KEEPING TEAMS TOGETHER
We are all having to get accustomed to new ways of working and collaborating during the coronavirus pandemic. Gone, for the time being, is the need to travel to the office or a customer meeting, now we are all being asked to work remotely from home. Some businesses have been able to respond easily, whilst others have had to scramble to respond to the new world with teams separated for the first time.
In a recent article in the HBR (Managing your (newly) remote workers) they highlighted the challenges of a feeling of social isolation associated with working from home. For extroverts, who crave interaction, this may impact them quickly, but over a prolonged period all employees may feel less attachment to their team and the company. So just how do you continue that feeling of belonging, being part of a team?
Here at JA Consulting we have considerable experience of helping teams excel, particularly when they are working in different locations.
Here our professional services sector lead, Chris Smith, shares his top 5 tips on how you can help your teams remain positive in these challenging times.
- Have diarised regular team meetings, where everyone comes together. When working remotely it’s important to establish some sort of routine. It might be as simple as having a Monday morning call to check in and see how the weekend went and what the team has planned for the coming week; on a Friday perhaps have a call that has nothing to do with work. Be wary of having too many social calls as you may find that your team members de-prioritise them in favour of work-related calls. An alternative approach could be to schedule 5 minutes into all your calls for non-work-related stuff. Listen to your team and ask them what works for them, don’t dictate.
- Be flexible about allowing people to balance their working and home time. Work patterns have been completely disrupted and thrown up into the air, especially working families with children. It’s really important to acknowledge this and recognise our collective tolerance may well be stretched as we continue with these new ways of working, but the need for childcare will continue. Be flexible in allowing team members to do non-work activities during the working day.
- Recognise the different personality types that exist in your team. Margerison and McCann say there are eight different work types in any high performing team and they will have polar opposite reactions to changes in working practice. Regardless of the model you use, it’s critical to acknowledge there will be different personality types in your team and each will adapt differently to the new ways of working. In today’s world and to ensure your team stays motivated a ‘one size fits all’ approach to leading your team just will not work (John Moss explains more in Evolution in this New Era).
- Use the right technology. There is a plethora of technology available to enable remote working, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, Houseparty, FaceTime, and, I’m sure, more to come. It’s important to use the right tool for the right job, and it’s particularly important to make sure at least some of your engagements use video rather than just audio – studies have found that voice-only calls place greater ‘extraneous load’ on a participant, meaning it’s much harder work, and people on average pick up 4 times more information from video calls than they do from equivalent audio ones. If the need is to have a general update with the team, then Zoom might be the right tool, but if the call is more around collaboration, then Slack might be better and if it’s the end of the week social call it may be Houseparty. But for goodness sake don’t rely only on email, it’s a sure way to a demotivated team.
- Rules of engagement. I don’t think it really matters what the rules of engagement are that you settle on, it’s important that you have them and that you keep reviewing them and checking they’re working. Your team needs to understand what is expected of them and of each other. For example, what are the best times to contact each other for ad hoc calls? Is the rule to send someone a message first to check their availability before you call them on Teams? Do people want to have material shared with them in advance or are they happy to review it on the spot? And so on. One observation from me and I’m equally guilty, is that most online meetings have a duration of 30 minutes. If we think a meeting only needs 10 minutes don’t be afraid to put 10 minutes in the diary.
And a final thought – we are now working very differently; from our garden sheds, kitchen tables, bedrooms and for those lucky ones, home offices. It may last for some time. We need to recognise different team members will want different levels of engagement. To sustain this new way of working we have to work hard at making sure the people who work with us don’t end up feeling isolated but feel part of a team with a collective spirit and purpose so we come through it with our working relationships intact, and even strengthened.
About Chris Smith – Chris has considerable experience of leading complex projects involving multiple stakeholders and third parties across public and commercial sectors. He is passionate about sales and business development and has the good fortune to have worked for, and with many of, the world’s leading technology companies. Chris has over 30 years of experience of wining and delivering innovative technology solutions into a variety of different industry sectors, ranging from £100k to £20m+.
Our experience suggests you can still run teams that need to work together regularly, you can still hold large workshops and events, and you don’t need to stop business development and sales calls – you just have to change how you do them!
So, if you’ve got something coming up that you’re thinking about cancelling, don’t cancel it until you’ve spoken to us! We might be able to help you work a way around how to still run it and keep your team together, whilst also building your people’s skills on how to do these things for themselves going forward.
If you have any questions, our team can assist you as usual via phone or email.
Look out for more hints and tips coming soon.