Discovery Leadership Masterclass Series
….aligning performance for success, the case of working from home
The operating environment for today’s organizational teams feature multiple stakeholders with sometimes clashing agendas, high information load, dynamic situational contingencies and increased tempo of change. The emergence of Covid-19 and its impact on teams and organization in general has generated a new thinking and practice of work from home. The relative concern of this new norm obviously is the likelihood impact on the organization’s culture and performance. Prior to writing this article was the concern for how the individual can manage himself or herself to lead remotely and still impress on the organization good performance and results.
The part two of Team Leadership series drives the conversation to how the collective drive of the individual team members and the management of their efforts by their leader could inure to effective performance. In this submission, I will add that, the imminent BBC HR Director, Irene Asare almost read my mind when she wrote on her LinkedIn page seeking the views about the impact of work from home on the culture of an organization. In my response to her, I admitted that it’s possible to work from home and still have strong organizational culture not impaired in this era of improved technology and systems to track performance, inputs and efforts. Besides, the culture of any organization is supposed to be communicating values, principles and guides which must have an imprint in the hearts and minds of the people. Again, if the culture is in the people then they can work from anywhere and still demonstrate attitudes of progressiveness, remaining focused on results and effective in performance.
I had to mention that, the post Covid-19 work related environment has evolved a new thinking to relax the mundanely routine episode of “sit and work” in an office confinement for hours. Meanwhile, this new hybrid culture of work from home possess its own challenges that could temper with the values and principles of the organization if systems and measures are not put in place to ensure and track promptness, feedback of responses so to deal with the red flags that may pose a challenge. Interestingly, a lot more coordination and emphasis on collaborativeness is highly demanded to ensure alignment of the teams performances. Once these inputs are in place, the organization’s objectives and the maintenance of its cultural values as enshrined in the hearts and minds of the people cannot affect the way of work.
This article, sets the tone to deal with the critical variables that would address effective team leadership in this post Covid-19 work from home culture. Let’s talk aligning performance for success, the case of working from home.
The Post Covid-19 work environment
To begin with, I will hint that advances in communication technology have made the use of virtual teams more practical and prominent in the post-covid-19 era. This occurrence heightens the need for member coordination and alignment. Further, because of the greater rate of change in today’s environment, team members need to operate more adaptively when coordinating their actions. The post covid-19 shift in how individuals and teams do intellectual work has necessitated that routine task involving transactions and coordination are done purely virtually, while work requiring true team collaboration(collective learning, innovation, building a shared culture) is best done face to face. It is envisioned that the post-pandemic future of teamwork will be purposeful hybrid combination and in-person collaboration.
Hence, the key to effective team performance and the maintenance of strong cultural values in this era is the ability of the leader to build and manage the team for optimum results through effective coordination, emotional intelligence play and the heavy deployment and usage of technology. Moreover, to ensure that there’s strict compliance of values, principles and guides is to engage and or invest in continuous training of the people.
The Team formation and build up
It is basic to understand that, when two or more people are contracted psychologically to achieve a common goal that’s a Team. But it takes great leadership to build great teams. Therefore, leaders who are not afraid to course correct, make the difficult decisions and establish standards of performance that are constantly being met and improving at all times eventually produce great results and impacts. Most teams contain certain individuals who primarily are responsible for defining team goals and for developing and structuring the team to accomplish these missions. Often times, these individuals stand out as leaders of the team.
Meanwhile, whether in the workplace, professional sports or in the local community, team building requires a keen understanding of people, their strength and what gets them excited to work with others. Team building requires the management of egos and their constant demands for attention and recognition. Team building is both an art and science and the leader who can consistently build high performance teams is worth their weight in gold.
However, the need to build an effective team to champion the organization’s objectives stem from the desire of the individuals who form the team to remain and offer their commitment of support to the group. Ideally, why teams are formed and the benefit of remaining a team member vary from individual to individual. Besides, these fundamental reasons or advantages determine the expectations of the individual in the team and the leader must know and manage this function accordingly:
Stages of Team Development
Building teams require the know-how to build long lasting and assurance teams. This is why most managers never become leaders and why most leaders never reach the highest pinnacle of leadership success. It requires the ability to master the art of people and knowing how to maneuver hundreds of people at the right place and at the right time. It means knowing how to best utilize their competencies rightly at all times. It’s like playing a continuous chess match, knowing that every wrong move that is made can cost the team.
Meanwhile, in forming teams, individuals involved share responsibility and accountability for outcomes. Henry Ford had to put it this way…coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success. This process of forming and maintaining a bonded team does not happen overnight. Greater efforts of constant nurturing and mentoring must play. It is imperative to note that, at each stage of the team’s development, key leadership effort is required. Having said that, let’s deal with how the leader sets the team for success.
