Lindsay LaNore: How to boost team morale

Video Conference

By Lindsay LaNore, ICBA

There are no two ways about it: It has been a stressful year. With health and economic fears, changes to our work environments and social distancing requirements, we’ve all had many reasons to feel anxious. Keeping up team morale can be challenging for leaders, especially as the uncertainty continues, but here are simple ideas for pick-me-ups.

1. Give permission to play. To paraphrase author Brené Brown, we live in a culture that celebrates exhaustion, and sometimes it takes real courage to rest and play. Encourage your team to take some time away from work, even if it’s only for a staycation. Remind them not to feel guilty about it. We all need to play.

2. Change up the schedule. We also need variety. Whether it’s modifying the format of a meeting or the approach to a project, try looking at things differently or coming at them from a different angle. For those team members who are constantly working through lunch, encourage them to schedule breaks. Or, better still, order lunch for the team and take that time to catch up.

3. Say “thank you.” If you’ve just finished a lengthy project or wrapped up a productive meeting, take five minutes to say “thank you” to your team. At the end of a Zoom call, remember to recognize the team’s good work. Or go old-school and send everyone a personal, handwritten note.

4. Be the cheerleader. Your actions and words are critically important, so add a little cheer to your leadership. You don’t have to sugar-coat the practical realities, but staying positive in your interactions is key. You can do this with more frequent meetings or daily huddles.

5. Be delightfully inefficient together. Even if it may seem a little frivolous, connect with your team on something that is not work-related. Finishing up a Friday meeting by asking about weekend plans is an obvious topic. Alternatively, you can share an uplifting story from the community or a random fun fact. Consider posing a “would you rather” question to the team: ice cream or pizza? Then surprise them by having it delivered.

6. Start a challenge. Everyone likes a friendly competition. From an exercise, cooking or gardening challenge to a photo contest for the best fall photo, it will encourage the team to do something other than work and will boost camaraderie.

7. Share frustrations. Ask your team to tell you what’s getting on their nerves. Sometimes just saying it out loud can help, but you may also be able to make changes or, better still, take it off their plate.

8. Improve pesky inefficiencies. Every department has processes or documents we’ve been meaning to change, update or organize. Setting aside time to improve inefficiencies can boost morale and lighten workloads. Fewer hurdles mean happier employees.

Lindsay LaNore ( is group executive vice president and chief learning and experience officer