How understaffed leaders can get the most out of their overstretched teams

It’s a central part of far too many organizations. Bickering. The lack of healthy communication. Folks sitting quietly at their desks, hoping to stay under the radar and not be burdened with more work, let alone someone else’s work. People prioritizing their wants and needs over those of the team, or those of their own team over the organization as a whole.

Territorialism. Silos.

Silo mentalities and the turf wars that they enable devastate organizations by wasting resources, killing productivity, and threatening goal achievement.

Undermanned teams in particular are a recipe for divisiveness. As demands increase, individuals start to think in terms of self-preservation and protecting their turf. Of course, this is the exact time when team members ought to be pulling together and complementing one another. Those who do can more than make up for shortages in manpower and individual expertise.

Today’s challenges stem from the rapid rate of workplace change, as well as what is often referred to as the “Unholy Trinity”: increased demands, heightened expectations, and decreased resources. Do more, at higher quality, and at a lower cost (often with fewer people and resources). To combat these challenges, there needs to be lots of learning and deep connections, a continued flow of thoughts and ideas throughout organizations that bring people together to grapple with issues, identify solutions, and build trust and efficacy.

It’s the leader’s job to construct powerful, cohesive teams that support and rally around one another and complement each other’s skills sets.

So, how can you know whether your team needs a “pull together”?

  1. One simple way is to ask them. Survey questions can give you some great feedback about team cohesiveness and collaboration. At meetings, ask folks for ways to bring the team together even more. Engage a consultant to lead safe conversations and probe deeper. Once you have uncovered the issues, seek to identify what key components motivate each employee. Incentivization will work for the short haul, but tapping into team members’ intrinsic motivation is a more sustainable way forward and will do more to heighten a spirit of cooperation. Motivation encompasses a wide variety of tactics including common interests, individual investment in growth, shared voice, and positive words of encouragement.
  2. Another way to build a more cohesive team is to schedule team-building activities. When done thoughtfully and properly, these activities are a great way of improving communication, morale, motivation, and productivity. They help employees get to know each other better and learn more about each one’s strengths and interests.

Keep in mind that bringing teams together involves more than getting folks to work with each other. It also means fitting your pieces together in a way that covers all the bases while making sure that you aren’t fitting square pegs into round holes.

To do this, use a skills gap analysis.

A skills gap is the difference between skills that employers want or need, and those that their team members currently offer. Conducting a skills gap analysis helps you identify the skills your people possess as well as those that they will need to master to meet your business goals. From there, you can begin to determine the answers to such questions as:

  • Are my people best positioned to help us succeed?
  • What training programs will best address our current shortfall and get our people up to speed?


Once you have greater clarity about the skills needed to move forward, get with your people to develop a plan that will maximize their talents and supplement their learning where needed.


Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach and President of Impactful Coaching and Consulting. He can be reached at 212.470.6139 or at Order his new leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss”, on Amazon or at


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)