As we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis and embark on the next normal, now is the ideal time to re-engage and re-fuel your team for success. Whether your teams are reconvening in person, continuing to work virtually, or are navigating a new hybrid work environment, making time to refocus on team relationships, purpose and collective goals is a wise investment.
From the C-suite to the customer service counter, a team’s capacity to function well is essential for organizational success. Unfortunately, the reality is that most people aren’t naturally skilled at teamwork and struggled with alignment around a common vision even before the pandemic. Research from Harvard reveals that despite abundant talent, teams often underperform and teamwork hasn’t been made easier as work conditions shifted dramatically for many teams over the last year.
When your team is underperforming, it’s impossible to realize the full potential of your business. Typical signs of a struggling team are lack of trust, disengagement, confusion about roles, unhappy customers, ineffective decision-making, unproductive conflict and burnout which results in significant opportunity costs.
McKinsey & Company research uncovers a significant deterrent to team effectiveness. While there is agreement that aligning around a common purpose is necessary for success, only 60 percent of organizations’ team members reported they were actually aligned resulting in misunderstandings, unnecessary divergence and stalled progress.
Frequently teams are formed to achieve a specific time-defined goal, then disband and reform with different team members, different priorities, and different leadership to accomplish an entirely new set of requirements. This constant ebb and flow of cross-functional project-based work is an ongoing challenge for leadership. Managing teams effectively requires establishing conditions for team success – and virtual teams need the basic conditions for success as much or more than face-to-face teams. Being equipped to navigate the natural tensions that arise between the various functional areas of the business and the competing priorities of individual team members is paramount for success.
Traditional management models and those framed inspirational quotes found in many conference rooms often illustrate teamwork as planes flying in perfect formation or rowers moving in exact coordination. Take note that team alignment is often overrated. If your team is agreeing on everything and going along to get along, the purpose of a team – to generate new ideas, to drive innovation, and to achieve new levels of productivity – is completely undermined.
There is no point in collaboration without tension, disagreement, or conflict. Teams need to be given permission – even encouraged – to respectfully challenge, disagree and engage in productive conflict for the purpose of improving the value of ideas, exposing risks and enhancing trust among team members.
Creating a strong and cohesive post pandemic team can be accomplished with these 8 guiding principles.
- Build a culture that is based on trust and embraces accountability
- Align your team around a clear, compelling future vision and a shared purpose
- Empower all members of the team by shifting power from the individual leader to the team and encourage shared leadership at all levels of the organization
- Encourage teams to establish group operating norms – or rules of engagement—that define how the team will best function in the new normal, how team members will best support each other, and what behavior is expected
- Design alliances and establish ground rules for how to engage in productive conflict whether working in person or virtually
- Consciously cultivate an environment of psychological safety where team members feel safe to take risks, admit mistakes, ask for support or offer an innovative idea
- Harness collective intelligence by providing forums for everyone’s voices and perspectives to be heard and acknowledged
- Establish clear performance goals, encourage mutual accountability and communicate impact
Whether you own a business, manage a group of employees or lead a team of outside contractors that support your enterprise, it is more important than ever to reengage your team and intentionally create an environment that will support the collective realization of your future vision and generate extraordinary results. Teams that are strong and cohesive swiftly solve problems, better serve customers’ needs, drive innovation, deliver competitive advantage and positively impact the bottom line.