Working with teams has always had its challenges, but working in a virtual environment has a new set of issues we may not have even considered. Taking a page from Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, here are some tips for dealing with your virtual team.
Trust – As with any team, the foundation is based on trust. Much like a house built on sand, without trust, you have a dysfunctional team that will soon crumble. Team members must trust each other. Now more than ever, vulnerability is the key. Team members need to feel safe to say ”I don’t know;” “help, you’re better at this than I am; “ and “I’m sorry.” In a crisis, leaders grasp for answers. Leaders, the way to build trust is when they come to you for answers like “when are we going back to normal,” “what is business going to look like when we return.” Just simply tell them, “I don’t know.”
This crisis has provided us more opportunities to be vulnerable. This is a time to lean in and be human. Share your concerns, share what’s going on in your families. Show people that you are human and by doing that you will inspire others to do the same. Spend time catching up with people asking how they are dealing with things, how their families are, how they are holding up at home with everyone home. This is the time to over-invest in your team. Spend more time hanging out with each other on Zoom. Talk about the business, or just brainstorm with each other. Open a Zoom room and invite people to come on just to have people available when your working.
When a team can trust each other, then they can overcome the fear of conflict.
Productive Conflict– One of the reasons it is so important to build trust with our team members is so that we can have a real debate over what is the best possible outcome when dealing with issues. Conflict is a necessary part of a truly productive team. Without trust, conflict does not work. During this time, people are going to be more hesitant to debate ideas. Understanding that everyone is in a difficult period, others are trying to be more mindful of what they say. Zoom makes conflict harder. So often our meetings take the form of a presentation – one person’s bubble is bigger – and because of that it’s harder to feel like you can interrupt. Because some people are uncomfortable being seen on Zoom calls, they turn their video off. When this happens, it’s hard to see how people are reacting. A big way to mine for conflict is to watch people’s body language and facial expressions. Make it mandatory that team members keep their video on.
The leader has to say, I want us debating. I know there is a crisis, but it is okay and necessary for us to push on each other. It is important that leaders mine for productive conflict. What we need most is the best answer and if teams are not engaging in productive conflict, you will never get to that best answer.
Commitment – There are going to be different ways of doing things in order to get people to commit, we must be willing to walk away from our old strategies. Take time at the end of your meeting to make sure there is no ambiguity. What did we decide at this meeting? What are we going to tell our people based on this meeting? You need to hear from your people – yes, I weighed in, we’ve had conflict and now I am committed and on the same page as my team members.
Accountability – If people are not committed to something. they are not going to hold people accountable and accountability is crucial for a successful team. Accountability is the willingness of team members to call their peers out on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team.
The usual source of dysfunction in this area is the unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior. This includes a more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations. Functional teams overcome these natural inclinations, opting instead to enter the danger zone with one another. Applying peer pressure is a good thing when it comes to workplace teams. It gives team members a sense of feeling trusted and respected, and members feel a responsibility to get things done right.
In saying this, it is important to remember during this time there is more room for grace. Instead of calling someone out on a group conference call, speak with them one-on-one.
Focus on Results – The ultimate goal of encouraging trust, conflict, commitment, & accountability is to achieve results. High performing teams are more likely to set aside their individual needs and agendas and focus on achieving collective results. They do not give in to the temptations to place their departments, career, aspirations, or ego-driven status ahead of the collective results that define the team’s success.
In this new environment, leaders need to readjust the team’s focus. Start by creating clarity over what is needed in the next few weeks/months. As long as this crisis continues, it is important to develop a new rally cry – clearly defining the team’s objectives moving forward. Give your people something to focus on. A true north that everyone is working on. This is an easy time for silos to build up. It is more important than ever for teams within an organization to cross collaborate.
Here’s a 60-minute exercise you can do online to make your team stronger. 1st, Listen to Patrick Lencioni’s TedTalk on the Ideal Team Play. (About 13 minutes) Spend 45 minutes talking about what was learned, which 3 areas of the ideal team player each person struggles with the most, and commit to giving each other advice and real-time on it. You can grow your team in 60 minutes.
Every organization is going to emerge from this pandemic stronger as an organization or weaker because of what they did or didn’t do. Building a more cohesive leadership team is one of the biggest opportunities we have during this time. When this is over, are you going to be better or are you going to worse? It is super critical to focus on this right now. People are paying more attention to what the leadership team is doing right now, and you have a window of opportunity to re-establish really good habits and do something even better.
Want your team to take the 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team assessment or want to take a personal assessment to see how you score as a team member? Contact me for more information!