When COVID-19 began and people started working from home, teams are more dispersed now than ever. Many team members are feeling the pinch of being isolated while the demands of work has not slowed. Communication is at a premium and while Zoom sessions and Slack channels, can help, if the team doesn’t have a powerful WHY to hold them together, the culture of your team is at risk.
Before COVID-19, teams were already feeling the impact of operating in a digital economy. First off, more people are operating in collaborative environments than ever before. Teams are more diverse, operating in more diverse environments, across the globe. There are also more joint initiatives with internal teams as well as working in teams with people from other organizations.
Most often teams are thrown together with a “get it done” mandate. More often than not, the it doesn’t come with an instruction manual and clear expectations. Which means there is even more confusion, potential wasted time, effort, energy and financial resources.
Fact is, teams have a lower chance of success when there is a lack of trust, purpose, vision, clarity, goals, commitment and community. Each person has a potentially different style, values, approaches and points of view that could be a powder keg of conflict and a lack of execution. Teams have a high chance of success when they have trust, purpose, vision, clarity, goals, commitment, and community. The absence of these elements can cause a team to fail to come together or stick together.
When you either launch a team or take on the leadership of an existing team, there are certain must-have elements that serve as the glue that holds people together. It takes work to build community and as a team leader, it’s your responsibility to create that stickiness—to create that community. To do so you need to create the common ground of shared purpose as well as an “Impact Guide” of how you work together and interact. You need to agree on and declare the ways in which the team will operate. Without that clarity, people may or may not speak up, and may or may not be able to engage with and resolve conflict when it arises. Good communication is a key to creating and maintaining a great team. Meaning not only what you say, but also how you say it, as well as nonverbal communication.
For teams to be successful they actually need to be designed that way, as in create the opportunity to get together with your team(s) and talk about the following:
- Team Commitment
Saying that you are all part of Marketing or Finance or Human Resources or Sales, or
“Our Company,” isn’t enough. Physical or organizational proximity does not necessarily create a cohesive team legacy. The context of why the group is together, what you are creating and how you are creating it is critical. You might call this a “Team Commitment”—as in, what the team is committing to creating and doing to live the organizational vision.
The questions to answer are:
- Why are we here together as a team?
- What are we working together to achieve?
It would be something bigger than any individual, something that can only be accomplished by a united team. This Team Commitment is the “glue” that holds a team together and is designed to be the “how” for you are together achieving the broader organizational vision. A Team Commitment statement is aspirational and future focused.
- Impact Guide
The group needs to decide how they will operate together to achieve their commitment, practically. Topics may include how the team will handle: decision-making, collaboration, communication, team advocacy, empowerment and autonomy.
Specific examples within those categories might include: timeliness, meeting protocol, decision-making ability, collaboration and creating visibility for each team member throughout the organization.
Have all these areas outlined, because invariably something is not going to flow the way it’s supposed to, and it will be less stressful if there’s a plan in place. And note that you can only have teams that operate in a strong way if you create a structure where team members are clear on the direction and expectations.
A team is only as strong as its commitment to the organization and each other. Begin creating your Team Commitment, an articulated narrative on what as a team they are committing to creating and doing to live out the organizational vision. Review any of the team’s priorities through the lens of your Team Commitment. What strategic steps are you now willing to make or refine as a result of your Commitment to each other?
Your Team Commitment serves as the foundation and articulation of the team culture. As the team leader, ensure the team is leading and operating through your Commitment. If there are breakdowns, address them immediately. Make sure to celebrate success too of how you are executing on your Team Commitment. A team is only as strong as their Commitment and the fulfillment of it.
Esther Weinberg is the Chief Leadership Development Officer and Founder of The Ready Zone. To dive deeper into the ideas and strategies offered in this article, complete our Needs Assessment and we’ll schedule time to connect.
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