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Ask Liz: how can I motivate my team after a disruptive summer?

Ask Liz: how can I motivate my team after a disruptive summer?
Dear Liz, I have just returned from holiday, as have a few members of my team but morale seems to be low. We have also just had a new addition to the team and I am conscious I need to raise everyone’s spirits. How can I motivate everyone and make the team feel less disjointed after a slightly disruptive summer?

Holiday season is a great time for us all to recharge but can feel very disjointed when the team feels as though it's constantly missing someone. It can be quite unsettling for a manager trying to manage workload as well as making sure that everyone is kept up to date on client developments and agency news. The team may also be feeling that additional pressure when people have had to cover the workload whilst others are rightfully resting on a beach!

With the main holiday season behind us, although I'm writing this in Bangkok airport, I find that this time of year is a good time to set the focus for the new term. It is a time to reflect on the previous three quarters of the calendar year and set direction for both team and individuals for the final quarter. As the end of the year looms large and Christmas lunch bookings are upon us, the question is, what do we want to have achieved as a team by Christmas Day?

Sometimes we have to take the time to make the time. To do this I suggest a team half day, off site somewhere a bit different if you can, to reflect on the work to date, identify the projects coming up and add in a sprinkle of personal development. Creative spaces like the Wellcome Foundation, the British library, Tate Britain or a fun start in the Breakfast Club in Soho do not have to cost a fortune and many spaces can be free.

This taking stock and planning session will also provide much needed context and essential team bonding for the new addition to the team. Perhaps you could add in a bit of fun with a holiday photo competition or each person shares one key event from their trip if only to acknowledge personal experiences outside of work. You don't need the full slide show but how often do we take the time to really talk about such stuff and acknowledge what people have been up to?

From a work perspective a 2 -3 hour session will enable you to set some team objectives and goals from which your team can then write their own objectives. They will have clarity and you have a team with their objectives sorted ready for their next review. Job done!

The session needs to be action orientated and not a talking shop dominated by a few. A good technique to avoid people just talking is to set a series of questions and to get people working on it in pairs. When the pairs report back to the group, each pair speaks uninterrupted for a maximum of 5 minutes. Their points are not up for debate necessarily but to provoke further thinking. Once all of the pairs have reported back, go around the room asking the team for "their freshest thinking" based on what they have heard. Make sure you make lots of notes. Keep to time and keep the focus. This is diluted from Nancy Kline "Time to Think "which is a very effective way to get to our unconscious minds and reveal our best thinking.

A refreshed team with a new team member is the perfect mix for an invigorated start. Who knows what you will all achieve over the coming months with all that fresh energy at your fingertips!

If you have an HR-related issue that you need answering by our expert Liz Nottingham, HR Director at Starcom MediaVest and VivaKi Country Talent & Transformation Officer, please contact her via Any questions published will appear anonymously.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA's terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA's newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 09/09/2015

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