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Pulling together your understaffed team

It’s the leader’s job to construct powerful, cohesive teams that support and rally around one another and complement each other’s skill sets.

4 min read


Rally together


In my previous post about understaffed leaders, we spoke of the importance of setting clear expectations that empower leaders and their teams to be strategic, take initiative, innovate, and deliver desired results. This essay will offer added strategies for understaffed leaders to help their teams overdeliver.

You’ve seen it many times. The bickering. The lack of healthy communication. Folks sitting quietly at their desks, hoping to stay under the radar and not be burdened with more work, let alone someone else’s work. Others prioritizing their wants and needs over those of the team.

Territorialism. Silos.

Without question, silos and the turf wars that they enable devastate organizations by wasting resources, killing productivity and threatening goal achievement.

As demands increase, individuals start to think in terms of self-preservation and protecting their turf. Of course, this is the exact time when team members ought to be pulling together and complementing one another. Those that do can more than make up for shortages in manpower and individual expertise.

It’s the leader’s job to construct powerful, cohesive teams that support and rally around one another and complement each other’s skill sets.

So, how can you know whether your team needs a “pull together”?

One simple way is to ask them

Survey questions can give you some great feedback about team cohesiveness and collaboration. At meetings, ask folks for ways to bring the team together even more. Engage a consultant to lead safe conversations and probe deeper.

Once you have uncovered the issues, seek to identify what key components motivate each employee. Incentivization will work for the short haul, but tapping into team members’ intrinsic motivation is a more sustainable way forward and will do more to heighten a spirit of cooperation. Motivation encompasses a variety of tactics including common interests, individual investment in growth, shared voice and positive words of encouragement.

If you need/want to build a more cohesive team …

Start with team-building activities

Team-building activities address four primary areas: Communication, problem solving and/or decision-making, adaptability and/or planning, and trust.

The idea is to perform various activities that are fun, challenging and also have the “side effect” of building teamwork skills that can help improve employee performance and productivity at the office.

When done thoughtfully and properly, these activities are a great way of improving communication, morale, motivation, and productivity. They help employees get to know each other better and learn more about each one’s strengths and interests.

Keep in mind that bringing teams together involves more than getting folks to work willingly with each other. It also means fitting your pieces together in a way that covers all the bases while making sure that you aren’t forcing square pegs into round holes.

To do this, use a skills-gap analysis

A skills gap is the difference between skills that employers want or need, and those that their team members currently offer. Conducting a skills-gap analysis helps you identify the skills your people possess, as well as those that they will need to master to meet your business goals. From there, you can begin to determine the answers to such questions as:

  • What strengths do our people presently have that can best help us meet our mission?
  • Are they currently positioned to help us succeed?
  • What training programs will most directly address our current shortfall and get our people up to speed?

Once you have greater clarity about the skills needed to move forward, work with your team to develop a plan that will maximize on their talents and supplement their learning where needed. Nothing builds cohesion more than having someone on top who believes in his/her team and is able and willing to position them in the best way to succeed, individually and collectively.


Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) is president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss.” Read his blog, and listen to his leadership podcast. Download his free new e-book, “An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing.”

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