6 Ways to Lead your Team Through the “Back to Work Blues”

While the US Federal Government’s ongoing shutdown continues, the rest of the world is getting back to work in full-swing. Those summer holidays probably feel like a distant, sun kissed memory. You’ve swapped your togs for a suit – and it’s taken a nanosecond for your team’s workload to ramp up into full throttle.  And don’t even talk about that growing to do list…

It’s all come about a bit too fast hasn’t it? You’re supposed to be in Mr or Ms Efficient Work Mode leading your bunch of ‘yay let’s do it!’ employees. But that isn’t quite the picture, is it? Your team is looking as motivated as a teenager whose been asked to clean their room.

Getting your people fired up after the summer break can be a big ask. Getting them inspired to tackle the goals that you’ve been set for the year ahead can seem like a herculean mission. And let’s be honest, inside you’re also wishing you had your nose in a good book and your toes in the sand, instead of staring at that spreadsheet on the screen in front of you.

Fear not. The Leader’s Digest has got your back. Here are six tips for how you can beat the back to work blues – for you and your ‘less than enthusiastic’ bunch.

  1. As a team, do a review of what worked and what didn’t in 2018 and how you can take those lessons into this year. What worked and what didn’t work when it came to working together as a team? Spend an hour or two offsite with a couple of giant post-its going through this as a group. Get THEM to come up with the ideas, with you as the facilitator. Finish the session with a specific commitment of who is going to do what, by when, as a result of the review. Getting people involved increases engagement.
  2. Get very clear on the team’s priorities for the next quarter. In one study, 63 percent of employees reported that they wasted time at work because they weren’t aware of what work was a priority, and what wasn’t. It seems obvious, but communicating the 1-3 priorities (no more) and precisely what success looks like for each is a great way to get the team up and running and pointed in the same direction.
  3. Do a meeting audit. Meetings can be an incredible waste of time–the average professional wastes 3.8 hours in unproductive meetings each and every week. See here for tips on how to run an effective meeting.
  4. As a group, decide on a motivating goal or challenge for the team that is in line with the overall goals and strategy of the organisation. Get them to picture what success feels and looks like and lay down an incentive if they achieve it. It doesn’t have to be monetary (although it might be). Work within your cultural norms and brainstorm ideas on what they would appreciate if they nailed the goal.
  5. Work ‘with’ not against resistance. It can be tempting to ignore, berate or jolly everyone along when you sense everyone is a bit flat. But in my experience, when you notice the team is a bit deflated, it’s better to name it and check it out with the group. Provide space for people to be honest about their current reality. There may be different experiences within the group and that’s ok. Most people just want to feel heard and listened to. Once you’ve surfaced any issues, then you can work with the group on some possible solutions. If it’s one or two individuals who you sense are struggling with back to work blues, raise it in their one-on-one meetings (in a nonjudgmental curious way) and ask open questions to understand their reality. Explore what support they need to move through. The GROW model is a great coaching tool for this. You can download my worksheet on this model here
  6. Be realistic. Motivation comes and goes. People are not robots, so it’s to be expected that it might take a week or two to get back into it. Check your expectations of both yourself and those you lead.

So, if you’re faced with a less than enthusiastic bunch, give these ideas a go.  

What are some of the ways you and your team have beaten the back to work blues?

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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