Leading Teams Through Crisis
Now is a defining moment for leaders. Now is your ability to really commit to what good leaders do, commit to, demonstrate, and model. Now is the opportunity to show vulnerability, transparency and value. Now is your moment to step into your “Leadership Legacy” and define it, because this will be a time and moment in your career that everyone will always remember.
Now is YOUR time.
In the last two weeks, as teams and organizations have transferred to a WFH culture due to the COVID circumstances, we have all had to redefine our working cohorts and the ways in which we meet. While this looks and feels different for each person depending on our environment, one thing we do know is that people have been committed to “forming” in new ways. We have seen people “show up,” (even with kids/pets/etc in the background), commit to the team and being present, form new alliances, deliver work product, and reach out to connect, empathize, and support.
This, in many ways, replicates how a new team shows-up and starts to form. While maybe not excited, people have definitely been supportive, open and understanding. But how long will this last before we start to see WFH teams transition to the “storming” phase? And what will be the implications, costs, and red flags?
As individuals and teams start to find a new rhythm and cadence, and the rapid changes in cultural expectations begin to dissipate, we will start seeing teams move into the “storming” phase. Why? Because reality will set in.
Once people realize this is not a temporary change, and begin to wrap our minds around how long we can sustain this WFH environment with the many other hats we wear and challenges we face from isolation, we will begin to see team members dis-engage. This is natural and will look different for each person. However, some patterns we will start to notice is lack of online engagement/participation, more audio vs. video calls to limit facetime, heightened tempers, tiggers, and potentially a decrease in work productivity. We will also experience more conflict, communication challenges, and push back in team dynamics.
So, in order to be able to move through the “storming” phase, it is critical as leaders that we are ready for it, create the systems and operating principles to support the team through it, and commit to show up in a more vulnerable, authentic and supportive way.
Ask yourself: what has been working with WFH? What are best practices? What is not working, or where can we improve our effectiveness and efficiencies? Where can we pivot?
Create new team WFH operating principles that can support the team and create alignment. Limit to under 6 principles. Ideas include: 1. Meeting time/cadence 2. How people engage (video vs. audio) 3. Strategic vs functional meetings 4. “Lifeline” call to the team when someone needs a day of support/break.
Establish ways in which you are showing and expressing/demonstrating recognition and appreciation to your team and team members. What does this look like? Make it explicit. Make it real.
Once every team goes through the “storming phase,” we will get to the "Norming" phase and this pace and process will look different for each team as well. If we take the time to invest in redefining our team and operating principles, and create the systems to be prepared for the storming phase, we will set ourselves and our team up for success.
During this phase, the team will experience a transformation and heightened level of engagement and contribution. Teams will begin to experience a new “stride” and most importantly, start working more effectively together. In this time, we can reinforce the behaviors we want to see and coach/develop the team to the next level if we invite them to be our “partner” in the process.
Once we move to the “performing” stage, we will most likely be close to the next transition of what our working environment looks like-- perhaps back to the physical workspace, potentially with new realms and expectations of what that looks like, how we engage, and how we show-up. And once again, we will be forced to circle back to the beginning of the cycle to the “forming” stage. However, this time, because of the investment, coaching, commitment and team alignment, it can be fast, effective and efficient.