How to Deal With a Distracted Team

When teams first start a project, your employees are probably enthusiastic and extremely engaged. As the project drags on however, and schedules get pushed out, enthusiasm can wane, team members can get distracted and the work suffers.

Here are some strategies for dealing with distracted teams and getting them back on track.

What is behind all of those distractions?

According to experts Jake Holloway, David Bryde and Roger Joby who wrote A Practical Guide To Dealing With Difficult Stakeholders, distractions are caused by:

  • Other day-to-day responsibilities getting in the way

  • Team members beginning to think about the next project in the pipelines

When your team has other responsibilities

When distractions are caused by competing priorities, you can approach it in a couple of different ways. You can help your team prioritize their time so all of the work gets done, or you can help by shifting the schedule and deadlines around to accommodate their availability.

Assisting team members in setting priorities

If someone on your team is feeling pressure to complete outside tasks, it could be a matter of them taking on more work than they can handle. It could also be a time management issue. Sit down with them and work on building a task list, then assign those tasks a number according to how critical it is. If you find serious conflicts, you can help them come up with acceptable solutions.

When your team is already focusing on the next project

This is a common problem that can come into play toward the end of the project as the team begins to look ahead. In order to help keep them in the present, you can take any of three approaches:

1. Level with the stakeholders

Distractions don’t just occur internally within the team, they can come from other sources such as different projects, from different departments or teams. It’s not uncommon to have a situation where other people are coming to your team members with requests for them to complete other tasks. In this case, you may simply have to have a conversation with these other people and begin telling them no. Be sure they are aware of the priorities of your team and they should understand.

2. Incentives and motivation

You can try to motivate your team with pep talks and other incentives to try to keep them focused. Sometimes distraction is a result of losing sight of the end goal and the importance of the project. Reminding them what they are working towards can have a motivating effect on their efforts. Offering bonuses, rewards, or other incentives can be just the thing to renew their enthusiasm.

3. Share the plan for the project’s close

Before your team began this project, you likely had a clear plan built into the project that highlighted all of the milestones and resource requirements. That plan most likely states at what point in the process the need for each individual member’s attention changes from 100% to significantly less and then not at all.

It may be the case that your team has forgotten how long they will be required to give this project their full attention. You can help ease the situation by highlighting when they will become available to work on another project. Set clear expectations for them up until that time in order to avoid any further misunderstandings.

Each of these tips is closely related to setting priorities for you and for your team. When priorities are clear, team members are free to concentrate on the project itself without any doubts.

Zoe Anderson is a writer with an interest in business issues and trends. Zoe is also an employee of StudySelect.

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