• Mark Topley

Three steps to successfully re-form your team after furlough

Updated: May 28, 2020

This blog is also a video. You can watch it here.

Have you got team members about to come back to work?  Some people coming off of furlough meeting up with people who haven't been on furlough? You’ve got some who can’t wait to get back and others who really don't want to be back at work. 

It's going to be a a challenge to re-form your team and get everyone galvanised and gelling together. 

In today’s post I'm going to talk about three steps towards getting your team back together and functioning well, and maybe even better than they were before the lockdown. 


When re-forming a team, the first thing is to give everyone to share their experiences of lockdown. Your team will have missed out on a large amount of the day to day connection they usually enjoy, and this connection time is important. It also provides a forum for people who have had a tougher time than others to be heard, and for you and the team to express appreciation for what people have done, or had to go through.


You have a significant opportunity to create real excitement and some genuine traction for your team if you can create a strong sense of mission from the get go. Now let's face it, most mission statements are rubbish. Any mission statement that I've ever seen has usually been painted on a wall but nobody can understand what it means, they’re long-winded and nobody remembers what it says, or it’s a dusty document tucked away in a drawer. But the work that I've been doing clients this week on their mission has reminded me of why mission statements are so important - if you get them right. 

The power comes from framing your mission statement with three elements:

  • A problem, challenge or conflict that you are trying to overcome, that affects the people you want to become your customers or your patients. 

  • A picture of the future that the achievement of your mission will result in

  • What's at stake if you fail (or succeed) in your mission 

I did a lot of work with my clients last week on this and it was so encouraging to hear them really click into gear as they considered the challenges that they were facing, the people they exist to serve, and who they want to be as a business. One Director said:

‘A great session - that’s perhaps the first time I have been close to authentically articulating what our real mission as a business is. It was powerful.’

The other thing that a clear and powerful mission statement is really good for is getting people to leave. 


Now I don't say that heartlessly but if you have people who are dragging their heels about coming back to work, who are causing all the problems in your team, then a mission statement can really, really help with that. Someone that I follow closely is the writer Donald Miller, head of Storybrand. He tells the story of a member of his team who wasn't quite performing, but wasn't doing so badly that he qualified for the performance management system. And they couldn't get this guy to work well and although it was clear that it wasn't working, it was also hard to move him on. Miller took his team through the above process (which he created, and they clarified their mission - the conflict they were involved in trying to solve, where they were trying to get to, and the stakes that were involved.  So powerful was this work that the very next week this guy decided to leave. It became very clear to him and to everybody else on the team exactly what the business existed for. And he made his own choice, his own decision to move on, realising that he didn’t fit. 

You might have people on your team who think they can just coast, who think they can just come along and do their job and that's okay. But when you make it clear, and when you draw a line in the sand, you make it impossible for people to just coast along. They have to either adapt to what you're expecting, or they will often choose to find somewhere else to work, somewhere that would suit them better. But unless you make it crystal clear to people what it means to work in your business, what you expect, and what you will tolerate, then some people will behave how you allow them to. 

You get what expect and what you tolerate. Make sure you are setting the expectations high, and the tolerance levels low. 

Bringing your teams out of furlough is a great opportunity for you to reimagine your business. I'd encourage you to get clear on the purpose, to inspire your people with a new mission statement, and to make your expectations and your boundaries really clear. If you can do those three things then you'll move forward positively together. Maybe a little lighter, but you'll be moving forward with the people on the bus that you want to grow your business in the future.

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