High morale inoculates a team against temporary pressures. A team with high morale has members that like, trust, and respect each other, which makes them feel more confident in tackling problems together than a group with low morale. Given similar levels of ability, a team with high morale is more likely to succeed in a high-pressure situation because their confidence makes them more resilient against setbacks.
Morale is a depletable resource, not something that is static — it needs maintenance, and too often it’s something that’s only discussed when it’s running low and its impact on a team’s work is evident. It takes time and effort to build morale, and if a team is already strained and struggling to even get through the work in front of them, then it is very difficult to address low morale at the same time and to recover without losses.
This is why it’s important to recharge morale regularly, so that you aren’t caught short with low morale in a tough situation. If your experience is anything like mine, most team-building exercises involve off-site days for leisure activities, team lunches, or other things outside the office — these are great for boosting the “liking” part of morale.
But the trust and respect parts are not addressed directly often enough. Whether it’s through structured internal team presentations, or just allowing enough time in a day’s work for informal show-and-tell, getting team members to learn about each other’s work helps them see a problem from each other’s perspectives, appreciate each other’s disciplines, and understand each other’s intentions.
Remember also that morale-building is work, and team members shouldn’t be expected to do it in their own time!
Also published on Medium.