It has always been a challenging task to maintain a team’s energy during difficult times, but maintain resilience during a pandemic? No one has written a script for that. As Gallup asked in its late 2021 report, “How can managers be expected to improve the engagement and well-being of your staff if they themselves are experiencing burnout?”
Through our coaching practice, we have collected data on the behavior and practices of 272 global companies. This dataset helped us codify three easy-to-execute, high-efficiency practices that teams can apply to reboot their thinking, ignite energy, and improve performance.
1) Resilient teams know that ‘collaboration’ does not equate to ‘meetings’.
We all know that meetings abound. An April 2021 survey of 1,000 full-time remote workers by the Doodle meeting scheduling tool found that 69% of respondents said their meetings had increased since the start of the pandemic, and 56% said scheduling overload was causing their problems. harmed work performance. It is estimated that up to $283 billion is lost every year through unproductive meetings.
But the problem is not an inevitable outgrowth of remote and hybrid work. The real problem is the misguided belief that all collaboration starts in meetings, especially synchronous meetings.
Resilient teams understand that effective collaboration can start asynchronously. Our data shows that asynchronous collaboration can reduce the number of meetings by up to 30%. We also found that asynchronous collaboration can lead to better decision-making because it gives people more time and space to think about their contributions — and it allows more people to contribute, compared to face-to-face meetings, where it’s easier for a few people to dominate a conversation.
Take Gil West, the former chief operating officer of Delta Air Lines, who transitioned to chief operating officer of General Motors autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise in early 2021. Gil told me that over the course of his career he used to get together to discuss issues. But he found the asynchronous collaboration at Cruise, where they use Google Docs to discuss issues, faster and more efficiently.
A powerful asynchronous practice is the decision board. You can use this method to start a new project or to stress test an ongoing project. Using an online tool, such as Google Docs or MURAL, ask team members to answer the following four questions on their own time:What problem are we trying to solve? Which bold solutions are we considering? Where will progress come to a halt? (Who or what within the organization might have problems with the possible bold solutions?) Who should be invited to this discussion? (Who could contribute to more innovation? Who will be integral to the execution? Who would we benefit from, even outside the organization?)
The team’s answers to these questions can then be disseminated more widely to encourage challenge and debate among employees and stakeholders.
A customer of ours, a major manufacturer, and her team created a decision board in less than an hour using a simple MURAL board. She said they couldn’t have had a fuller picture of their change management challenges if they had spent three hours talking to business leaders.
This collaborative approach is more inclusive than any face-to-face meeting could ever be. It gives introverts or anyone who prefers time to think the opportunity to do just that. More insights, ideas and constructive comments will no doubt come from a week of three or four dozen people who were deeply involved in reading each other’s ideas and contributing their own thoughts than from the handful of people who gathered in the course of an Assembly of 50 minutes.
Teams are often surprised by the level of candor found in the decision-making process compared to a synchronous meeting format. “The process provided open honesty that we don’t normally see, and for everyone’s voice to be heard,” said a team member from a client company that had recently prepared a decision-making board. “Many of the reactions we saw were unexpected. Some of those people I know might not have shared those ideas if they had to talk openly and on the spot in a meeting.”
Meeting after meeting and not feeling heard is a surefire attack on resilience. What most people consider the number one cause of fatigue is often overlooked: how our way of working can be one of the biggest contributors to mental stress and emotional exhaustion.
2) Resilient teams build caring, supportive relationships with each other.
Productive relationships thrive on top of strong connection and caring, the foundation of much of Keith’s writing and research. Candor, transparency, and risk-taking are all hallmarks of strong relationships. You can’t work at your team’s maximum potential if you don’t know what’s keeping each other busy.
A simple exercise that helps build caring, trusting, and supportive relationships is the Personal Professional Check-In (PPC). Whether you’re starting a meeting or just talking on the phone with someone you haven’t spoken to in a few days, make sure to do a quick PPC at the start of the call. Ask these two questions:What do you personally struggle with? What do you run into professionally?
Roshan Navagamuwa, chief information officer at CVS Health, used these check-ins with his team at a time of great pressure, along with a new CEO against the backdrop of the CVS-Aetna merger. The exercises “opened up a level of shared commitment” to the team’s new mission, he said.
3) Resilient teams feel a collective responsibility to increase each other’s energy and well-being.
What we’ve seen emerge in the best teams, especially during the past crisis, is collective resilience becoming a team responsibility. The social contract shifts from “I know everyone has enough on their shoulders, I don’t want to bother them with my stress”, to “It is our responsibility to support each other in difficult times by celebrating and cheering each other up.”
This is a rare feature of team behavior. Our data shows that only 14% of team members feel they have a collective responsibility to improve each other’s energy and mental well-being. In most teams, resilience is seen as an individual responsibility.
A good exercise to encourage this mindset is the Energy Check-In, which gives team members the time and space to really show how they are doing and what is happening in their lives. At the beginning of a meeting, say every other week but no more or less than once a month, the team leader tells everyone, “Hey, we’re just going to do an energy check. Where is your energy level? Put a number from zero to five in the chat. Zero means ‘I’m in the dirt’ and a five means ‘I’m sipping rainbows with unicorns.’”
If a team member indicates that their energy is at two or lower, the team should ask if they are okay. In a session I coached, an employee told an energy check-in that their husband had recently been told they needed a kidney transplant. After this disclosure, the team was able to provide emotional support and even assist in de-burdening activities to ease their colleague’s burden.
Anja Hamilton, chief people officer of enterprise cloud computing company Nutanix, said her team used energy check-ins at the start of the team’s first strategic planning meeting. “As everyone shared what was costing their energy, we felt the virtual space lighten up — probably as a result of people being relieved to be able to share with the team what was going on with them,” she said. “The energy check-in was a powerful reminder for us that we are all human first, which is easily overlooked in our virtual world. It affected our interactions for the rest of our strategic planning meeting and beyond. We now have the context needed to collaborate effectively.”
“It was great to experience how a quick energy check-in (performed virtually) could set a tone of confidence within the team,” added Deep Mahajan, senior director and head of People Development and Culture at Nutanix. “We were able to identify similarities and appreciate our different experiences.”
Our research, explored in depth in our new book Competing in the New World of Work, has shown that the way we work as a team contributes more to resilience than external stressors. In resilient teams, individuals feel responsible for encouraging each other. This is in stark contrast to teams challenged by frustrating ways of working and broken relationships. As we enter the third year of pandemic uncertainty, applying these three simple practices will help managers build more resilient – and newer – teams.
This post 3 practices that distinguish resilient teams was original published at “https://hbr.org/2022/03/3-practices-that-set-resilient-teams-apart”