falling productivity. To address the problem, we must understand what it means and how it occurs.

The word productivity written in Scrabble tiles

Boosting team morale will, in turn, boost productivity

What is Low Productivity?

Low productivity exists when workers aren’t completing tasks, processes, production or sales efficiently. The impacts include economic effects on profitability and a vicious cycle of low productivity and low morale.

So What Causes Poor Productivity?

Multitasking – taking on too many projects at once.

Workplace stress – anxiety about the job stops you focusing on doing it.

There’s no sense of belonging – not feeling you’re in the right place.

Toxic workplace behaviour – unhappy workers won’t engage.

Damaged organisational structure – poorly organised workflow, disconnect between departments.

Too many meetings – less time for work.

Poor management – micromanaging isn’t the answer, it’s down to team building.

And let’s not forget, lack of recognition of efforts.

When problems arise, businesses don’t need old style bosses. What they want is leaders who can drive change and carry the vision forward.

Personal Productivity is in Your Power to Improve

Personal productivity is down to the individual. But we must feel motivated about it. Hence the importance of morale.

How Can You Fix Low Productivity?

You can make yourself more productive at work with these simple steps:

  1. Do your most demanding tasks when it’s your personal peak productivity time. This is where working from home comes into its own.
  2. Stop multitasking! In research some men’s IQ’s dropped 16 points when they were multitasking. In 2013 the journal BMC Psychology published a study saying women were better than men at multitasking. But the neuroscience suggests everyone’s brains are physically affected by juggling priorities.
  3. Make your to do list for the next day at the end of the day before
  4. Cut down the items on your to do list. Decide which things are really important – and bin the rest.
  5. Delegate – give tasks to other people and leave them to get on with it. Don’t micromanage them.
  6. Eliminate distractions. Be kind to yourself generally, but be tough about that.
  7. Plan phone calls. When you need to concentrate, put your phone on silent. Call back when you’re ready.
  8. Get up, stand up, as Bob Marley sang. Physical activity enhances brain function.
  9. Be optimistic. Expect good outcomes, and you are more likely to achieve them. In any case, happy people are more productive.
  10. Get enough sleep. Adults between 26 and 64 generally need seven to nine hours a night. It’ll catch up with you eventually.

What are the Hallmarks of a Productive Individual?

  • Finishing tasks faster – being more realistic with time management, and getting quicker at completing jobs.
  • Lower stress levels.
  • Feeling okay about delegating or automating tasks that you don’t need to supervise.
  • Keeping track of your results.

6 Skills to Boost Your Productivity

  • A good planner.
  • Early bird: start the working day earlier.
  • Be a fixer.
  • Take risks.
  • Focus.
  • Self-motivation.

You Can All Join in

These are productivity skills that individuals can work on, and you can help them to develop them. The solutions for managing team productivity are similarly straightforward:

7 Steps to Improve Employee Productivity

  • Set clear, realistic goals – and hold people to them.
  • Build a positive work environment and culture.
  • Recognise and incentivise employees.
  • Listen to your workforce.
  • Keep morale high.
  • Support training and professional development.
  • Help employees practice good self-care and look after themselves.

Productivity – Facts to focus on

Boosting team morale definitely impacts on the bottom line. Businesses that invest in training have 24% higher profit margins. Employees who burn out are 63% more likely to fall ill and 23% more likely to go to A&E.

You Cannot (Always) be Serious

Multiethnic happy group of friends having fun together

Boosting team morale can also come in the form of having fun and relaxing

It’s easy to get very earnest about all this. But remember, lightening up a little goes a long way. There are plenty of fun ways you can boost morale at work. Here are some thoughts.

  • Virtual yoga or workout classes.
  • Fancy dress Fridays.
  • Trivia quizzes.
  • Get the excitement juices flowing with company sports days or evenings or.
  • Employee scavenger hunts.
  • Encourage team building events with a heart, like sponsored activities for charity or volunteering.
  • Office ‘theme’ dressing up days.
  • Work and family picnics.
  • Fitness contests – if the team is up to it!
  • Cook together online.
  • Icebreaker games.
  • Virtual “lunch and learn”.

During COVID businesses have been exploring which activities can be applied virtually. At American Express, they came up with these team tips:

9 American Express Tips to Boost Team Morale

  • Have a daily huddle: mini meetings, not mega ones.
  • Shuffle the schedule: let people start late to get personal stuff done.
  • Remember why: remind staff why you’re in business.
  • Say thank you:  appreciation increases morale.
  • Let them talk:  allow customer facing staff to get issues off their chest.
  • Take one for the team:  if the leader takes on the challenge as well, it shows they care.
  • Change the scenery:  get everyone out of the office for the day, get it decorated and move the desks round.
  • Have a quiet room where people can nap if they need to.
  • Shake up the routine – if people are stuff at their desks all day, break the day up with something they’ll really appreciate, like a dance instructor or a massage therapist.

The Big Question – Why Do Teams Matter?

The simple answer is, we’re social creatures. We crave connection and contact with other people. This makes workplace social connections extremely important.

In a time of social isolation people responding on Zoom make us feel listened to, accepted and valued. This boosts our morale.

In normal times, people spend a large chunk of their time at work. Work relationships are very important to employee wellbeing. These relationships affect our stress levels, productivity and general feelings of happiness. And ultimately they affect our general health.

What Happens in a Team?

When we join a team, we buy into it. We make the choice to attach to it. This is cognitive empathy. We put aside our differences and become part of the group. We unite in a shared purpose, the vision for the business.

Being a team member means mutual benefits. These are the shelter, security and fellowship needs of the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. And put into evolutionary terms, joining a team gives us security and continued existence, in the face of possible extinction.

How Do Teams Form?

Away from the security of home and family, strangers put together become bonded. We’ve been joining gangs since childhood. The attachment and belonging helps us feel alive and energised. We are programmed for attachment: we long to join.

What are the Benefits of Being in a Team?

  • Acceptance
  • Empathy
  • Validation
  • Recognition
  • Security

Being part of a team calms us and makes us optimistic. It’s good for our mental health.

And Finally – Anything Is Possible

From cover of Anything is possible by Gareth Southgate

Southgate’s book is a good example of a great leader and how to boost team morale

People in the business world borrow a lot from sport psychology. So let’s end with some more about Gareth Southgate. Even if you hate football, you can learn from how his humble, authentic leadership has transformed the England team’s morale.

Gareth Southgate has spent his career inspiring young people to think positively and reach their potential. He’s been a Goodwill Ambassador for Prince Charles’ Prince’s Trust for over 15 years. We Only Do Positive, his FA handbook for coaches and parents of young players, sets out his principles. It highlights the importance of positive values and such behaviours as fairness, integrity, inclusion and leadership.

Southgate’s 2020 book Anything is Possible: be brave, be kind and follow your dreams is a current best seller. It recounts the inspirational methods he used to spur the England men’s team to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. It explains how they can translate into everyday life. The foreword says it all: “You have the potential to make anything possible. Working with the England team we focus on what we might achieve, not worrying about what might go wrong. ”

When it comes to boosting their teams’ morale, business managers would do well to take Gareth Southgate’s wise words to heart.  Now get your people out there and win!

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