5 ways to re-engage your team ready for the new normal
The Maths would say 1+1 will always equal 2, but in L&D one of our most important roles has been to show Managers and Leaders that 1+1 can add up to 3 and even more if you spend the time needed to cultivate a strong team. Never has this been more important than in the current crisis. Some businesses we have worked with have seen a total lack of engagement from employees and are left wondering how their teams will be creative, agile and resilient enough to take the company into the ‘new future’. So, what’s driving this disengagement, how are teams working together and what can leaders and managers do to change it?
Dynamics of the team
The dynamics of the team have changed. Being collaborative and part of the team is vital both to individuals and the success of any business, particularly those going through change. It is our human need to be part of a tribe and to know our place within it. That certainty is key in high performing teams. We are better together to give us creativity of thought, support each other and a sense of belonging.
In our work over the last 10 months, we have seen 3 patterns of behaviour within teams which can undermine the tribal effectiveness.
- Isolation – the more we talk to people the more we realise how isolated some employees feel. One team we trained were newly recruited and had only been in the office 3 times since they started last September. They were nervous of the prospect of picking up the phone to ‘just’ build relationships. This can so quickly lead to a downward spiral of isolation and a disjointed team. Many employees who felt management communications had been highly visible and detailed at the start of the pandemic are now noting that zoom/teams calls have reduced or had limited substance to them. We are also seeing and hearing about more and more about decisions being made in isolation leading to employees feeling dictated to rather than working in collaboration with others.
- Competition – What we are also noticing is that as the future is uncertain, some people are going into competitive mode. With furlough coming to an end and the prospects of increased unemployment in 2021, some are keeping their heads down hoping to be overlooked whilst others are seeing each other as rivals. We have seen an increase in the blame culture within some teams, as well as a scarcity mentality leading to reduced collaboration and fighting over resources of all types. This is not helpful to the team or managers who will waste energy on trying to keep the team content, dealing with in fighting, poor decision making and lack of teamwork.
- Fragmentation – Without a clear sense of direction and teamworking from Leadership we are also seeing the formation of splinter herds and the fragmentation of organisational cultures. This can range from;
- Small splinter groups of rebels supporting each other’s perspectives and beliefs which creating a spiral of negativity leading to emotional resistance in times of change.
- Breakaway groups with similar values creating their own purpose and direction. In one organisation we work with this has led to a standoff between teams and even resignations as the single sense of purpose have been lost.
The world of work is unlikely to return to the old normal and many remote working practices will stick. This is great to attracting talent from across the world and giving flexibility for working parents/carers but this way of working will require a new type of leadership.
What can Leaders and Managers do to put it right?
Communicating Purpose – This is where it all starts. From the beginning of lockdown 1 the experts have been saying that the businesses that will survive and even thrive through this are the ones with a strong sense of purpose. Purpose gives a reason to get up in the morning, a sense of direction for the day and a feeling of satisfaction as we look back each day on what has been achieved.
Creating a Single Safe Environment – Every workplace is different but creating the right environment for your team is critical. Whether your teams are socially distanced together, working in a virtual world or furloughed, a sense of a cohesive workspace can help to build a single engaged team. From inclusive WhatsApp groups to pizza Fridays (we know one company that has them delivered to home workers no matter where they live) little things can make a big difference.
In addition, a safe environment is key to encourage innovation and creativity. People should feel safe to speak up, have open and honest discussions, express ideas, talk about mental health and feel they can freely give their views and opinions without any repercussion. Step away from the blame culture and encourage teams to take risks and be creative to allow businesses to evolve, diversify and thrive in these uncertain times.
Connecting Teams – The team need to feel connected as a whole rather than splinter groups. We have seen some innovative ideas from virtual crafting sessions for those furloughed, book clubs, learning a new skill session, just to keep the team together. Get them working on projects and initiatives together rather than in isolation and encourage them to be open and generous to others.
Communication (again) – there is no such thing as over communication. Keep the team knowing what’s on your mind, although we need a new level of leadership in the new world, don’t forget to also be authentic and vulnerable which will build trust. No one person has the answer and a good leader value input from the team.
Mindset Matters – It’s not just about what you do its also about how you think. We can change our environment, bring in new activities and turn up our communication to 11 but research has shown that what really makes a difference is mindset. Teams and their leaders need to be resilient, positive, creative, bold and motivated to work in this new way. We have created 6 thinking habits which will help you and your team maintain this way of being.
Re-engaging and building the team is not without challenge but is a necessity in developing and diversifying your business for the future.
For more information go to the I Have Got This! web site.