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Tight teams in turbulent times

We use Patrick Lencioni's work on teams in our face-to-face workshops. The concepts from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team are relateable and always give people something to work on.

This week I joined thousands of consultants from around the world to hear Patrick and his Table Group colleagues share their ideas about working in the midst of global pandemic.

The webinar was an act of generosity: professionals giving away the insights gained from hundreds, if not thousands, of client contacts. In the spirit of generosity, I pass on my take on some of the insights about keeping teams tight in turbulent times.

Use physical distance to increase personal connection

You're probably having a crash-course in the personal lives of your people right now. And they are finding out about where and how their team mates live, and who with. You'll know by now who has vulnerable people in their bubble, who has a good internet connection, who gets great morning sun.

Good luck with an uninterrupted run of online meetings. Eventually a child, a pet, or a partner is going to come into shot or be overheard.

You could try and pretend it isn't so. Or you could go with it, and respond in creative and unexpected ways. How can your team share the pleasures and pressures of combining work and family life? How can your team use the technologies of work to support one another as people through this turbulence? Instead of thinking about how to separate children, pets, and partners from the team's work, think about you can integrate them. The personal connections you build will help you overcome the physical distance.

Be prepared to state the obvious

We're fans of Daniel Kahnemann's work on thinking and cognitive load. Human brains are wired to take the path of least resistance. Our reliance on 'auto-pilot' or system one thinking for day-to-day activities leaves system two thinking available for novel and complex situations (and also explains some of our unconscious bias).

But what happens when day-to-day activities are novel and complex? We're all grappling with novelty and complexity at the moment; it's increasing the cognitive load required to do the things we thought we could do with our eyes shut.

Stating the obvious is often overlooked as an option, and there's never been a better time to do it. Team members who have been wrenched from familiar surroundings and predictable routines are using lots of capacity to get to work right now - even without the daily commute.

Remind your team about the little things that normally seem obvious. Tell them you want to be reminded too. And accept those reminders with grace.

Focus meetings on specific topics

Online meetings are quickly becoming the new normal and allowing us to keep doing business. But just because you can meet from the comfort of team members' homes doesn't mean you should be meeting all day.

Patrick Lencioni warned against 'meeting stew'.

Yes, it's vital to keep the team connected. And to check in on that project. And to reallocate the BAU to cover leave. Would all those topics be covered in one meeting in the office?

Make sure every meeting has a focus, and that team members enter and leave meetings with a clear sense of purpose. They may also leave with the realisation that they are part of an increasingly tight team.

We'd love to hear about what you are doing to keep your teams together as you adapt to new ways of working. Comment here, or on our social media feeds so others can benefit from what you have learned. We're all in this together.


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