• Sara Broadhurst

Once upon a time, not that long ago, you were a part of a winning team that had a laugh together while achieving amazing things.

In the confusing time of lockdown, you can still be all that and more, through some simple, planned steps.

1. Plan your social connection - creating a bit of a structure on the how and when you will communicate as a group mitigates for the fact that you won't be wandering by each others' desks. You see it in sports teams and it's true in work teams too, the more chatter, the more feedback, the more encouragement, the more performance you see. A morning ten-minute heartbeat call, the 10.30 "tools down let's have a coffee" zoom meeting, the Friday end of week drinks. These are all useful ways of staying connected. We have to create the opportunity for small talk and knowing each other, as trust is the oil that greases high performing teams. Use the technology - breakout rooms in Zoom, donut in Slack - whatever tool your business has, it has great add-ons to enable connectedness. Anyone in your team can organise it, don't wait for your People Leader to do it. And on that topic...

2. Leaders step up - I've had a number of people tell me in the last couple of weeks that they haven't heard from their People Leader in lockdown. Not Once. We get it, you're busy, but how can you expect your team members to perform if you're not engaging with them? For people working remotely, being seen and being acknowledged are central to their ability to play a great game. (If you're a leader, check: have you talked to everyone individually in your team in the last three days? If not, stop reading this, pick up the phone and get on it.) In times of change, doubt and uncertainty, if there is a lack of communication and trust, people start speculating and making it up. And when people speculate, they tend to go to the worst case scenario and get distracted by personal concerns. The more you can step forward to connect and engage, the better your team is going to perform because they aren't distracted with worrying about personal interests and so can work on collective goals. And on collective goals...

3. Agree what you are chasing - high performing teams know their next destination, where they're headed and how to get there. Everyone is lined up and fired up. In these tricky times, likely you have yanked the plan and are focused on the tactical to get you through. Talk about that as a team. Don't assume everyone has the same understanding. Make sure everyone understands the team has got a new destination now, what that looks like and how to get there. Crucially, you will need to reset your timeframes - by Friday, by the end of April, by the end of the quarter. Things are moving so quickly, you would be pretty bold to make too many assumptions beyond that. More crucially, when we are under stress and feeling anxious, our brains start limiting our processing power, so by staying focused on short term goals, the team stays motivated, targeted and aligned to achieve great things together.

Think about this time as if we are in the last ten minutes of the first half of the match and the score is currently a draw. Lots of comms, active leadership and staying focused on those goals will get us to half-time as the superstar team we are.

  • Sara Broadhurst

Remember when we used to be allowed to bump elbows - ah, happy days!

So, we've all done lockdown for one week of the (hopefully) four weeks. What has struck you about this experience?

When I was talking to people outside of my bubble, I asked them what they have been discovering through this time. Common themes I heard were:

1) Play to your preferences. I've learnt if I don't talk to people outside of my bubble every day, I go a little cray cray. Yes, I'm an extrovert. One of the people I made talk to me is a strong introvert. She told me she's feeling so much more productive, energised and creative by not having to go in to work every day and by being able to limit her interactions with others.

2) Be kind to others. My call with my introvert colleague was a short call, I didn't want to bring a tiring energy into her bubble.

3) Being on video all day is exhausting. When you're sitting together in a meeting room (remember that?) you can pull into and out of the conversation, as appropriate. However, when you're sitting on a video looking into a wall of faces seemingly staring at you, it can feel much more intense and almost as if you are "presenting" even when you're not speaking. Remember, in reality, we are all looking at ourselves, wondering if we should have brushed our hair before this video call.

4) There are pleasures to be had. One of my clients, who has four children at home, told me that she is finding it frustrating, distracting and guilt-ridden to be trying to work from home. But she is also really enjoying that she and her children are all having breakfast together every morning, instead of frantically racing around trying to find sports gear and lunches in order to get out the door. "Breakfast with the kids" has started going on her gratitude list each day.

5) We have to actively organise ourselves. I've seen pictures of kanban boards, VMBs, online schedules for tasks and other tips and tricks we use to organise ourselves. A common theme seemed to be that we've felt a bit unclear about what we need to achieve and that by using these simple tools, it helps us know that we are achieving goals and driving our performance in a thoughtful way, rather than just reacting. And this helps to create a sense of satisfaction in our work.

6) We've been through this before. Or something similar at least. In New Zealand, schools were closed in 1947 and 1949 due to the outbreak of polio, in an effort to flatten the curve and limit the contagion. Children were kept at home and communities were fearful of getting ill. A number of people I spoke to mentioned that we have come through similar tough things before and we will come through this one too. It might look different from what it previously looked like, but different isn't necessarily a bad thing, right?

What have you discovered through this weird experience? Please do comment, they help extrovert-me feel energised (and it might help someone else to get through).

One last thing I've discovered, Jordan Watson speaks for all of us.

*Yes, I know this might go on for longer than four weeks. I can't control that and no one can give me factual evidence that's the case, so I'm not worrying about it.

  • Sara Broadhurst

We miss you desperately. We know many of you are doing it hard at the moment and we're thinking of you.

Hold fast, we'll be back for you and your fantastic skills as soon as we can.

Noho ora mai.