In March I was adamant that the economic lockdown and the work-from-home situation would be over by May. Well, here we are in August still waiting on the conditions for a meaningful return-to-office. To be fair, some of my clients have started a staged movement in that direction, while many do not foresee returning to the office until the new year. A few have even declared they will never return-to-office the same way they were before the pandemic.
Regardless of the camp you are in, the employee wellness surveys we’ve conducted reveal a conflicted climate:
- Many are enjoying the work-from-home, and feel more productive.
- Most are missing the cultural connection and effectiveness of face-to-face collaboration.
Consequently, answering the question ‘how do I (re)engage my team?’ has taken on a greater imperative as we enter the 6th month of the pandemic effect. If you find yourself needing to take a more prescriptive approach to this question, I offer a model integrated from a combination of my personal experience and High-Performance Team thought leaders.
Basic Principles of Team Cohesion
The basic principle is that to achieve true cohesion each team member must take ownership to build a deep understanding of the others on the team. For a team to gain the benefits of speed and accuracy that come from cohesion, individuals on a team need to have a deep respect for each other’s values, not just those they hold in common but the unique ones as well. Additionally, they must demonstrate respect for how others wish to be approached and avoid triggering ‘hot-buttons’.
Perhaps the most critical requirement of team cohesion is to establish the trust that it is safe to be vulnerable. Without trust and safety, no team will achieve cohesion and the sustained high performance it can generate.
Unlocking the Real Power of Your Team Members
Once these behaviours are established, the team needs to move beyond the surface application of people’s functional and technical skills to leveraging intrinsic strengths, which reside at the intersection of their aptitudes and interests. At that depth, team members unlock the real power of what they can contribute towards the team’s mission.
Team-Based versus Directive Approach
To achieve these outcomes requires a team-based versus directive approach. I would suggest using a facilitator from outside the team to enable everyone including the leader to engage as equal participants. There are many tools that can be deployed to open and provoke the required disclosure. My preference is to use a combination of induction interviews, FIRO-B, StrengthFinder exercises and Values card sorts.
Recently, I conducted my first ‘live’ session since the pandemic began with an executive team wishing to improve their cohesion using the model. I, and they, were pleased with their level of engagement and willingness to embrace cohesion.
Based on this and other experiences, my final advice is to push beyond surface pleasantries and really get at people’s foundational beliefs about themselves, the team, and the individuals on it. This is where an outsider can really help advance the cohesion work unfettered by past team baggage.
If you find this approach compelling and wish to talk further, reach out to me at Lighthouse NINE Group.
Dave Campanella, CMC
Lighthouse NINE Group
One Eva Road, Suite 209 | Etobicoke, ON M9C 4Z5