How do you lift people when times are hard and morale is down? Is it just the leaders role?
The former England cricket captain and now psychoanalyst Mike Brearley addressed some of this following England’s hammering by the Australians in the recent test match. Here are some abridged elements from of his splendid piece in ‘The Times’.
There is the whole matter of team spirit or morale. How do you lift a side who are flat, or bring them down to earth when there is a hint of complacency? What can people say or do? What makes for a shift in group morale?
Group moods are infectious; they run through sides, for better and for worse. I think it is a basic human attribute to take in and take on others’ emotional attitudes and states. The child learns what is safe, what is good, what is dangerous, by identifying with his parents’ and siblings’ emotions.
When the group leaders are on form and buoyant, all feel safe to play, to strut, to be noisy and extrovert — the whole team are in the zone. When the atmosphere is gloomy, we all take our cue from key individuals, and feel we had better keep our heads down. We walk short not tall.
I’m reminded of Tolstoy’s view of history, that battles are won not by strategy or by great leadership or plans, but by the spontaneous movements and actions of individuals, such as that soldier who, under fire, picks up the banner from the hand of the comrade who had just been cut down while carrying it, and reverses the flight of his fellows.
A large part of the leader’s role is to facilitate an environment in which positive and sensible actions are encouraged, in which forays undertaken primarily for glory are resisted. So someone, coach, captain, Stokes, Anderson, whoever — and it may be anyone, or any small group — needs to pick the England side up.
Transforming ones mindset may involve technical change, but it also has a great deal to do with emotion, attitude and state of mind, both individual and the team’s.
German philosopher and physician Albert Schweitzer came from another angle.
We know moods are contagious. If your own mood is low or wavering, why not seek out that person who rekindles our spirit? If you are feeling good, consciously pass it on! If your team or group are struggling consider what small actions you can take to add energy and a boost that might reverse their flight. If you are a leader – remember the environment is partially your responsibility – if that’s not on your ‘to do’ list – it ought to be! People will be thankful – and you will be remarkable – worth remarking on!