This is what I’m hearing right now from my network, colleagues and clients…..
“We’ve got our teams set up at home. We’ve got the technology working …well mostly. It’s been a really big effort from a lot of people and we’ve got there.And that’s all great, but now I’m just not sure what my team is doing. I don’t know when they’re working, not completely. And yes, we’re in touch every day but it’s not the same as being in the same office. And yes, we are being conscious about our communication, but it’s different. And while I know everyone has a really great intent, I’m just not completely sure what they’re focused on and I’m not completely sure how effectively they’re working because it’s just different. The working at home environment is different, there are interruptions and distractions and people are still getting used to their new tools. I feel like there’s a danger that our team could become disconnected and not necessarily doing the right things at the right time.”
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Michael Jordan
Now, I don’t know if this is true for your team, but I’ve heard it frequently enough in the last week that I wanted to give you some practical ideas you can put into practice today.
The first thing is getting the foundations in place. Making sure that you’ve got the right protocols, the right priorities, and to focus on people so that your team is set up to continue to be connected, collaborating and delivering.
What I’m observing now is that there’s a preliminary level of effort that’s going into these foundations but not enough follow through to ensure sustainability. After what has been a herculean effort in many cases, people are sighing in relief that they have managed to completely reengineer their business to work from home…and now their work is done.
The upshot of this is that some people within teams are focused on the right things and some people are not. Some people have figured out how to really get things done in their working hours and some haven’t. Some people are being disciplined about their working hours, and some working hours have drifted. People are working at different times each day and haven’t developed a routine that supports them to be effective. And teams are in danger of moving apart from each other rather than continuing to work collaboratively, supportively and effectively together.
“Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them toward a certain goal.” Walt Disney
There are two dimensions in play. The first is being focused on the right things as opposed to being focused on the wrong things, or not focused on the right things. And the second dimension is the level of intensity and application of activity that’s happening during work periods. This creates four potential outcomes.
- People in your team may end up in procrastination as they are slow to make progress on the right things.
- You can end up with alienation where people are working at low intensity and they’re not focused on the right things, so they’re alienated from the rest of the team and the team purpose.
- Members of your team could be working really intensively but not on the right things, and that create a state of pandemonium.
- And in the fourth quadrant, we have people who are focused on the right things and working with intensity, which creates momentum for your team. And right now, that’s what you need, people focused on the right things and working with intensity during their working periods.
So, how do you achieve that?
Well, it goes back to a couple of things.
- One is your protocols. What protocols have you set around expectations of working hours? For example, when are people working, when are they not working, how do they let each other know about that?
- You need to make sure that your priorities are not only correct for your team and the business, but that they are shared and agreed, to ensure that everybody is working towards the same priorities. And these priorities are based on the purpose of your team. What your team is here to do right now.
- And the third thing, is ensuring all of your people are aware of these two things and the role that they need to play in supporting the priorities and working in congruence with the protocols for the team. You should be having conversations about these things to make sure that it works and is supportable for your team members.
Once these 3 Ps are established you can begin to work towards your momentum quadrant.
As the leader, you need to create the routines and patterns to develop this momentum in your team. You need to set the cadence for your team, much like a coxswain does for their rowing crew. A good coxswain sets the cadence to create forward momentum, which creates optimum progress and performance from the crew.
Not sure how to create a cadence?
Here’s one technique that may help. Use a pomodoro approach for some of your team’s activity. Now, I’m not saying that you would use this all the time, but when you’ve got periods where you really want your team to become connected, to work together, and to feel like they are working together, then you could use a Pomodoro approach.
If you’re not familiar with the Pomodoro technique, it’s a way of getting fast focused activity in bursts or sprints of time. It’s one way to create a routine for your team to use.
For example, you might set up your team to do 45 or 50 minutes of work and then have a 10 or 15 minute break. And then you do another Pomodoro sprint of 45 or 50 minutes, and then have a 10 minute break. Every couple of Pomodoro sprints you have a longer break.
It’s a good way of getting people focusing. In our new virtually connected workplace you could have a timer on a shared screen that everyone can see, or each person could have their own timer or they could use an app. You could get everyone on a Zoom for a team activity, where you all need to make progress fast, and just have that timer on the screen so everyone knows that we’re in the middle of a sprint of work right now.
And then you can have a break and have a bit of a chat or grab a coffee ‘together’. This creates opportunities to keep your team in sync, in rhythm together.
You could even potentially gamify if that’s something that would work for your team. Use check ins to measure how much progress was made in a sprint. Make it a little bit of a friendly competition so that people are working together, they’re collaborating, they’re striving and they’re caught up in the energy of making progress and having achievement and accomplishment together.
Using pomodoro is just one way of creating focused, intense activity on the right things for the team as a whole. It creates team energy, which when you’re working at distance can be missing. To overcome the lack of personal proximity, create some other opportunities to develop the energy that will support the team, create momentum and carry them through.
I would love to know your thoughts.