Many organisations must create individual and team commitment on a much thinner platform than before. People meet physically less often. Digital meetings provide a very limited base for team interaction. There is little room for the hubbub of more than one person being active at a time, joshing and joking or sparking off each other’s ideas. Individuals can’t catch each other’s eye. The person speaking can’t read the emotion in the room. A digital meeting is dull. The basis for generating collective energy and commitment in a team is impoverished. How can organisations compensate?
This article suggests 4 solutions available to managers leading teams:
- Improve task-oriented processes and skills like goal setting, follow-up and problem solving
- Maximise bonding and trust-building when the team is together physically
- Push goals, tasks and work processes that depend on team interaction and co-operation
- Use the golden period of openness when managers change roles to create a united team
– 20-25% change roles each year so many managers can use this opportunity
These 4 areas should be addressed as part of building the leaders of tomorrow.
Do’ers are the leaders in tomorrow’s virtual world
A study published in June this year1 showed that people that help other team members with tasks, and help the team stay on track and focused on the goal, emerge as leader in virtual teams. This in contrast to in-person teams where people who are confident and extrovert, projecting themselves in a positive light, are anointed as leader by the team.
This makes intuitive sense. With little room to exercise charm and influence, content is king. Leaders who are goal-focused, productive, dependable and helpful are preferred.
Many organisations already focus heavily on goals, structure, processes and data. The shift to more virtual interaction means that those who are especially good in those areas will gravitate into leadership roles more often than before. It also means that HR should build competence development programmes and reach for HRtech solutions that support these areas.
Physical meetings must include bonding-time
The task focus in virtual interactions needs to be complemented by making the most of the limited time a team is together physically. Trust and a willingness to help each other must be built more actively than before.
Actively building trust is primarily a shift in mind set. We have to create room for the kind of social interaction that creates bonding.
Agendas for team meetings are often overfilled with task related items. The intention to create space for team development is squeezed. This is OK for virtual meetings but not for physical. It is less important what kind of trust building activity is employed than the fact that dedicated time is set aside.
Push team co-operation
Virtual working can be great for individual tasks. The massive number of interruptions endemic to modern worklife is reduced. Time can be managed better. It is easier to concentrate and experience flow.
The downside is that co-operation can suffer. It can be difficult to create team interaction in virtual meetings. The interdependence that is the bedrock of teamwork is challenged.
This challenge can be overcome by setting team goals, defining co-operation activities as a part of all plans, encouraging informal mutual helping and actively facilitating interaction in virtual meetings. None of this is difficult but it does require a change in mindset for many.
- Team goals can be difficult to set as team members often have different areas of responsibility that don’t overlap or do the same tasks side by side with little need for interaction. However, managing to set team goals, where all team members can contribute, is necessary for setting the stage for co-operation.
- With team goals in place, plans need to make clear the points of interdependence and co-operation. And if the team leader follows up effectively, asking about the amount and quality of co-operation, team members will co-operate more.
- Mutual helping flows from team goals and planned co-operation points. It also flows from building a culture based on learning and helping. This should also be an active part of what the team leader does to push team co-operation
- Facilitating interaction in virtual meetings is a question of habit. Emerging best practice in live digital competence development programmes shows us that the presentation of information should be done in 8 to 10 minute blocks, immediately followed by break-out discussions. This creates both more effective sharing of information and active participation and co-operation. Following a similar pattern in team meetings has the same positive effects.
Create a united team immediately
Managers stay in each role for about 4.5 years, shorter when younger but longer when older. This means that 20-25% change roles each year.
For all these teams getting new managers, the first 100 days in the new role is a golden opportunity for the team leader to create a united team. The team expects the new manager to be different to the last. Team members are curious and expect things to change. The team is open. The same is true of the new manager. They are in learning overdrive, developing new relationships all the time, anxious to prove themselves in the new role.
When both the team and team leader are eager to bond, magic can happen.
Alongside responding together to a crisis or external threat, the arrival of a new team leader is the point at which team development is easiest.
The best way to develop the team in these situations is to achieve things together. In the same way as managing a crisis together can be talked about for years, achieving results in under 100 days of the new team leader arriving sets the team on a positive course. The team leader ‘lands’ in the role. The team accepts their new leader and forms itself around him or her. The scene is set for strong team performance for the rest of the 4.5 years the team works together.
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Source: HRtechX & 100 Days