STRUGGLE TO STAY CONNECTED AS A TEAM
Managers of remote teams are struggling. Most managers have had to learn how to work remotely and how to lead others new to working remotely, during one of the most challenging times in our history. I have tremendous respect for all managers and their commitment to building better teams under all circumstances.
One thing I keep hearing from team leaders is how much effort they are putting into overcoming lack of team cohesiveness. They are letting some employee actions and trends slide that they might not have if they were co-located. They are sensing a decline in their team’s cohesiveness and they not sure how to create better team connection.
In 2018 Google released the results of their Project Aristotle study to understand team effectiveness, where they determined that psychological safety was the number one component of an effective team. Co-location of teams did not rank as a factor of team effectiveness at all in this study – It was the question of how safe do individual team members feel to take risks that was determined to be the top indicator of team effectiveness.
IN THIS REVOLUTION, YOU ARE INCLUDED
So the true problem of lack of team cohesiveness is not due to being remote. Even fully co-located, we had already been leaving people out – You know who I’m talking about, the introvert so often mistaken to be standoffish when social gatherings or fast-paced meetings are just not where they shine, or the lone team member over 50, or the one who is religious, or sober, or of a different culture – the person who might opt out of certain types of events or just not be invited. How safe to take creative, problem-solving risks do you think they felt? And the rest of the team, how safe do you think they have felt seeing how easy it is for them to leave someone out and knowing it can happen to them, too?
But an amazing thing is happening! A revolution in how we work together has begun. Leaders are becoming interested in creating truly inclusive work environments. Managers are checking in with team members, not only about performance but about their mental and emotional state as well.
This trend toward including people as they are has been in the works prior to the pandemic, however suddenly seeing people in their home environments during Zoom meetings has energized the demand for more authentic connection.
TOOLS FOR LISTENING TO WHAT COUNTS
An important part of creating an environment where every individual feels safe to offer creative solutions is first listening to each individual. Here are two tools to help leaders keep track of and improve team morale and engagement:
KONA – A Slackbot app seeking beta testers as of this writing, Kona intends to help “remote managers track team morale and lead with empathy.” Team members log in each morning and select their appropriate mood indicator – green, yellow, red, which is then shared with the team.
Sike Insights, the company developing Kona, says that “sharing emotions makes emotional vulnerability and trust a default.” And that through these daily check-ins, team mates can help each other, develop bonds and foster trust that will make the team a more cohesive, functional unit.
GLINT – A performance management platform now owned by LinkedIn, Glint helps leaders and managers track engagement of employees. As Glint points out, “disengagement is not always visible” until it results in high employee turnover and lackluster performance. Their software measures engagement real-time and provides managers with dashboard views of individual and team-level morale and engagement.
An HR manager at a software company in Denver told me that their company has had excellent results using Glint. Particularly since 2020, when everyone went remote and team sizes decreased while workloads increased. This company’s Executives have kept close track of their Glint employee engagement dashboards (see image below) and make personal calls to individuals in need of a boost. Their resulting team cohesiveness may be even stronger now than it was before the pandemic.
MANAGING WHOLE PEOPLE
For myself, as a long-time corporate citizen and a slightly cynical Gen X-er, I’m not sure that I would feel comfortable answering mood tracking questions in a work setting. However, as a Coach and a lifelong devotee of self-development, I have experienced first-hand the unstoppable power of true emotional connection between team members. Yes, my trust has been violated by leaders over the years but I know we can do better and the benefits of doing so are tremendous!
Gathering data on our employee’s moods may have some scary implications, however there is a definite uptick in 2021 of this larger trend: Companies are seeing people as more than mere production units and resources. Managers are appreciating that employees are WHOLE PEOPLE.
Managing “whole people” requires a whole person as a manager. And just a gentle reminder here, technology is not required to be an excellent human! As a manager, having regular quick, informal, one-on-one discussions with each of your team members where you offer a sincere acknowledgement of something they’ve done well and demonstrate a willingness to listen to them, will go far to create the kind of team that consistently surpasses performance targets.
There is a revolution happening in work team dynamics. The revolution is to simply be better humans which means you already have everything you need to be a successful, excellent team manager!