Knowing and understanding your team is even more important and potentially more difficult that it was in 2019.  We’ve noticed a trend where team development seems to be falling to the wayside as leaders are focusing on putting out fires and dealing with the immediate concerns about productivity and meeting their goals, all while balancing a transition to a technology driven workplace.  And there are plenty of those concerns; our coaching sessions reveal that many senior leaders are putting in more hours than ever to fill in gaps that have resulted from a transition to work.  Team members are doing the same, finding that work takes longer than what they could accomplish in an office setting.

At the same time, team members are being faced with brand new challenges, and may be uncomfortable admitting what they do not understand or what they might be struggling with.  They may not be freely sharing their expertise simply due to the existing communication barriers, or because they do not under what they can, should, or need to share.  They may feel overwhelmed, both by their jobs and by the general isolation of their role.

You, as a leader, are striving to create connection with them, but playing up the benefit of a mutually supportive team will allow your team members to find support from multiple sources.  We recommend focusing on three components as you build your team: Personal Team Knowledge, Communication/Social Style, and Trust.

Creating space for personal team knowledge

Personal lives are creeping into the workplace more than ever.  I have met many children, spouses, and pets in a variety of contexts over the past few weeks.  It is critical toward a smooth understanding to give team members a chance to share—within their comfort—what is happening in their lives.  Some are looking for opportunities to talk about what is happening in their lives, while others are more reserved. Starting team meetings by allowing people to share updates about their lives, or even exploring their pasts, histories, or hobbies.  One easy activity is to have team members share a story about something in their home office or introduce a pet.  We have seen bubble gum blowing contests, remote games, background contests, and best “dad” joke as examples of ways to lighten up the interactions. Humor and personal connections are two of the best remedies for stress.

Communication/Social Style

Communication style always matters, but arguably more so when the barriers to communication are greater. Some tend to be more task-driven at the best of times, and for them, communication can fall to the wayside. Meanwhile, those who lean more heavily toward people may be struggling that they are not creating the connections that they crave.  Others tend to become more extreme in their asking or telling assertiveness styles.  Adopting or revisiting style assessments like Social Styles, MBTI or DISC can help your team recognize their own styles, as well as understand how they can adjust based on the styles of others.  We recommend spending time on change leadership and developing a refreshed set of team norms for the new normal. A team that knows itself grows itself.

Trust

Personal knowledge and communication/social styles both form the basis of building team trust.  Gone (at least temporarily) are the days of trust falls and ropes courses. Trust can take a “hit” just because the personal and professional changes that people are experiencing can make them less secure and more defensive.  A casual, how’s your project going, can be met with skepticism or concern making it important for leader’s to over communicate their intentions.  As a leader, lead your team through a discussion of trust—what it means, personally, to individuals, and what makes them trust and feel trusted.  Familiarize your team with the concepts of always sharing intentions, and leveraging a Trust Bank, where certain actions make deposits or withdrawals, brain storming what those might be for each individual.

The options for team building are many. The best leaders are taking time to expand and grow their teams during this time.  The possibilities for growth are greatest when the stakes are highest.

O.E. Strategies would be thrilled to help lead an assessment-based teambuilding session for your team!  Contact Mike Sliter (msliter@oestrategies.com) if you’d like to learn more.