Taking team time-outs is a common practice in a variety of sports – a time-out being a halt in play which allows a moment for the coach to communicate with the team. Teams/coaches usually call time-outs at strategically important points in the match in order to halt the momentum of the game if it is progressing well for the opposition, make necessary changes in strategy and plans or to inspire players and increase their focus and resolve. After the time-out, the idea is that the team approaches the match in a different way, with modified tactics and renewed determination to outplay the opposition.

In business, ironically, managers seldom seem to allow time for discussion, evaluation and new ideas to surface with excuses like ‘we don’t have time for arbitrary meetings – there’s work to be done’ or with the inane philosophy of ‘work harder and faster; we will then have time to discuss progress’. As a result, employees feel disempowered and frustrated. A perception develops that the boss doesn’t care and staff start looking for other opportunities.

In the working life of a team, there are three distinct situations when taking time-outs are necessary:

  1. When the team seems to be totally overwhelmed – work pressures, absenteeism by some team members, urgent fulfilment of many orders, complex tasks and other pressing factors may all contribute to a team experiencing stress, overtiredness and exhaustion. When noticeable, the wise manager will create pause breaks deliberately to listen, to share ideas for improved processes and to remove any obstacles that the team might be facing as they go about fulfilling their function. The purchase of a couple of pizzas and an hour discussion regarding the emotional feelings and frustrations that the team is experiencing goes a long way to lifting spirits and regaining energy for the tasks ahead.
  2. When the team is underperforming in relation to their real potential – poor performance doesn’t feel good, neither for the team members nor the manager. Coaching is an essential part of team development. Goals should be refined and reset, skills should be updated and strategies implemented to get better results. All team members should be aware of expected behaviours, targets and desirable outcomes.
  3. When the team needs to celebrate – when goals are achieved and targets are met and/or when the performance of the team has been exceptional, the manager should facilitate a time-out moment for celebration. Recognition for a job well done solidifies the notion of ‘what is expected and rewarded around here’ and moulds team behaviour positively. It also provides a sense of accomplishment and demonstrates to team members the importance of their respective roles towards assisting company success.

Regular time-outs for teams are required in the ‘business game’. Managers should facilitate these time-outs to reduce stress, address poor performance, remove obstacles that the team is facing, enhance tactics and celebrate wins. Managers demonstrate care when they facilitate time-outs.

Free To Grow offers the workshop TeamQ to help organisations build effective teams, dealing with: the effectiveness chain, vision, trust, communication and resolving conflict

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