Summer is over, can anyone remember it? Autumnal days are already here, the evenings are drawing in, the temperature is cooler, we are swapping salad for soup and if you are anything like me you have already put the central heating on at least once in the last few weeks and it’s not even October!

With the August bank holiday well behind us, most people won’t be having a break for another 88 days at Christmas time. And to be honest Christmas is often not that much of a break with all the preparation to be done, presents to buy, credit cards to over-spend on and supermarket madness – people fighting over pre ordered turkeys, stealing the last of the most desirable puddings out of other people’s trolleys and buying bread as though there was going to be a famine.

This is a funny time of year when there is often much to be achieved but motivation may not be at its highest.

Increasing motivation?

It’s important to emphasise that the year hasn’t ended yet and remind people what has been achieved and what activities are needed to deliver results by the end of the calendar year.

It’s also a great time to begin thinking about next year’s plans before you need to. Given the challenges of this year – what would you like to achieve next year and are there any foundation plans that you could be putting in place now to increase the chances of success?

If you lead a team ask yourself?

  • When was the last time you socialised with your team, giving them the chance to relax with you or took them out for lunch? Whilst we are all incredibly busy, finding 30/40 minutes to spend a little more time with colleagues can make a refreshing change.
  • When was the last time you said thank you face to face (rather than by email) for people working hard at something?
  • When was the last time you asked your team for help in thinking through a difficult issue or making an important decision? It’s been a tough year and it’s likely that not all objectives have been achieved at this stage. Engage your team in thinking through how together you can overcome the challenges. Those who are closest to carrying out front line work often have the best ideas for improving work practices, eliminating waste and being more efficient. Include as many of your team members in the important debates as you can – if you show trust in others you will often find this trust returned in surprising ways.
  • When did you last offer your team members the chance to job swap with a colleague or learn more about what another department or team does? Seeing your job through the lens of a colleague who you provide a service to or receive services from can be just the tonic to refresh team members’ thoughts about what they do and how it could be improved, as well as reminding people why they carry out some tasks and how the quality of what they do impacts others.
  • Have all your team taken the holiday that they are entitled to? Whilst we all admire the dedicated, stacking up holiday for the end of the year and potentially carrying holiday forward into the next holiday year is not a sign of commitment – it’s a sign of poor planning. Even though covering for a colleague can be difficult, the refreshed returnee from holiday is far more productive than a jaded and over tired member of staff.
  • When was the last time you treated your team to something fun and relaxing? Give your employees something to do in their breaks; a pool table, massage chair, or create a little bit of excitement celebrating something of relevance to the team with cake, biscuits, ice cream or something healthier.
  • What training and staff development has taken place this year? More importantly, how does what actually happened compare with your original plan? This pre Christmas phase is an ideal time to push through staff development or training exercises, team build or bond and generally focus on improving your team’s capabilities.
  • When did you last remember to give someone specific feedback on something that they had done well or needed to improve on? Most people are happiest when they know how they are doing. Show your appreciation and be fair about any criticism. Communication is always key

So how many of the questions could you answer positively?

The more the better, obviously. But clearly the questions are designed to test whether you are doing all that you possibly can to help your teams be as motivated as they can be and beat the summer blues.

Now where did I put that electric blanket last Winter? I think I might be needing it soon…