High performance teams in a distracted world
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.