In a recent discussion with one of my colleagues, she compared the work she is doing with teams to rebooting her computer. Every once in a while, we realize that we have opened so many files, folders, web pages, and software programs in the course of our work and life that things just aren’t operating as smoothly and quickly as we might expect. To get things back in working order, we need to carve out some time to reboot- to close everything out and to start over. To go slow in order to go fast again.
[LISTEN TO THE FULL CONVERSATION WITH MY COLLEAGUE HERE]
When this happens, and it happens to all of us, you have a couple of options. First, you can ignore it and muddle through, hoping to avoid the dreaded “blue screen of death.” You can shut the computer down and walk away. Or, you can take a pause, reboot, and clear the decks of all of those things that are no longer serving you well.
Rebooting your team.
This counter-intuitive notion resonated with me quite deeply. As a business owner and the leader of multiple teams navigating through the disruptions of the last few months, I have the relentless voice in my head telling me to be decisive. To move, to execute, to push through. But what if this self-imposed reaction to all of the “chatter” in my life wasn’t something to try to simply push through but, rather, they were signals that it was time to reboot?
What if the fastest and most effective way to get to speed was to slow things down? What if we pressed pause as a team, assessed the current operating context, and worked together to realign in order to enable us to work faster in the long run?
What does a reboot take?
Realigning or rebooting a team takes time and effort and requires bringing people together to engage in sense-making and dialogue. This may mean a series of shorter, video-based, meetings over the course of several weeks, or months, that help your team reset for success in this next chapter.
When preparing to reboot your team there are few critical areas that you should consider in order to ensure that you can move forward with clarity and alignment.
RECLAIM YOUR PURPOSE:
In any change, it is important for teams to reassess their purpose to ensure that it is still relevant to their internal as well as the external circumstances. Gather your team and ‘meet the moment.’ Capture where you are and recalibrate your collective purpose as a team in response to the changes.
The shift of how work gets done between people on a team, such as a shift to remote work and virtual teaming, can trigger some uncertainty around whether or not people are getting the work done and holding themselves mutually accountable to results. Acknowledge these issues and engage the team in agreeing on ways to demonstrate transparency and accountability.
BRIDGE ACROSS GAPS:
In order to fulfill a team’s purpose, members need to have the right knowledge and skills to do so. Ask your team to reflect on their collective skills and knowledge, and to be creative with how they are leveraged. This is a great way to acknowledge and celebrate the many gifts the individuals on your team can bring to the table.
James Sasser, CEO and President of federal government contractor GovStrive describes some of the unique bridging and relationship-building challenges that his clients working through which are especially challenging during the current COVID pandemic- “We are working with large federal agencies that are faced with the need to onboard new hires remotely, and these employees not only need job-specific training, but also want to establish personal relationships with their supervisors and peers and desire to learn more about the agency mission, culture, and values, so they can be productive on day one.”
Team collaboration can feel very different in person than it would online. Without properly revisiting what virtual collaboration might look like for a team, members can feel more siloed, and efficiency can drop. Have your team look into various collaboration tools and techniques and bring their recommendations to your next meeting.
“Our clients have been forced to accelerate adoption of virtual technologies. Many of our clients have been pleasantly surprised by how well employees have embraced virtual collaboration through video platforms,” says Clyde Thompson, Senior Vice President at GovStrive. “We’ve worked with our clients to develop remote webinars and engagement platforms for new hires and have deployed personal messaging campaigns that develop and enhance the employee-supervisor relationship well before the new hire’s first day, so they feel like they’re part of the team at the onset of their new job,” adds GovStrive’s Director of Marketing and Change Management, Joe Abusamra.
RESOLVE UNPRODUCTIVE CONFLICT:
Even in real time, managing conflict can be a daunting task that people might feel is better avoided. In virtual work, the ability to identify let alone address conflict becomes even more difficult. Borrowing from the research on delivering feedback, conflict is best managed when it is timely. And although uncomfortable, conflict doesn’t have to be feared or negative.
PAVE A CLEAR PATH FORWARD:
There will always be obstacles that stand in the way of any successful change, whether there are planned or unplanned disruptions. Invite your team to reflect on what they have learned through their experience of this disruption/pandemic, and to share any potential roadblocks they envision encountering as the team continues to work together. Then have the team collaborate to design a plan to overcome them.
Michelle Boullion Ph.D., Director of Executive Education at Louisiana State University’s Ourso College of Business, suggests that leaders must, “Always be thinking like a futurist.” As many business leaders continue to struggle to effectively adapt to working remotely Dr. Boullion advises that leaders can pave a clear path forward by, “Getting out of the mindset that employees can’t be trained to work remotely.” Though it may be difficult to make this change in such a dramatic and all-encompassing way as a result of COVID, there are lessons that leaders can take from this experience. What is the next challenge your organization may face as things evolve around us? How can you prepare your teams to be ready to adapt quickly to whatever the future holds?
These tips make sense, but they can be a bit overwhelming to think about as you navigate the day-to-day requirements of your work environment. In order to organize and expedite the realignment process, it may be helpful to obtain the guidance of someone who can help organize the effort. Not only does this allow for you to manage all of the balls that are in the air at one time but it affords you with the opportunity to be an active participant in the process with your team as opposed to having to balance the roles of participant and facilitator. Your coach can be a respected peer or colleague, an HR business partner, or an external resource. Whatever path you choose, it is essential that you identify a coach who has the facilitation skills necessary to productively navigate some potentially challenging and emotionally charged discussions.
Regardless of what sector or industry you may be in, the events of the last few months have undoubtedly created some dynamic disruption to the way you get things done. Before diving headlong into the breach and relying on what worked in the past to get you through the current situation, it may be an opportune time to consider slowing things down, reevaluating the current operating environment, and realigning your team to move forward with clarity and purpose.