Q: We are going through a regular seasonal slowdown right now. There are no worries on my team, but we are a bit bored. What can I set up for us to keep engaged and energized until things pick up again?
JoAnn, 38, client service manager
A: Create a combination of catch-up, learning and fun to get through the slow times.
On any team, there is usually plenty to do that gets set aside during busy times.
This is a good time to clear some of the backlog. One standby is a "clean up" day, where everyone goes through paper and electronic files, organizing and discarding.
There are likely a number of improvements you could make on the team.
For example, do you have a good information sharing system? If not, it's a good time to design one and put it in place. Or use this time to look for ways to improve work processes.
These types of time investment benefit the company and will also provide useful work for you and the team.
This is also an excellent opportunity for developing new skills.
Every single person on the team should have a learning agenda that they pursue throughout the year as part of their development plan. Kick it into high gear during this lull through a "learn and teach" approach.
The learning content will be tailored to each person depending on their individual goals.
However, everyone on the team will benefit from exposure to the new ideas. For example, someone with a technical interest may study advanced Excel techniques.
Some colleagues may just need to know these techniques exist and the benefits they bring, so they can get help in the future. Others may want to get into the nitty-gritty of it.
Others may choose to study organizational dynamics, emotional intelligence, or something related to your industry.
In all these cases, they can also present their findings to the broader team, and all will benefit.
Also find room for fun. This is a slightly more difficult direction, as not everyone will have the same definition, and enforced work fun is no fun at all.
This is where you turn to the team; after all, you don't have to figure all this out on your own — and it's better if you don't!
Get this all kicked off in a mini-retreat for your team. If you can be off-site, that's a perk, but if not, just setting aside time for discussion and planning is fine.
Your agenda? To decide the best ways to use your lag time.
Plan to bring some ideas, such as the ones above; however, be open to ideas that others offer, as well. Remember, your goal is to keep all of you engaged.
Also determine if you have a budget for development and/or team building, or can authorize any extra days off so that these resources can be on the table for your team to work with.
Take a longer view as you work through this.
This will not be your only work lull, so use this to help prepare for future down times, and to keep the rest of the work year even more satisfying.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.