Teams that are able to build trust and plan ahead can survive and thrive after the coronavirus crisis. Here are some strategies to follow.
In order to thrive in the COVID-19 world and beyond, leaders and their teams need to learn how to walk fast on thin ice. The complexity, flux and unknown being thrust upon teams today can either weigh a team down and stop them in their tracks, or can unite them and inspire them to travel lightly, nimbly, and quickly to the other side and emerge as an even stronger team.
Teams that will be ahead of the pack at the end of this crisis will be those that are fanatically focused on developing the cohesion and trust required to thrive now and into future.
Let’s start with building the cohesion required for teams to perform at their very best right now. And by teams, I am referring to departmental teams as well as cross-functional teams, committees and task forces. The same rules for success apply to any group of people who depend upon one another to achieve a common goal.
Cohesiveness requires agreement and commitment to where the team is going and how the team will get there. And by how, I mean commitment to, and understanding of, the key priorities, roles, values, and best-practices essential to achieving the goal. Here is a quick assessment to gauge the level of cohesiveness in your team right now:
- I can clearly articulate what success looks like for my team.
- If I were to ask my team members to define what success looks like, their answers would be aligned.
- My team and I know our team’s top three priorities for achieving success.
- Our roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, understood, and respected by all team members.
- We discuss, and align ourselves to, our team’s goals and priorities every day.
- We know the behaviors and practices most essential to our team’s effectiveness and consistently demonstrate them.
For any question you answered ‘no’ to above, that’s where your focus should be right now. Teams that achieve exceptional results with ease are teams that know exactly where they are going, and how they will get there. Cohesion is important for all teams now more than ever (especially as people are experiencing so much change, uncertainty, and overwhelming events). Unity and focus will ensure team members are not wasting time and energy on tasks, initiatives and issues that are not directly related to their common goal.
The place to start in building cohesion is ensuring your team members are fanatically focused on a common goal. Once your team is crystal clear on where they are going, it is easier to then confirm the key priorities, roles, best practices and values required to get there with as little struggle as possible. Consider holding a team reset meeting to build alignment and clarity.
While establishing what success looks like for your team is an essential first step, your team will struggle to get there if they don’t clarify expectations and identify the behaviors and practices most essential to their team’s effectiveness. The practices that served your team four weeks ago, are likely not the practices that are essential right now during this crisis. Clarifying what’s needed now by developing a set of team agreements is a powerful way to build cohesion, trust and engagement while getting clear on where the team needs to shift its behaviors right now to thrive. When used effectively, team agreements prevent conflict and disruptive behaviors that weigh a team down.
Trust is the foundation of a high performing team. Your team members won’t step onto thin ice unless they trust that you and their fellow team members care about them, trust them to do their job, and have their back. In fact, team members are 12 times more likely to be fully engaged if they trust their leader (Hayes, Chumney, Wright & Buckingham 2019).
Trust building must start with the leader. Your ability to demonstrate that you trust and care about your team, and each team member, will have a direct impact on the level of trust and engagement within your team. Focus your energy in the following areas in order to build the trust needed for your team to excel during COVID-19 and beyond.
Create Positive Energy
Does it feel good to be a part of your team right now, even given the overwhelm and stress team members are likely feeling? When your remote team signs on to a video or teleconference, is there a sense of positive energy and momentum? Or does it feel heavy and negative, or even stagnant? Energy is contagious, we exchange energy with every interaction we have, whether in person or now via video conference, text, email or phone. Positive energy fuels your team, they won’t be able to cross the finish line without it.
Be conscious of how you show up and whether you are fueling or depleting your team through your interactions with them. It is the seemingly little things that will impact the energy in your team right now. Do you:
- Show up in your meetings with a positive attitude that is genuine?
- Check in and interact with team members in a supportive way on a regular basis? Especially now when we are working remotely? A sincere “how are you today?” via text or email can be a good start.
- Treat each member of your team with equal respect?
- Recognize team members for their contributions and show that you value each of them and their unique strengths?
- Celebrate your team’s successes with them, no matter how small? Every achievement counts, especially now when teams are experiencing a lot of struggle.
Show You Care
A simple way to build trust is by having meaningful conversations that show you care about you team members. Now is the time to switch your regular status updates to a conversation that will allow you to truly understand your team members individual needs. Here are some questions to incorporate into your one-to-one meetings:
- What matters most to you right now?
- How are you finding working from home?
- What makes a good day for you right now?
- What makes you proud of our team right now?
- What does it look like when are we at our best?
- What do you think we should be doing differently?
- Is there anything you need from me?
- How can I help you?
Teamwork is more important today than ever before. A crisis like this pandemic can either break a team down and widen the cracks beneath their feet, or it can result in the emergence of true greatness. As a leader, being focused on building cohesion and trust will help make your team stronger.
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