The hardest time to take a breath and reflect may be when you’re in the middle of a really intense situation with crazy deadlines that you’re just trying to work your way through because you don’t have time to think because you know you just have to make it out the other side, one way or another! Does that sentence give you some idea of the pace?
This is exactly the best time to step outside of the situation and breathe.
Take the team out for an afternoon of doing something completely different — and bounce out anybody who starts to talk about work.
If the nature of the team dynamic is constant discussion and interaction, maybe a movie or concert is in order that will provide a shared experience that can be discussed and debated later, but is a bit of a verbal time-out. If the normal team dynamic is that everybody is off in a corner heads-down and only surfaces to get more coffee, look for an experience that is going to make everybody talk to each other — a collaborative scavenger hunt maybe.
After the event that changed up the group dynamic of the team for at least a few hours, this is a great time to introduce a moment of reflection and ask for the team to come up with ideas and suggestions for how to readjust their work for the future. The idea is that there has been a subtle shift that will enable the team to think about the intense situation from a refreshed point of view, and will result in unrestrained ideas and suggestions that might not have come to mind before.
Use the ideas that are generated to readjust your plans. The craziness described in the first sentece of this post deserves to be adjusted… your team needs to be able to function in a sane world. And, they’ll be so happy that they had a hand in making their life tenable.