Setting the team for success
Great team leadership is characterized by collaborative efforts and the engineering acts of the leader to buy in all team members to the planning process and align team and individual expectations to outcome. It is equally important to plan the necessary timelines for meeting team objectives and adhere to planning schedules. All these cannot suffice without a concrete detailed agenda with a clear goal and assigned key roles to keep each member. Critically, every teams’ success underpins the following considerable:
Effective leadership in this new hybrid world requires different skills that go beyond traditional team leadership. Specifically, organizations will need leaders who can operate well across two distinct modes. For much of the time, they will operate in virtual coordination mode. This means establishing goals, monitoring progress, driving information sharing and sustaining connections among colleagues working remotely. The team’s collective efforts must align irrespective of where they operate from.
Act and lead by example
Again, it must be established that, effective team performance is derived from several fundamental characteristics. First, team members need to successfully integrate their role where the performance of each role contributes to collective success. This means that, the causes of team failure may reside not only in a member inability but also in their collective failure to coordinate and synchronize their individual contributions. Hence, acting and perfecting team processes become critical determinant of team performance and the mediation and influence of most other variables.
Motivate and Improve
Much so, there must be deliberate and conscious steps to improve the effectiveness of the team through a constant share of knowledge about the goals and objectives and the strategies for execution. Great teams also allow for flexibility in decision making and ensure they adapt to the changing exigencies of time. Nonetheless, working with a team or a group can sometimes be counterproductive and sometimes gets frustrating working within nonaligned teams and groups. Hence, a continuous flow of information and engagement, the demonstration of emotional intelligence as a leader could help improve commitments and collaboration. With proactive feedback comes acknowledgement and reward. People love recognition but are most appreciative of respect. Take the time to give your team the proper accolades they have earned and deserve and they would be ready to commit and support the course irrespective of where they work from.
How well the leader relates with team members is critically fundamental for the team’s bonding. As the leader of the team, he or she must vary his or her leadership style and techniques especially at this post-Covid-19 work culture and find out whether they are effective to bring about the desired change. How well the team embraces the leader and the management of efforts provide impetus for change in behavior and attitudes. Evaluating the moment as against the previous way of work and making adjustments is critical for enhanced commitment of purpose.
Alignment for success requires that team leaders apply interpersonal communication techniques and strong emotional intelligence competencies to the conversations to solve problems and keep their organization and team on the path of excellence. By changing our attitudes and approach to dealing with others and basing that on a program of self- care and being leaders to ourselves, there could be collaboration with other colleagues to create powerful solutions. Besides it takes effective communication to resolve all team related conflicts.
Teams that focus on making things happen no matter the challenges, distances or road blocks turn out to be effective. This means that, the leader digs through probable actionable plans and figure out how to obtain them. The leader stays resolute and focused, rally the team with him or her to meet deadlines and deliver value to the organization. The understanding here is, driving results require collaborative team efforts in knowing what is expected of them and driving same to deliver on their commitments.
It is regularly heard that members in teams struggle because it is difficult to work across functions and boundaries. Structural barriers can easily be remedied through the installation and application of systems (reporting and feedback structures) of communication and standards of performance to keep track and enhance the performance culture of the organization even at this work from home era.
The Platform for Team Alignment
At the platform of team alignment, the vision of the organization by which the team is set must clearly be shared and made known to the team. Besides, the objectives of the team must be relevant and consistent with the organizations vision. Having known the vision is to define the appropriate strategies relevant and consistent with the vision to carry the team’s mandate. The availability of vision and strategy must aligned in purpose and must be shared, articulated and understood by the team members.
Driving the team’s performance through strategy Mapping
A team strategy is a plan to achieve the goals of the team. Strategy mapping is a cornerstone of team aligned strategies. Done right, it produces clearly defined objectives with measurable results. It is a principle method of aligning, planning and communicating the overall business direction and strategy. The strategy map forces the team to think about how the various functions interact with and support each other. By strategy, information flow gets improved as well as help cascading smaller chunks of activities and connecting them. The strategy provides a good start to the strategic process. It assists in taking multiple sectors with multiple objectives and to develop a common purpose and direction. It can also provide framework to determine what initiatives are critical to facilitate strategic plan execution and what measures would be best to assess performance. Having said that, let’s consider the following as strategic guides that could improve the culture of the organization through effective team leadership and support:
Steps 1: What does the team want to achieve
The starting point of creating a team of influence and success is to set goals and objectives. These objectives otherwise the dream of the team must be communicated and understood by the members of the team. The dream must form part of their subconciousness and be imprinted in their hearts and minds to ensure commitment and clarity such that the team would not deviate from its core values and principles that guide its course for action.
Step 2: Priority of goals
The list of itemized objective of the team may be more than one. If that is the case, which one is done first? The team under this circumstances would have to identify the main goal, the one that automatically assist in the attainment of other goals once they are achieved. The issue for concern is when there are competing priorities the discipline to still prioritize and act on the lead measure and pursue what is essentially needed must be the guide.
Step 3: Communicating the goals
The objectives of the team must be communicated constantly by the team leader to members to stimulate and impress the goals into the subconciousness of its members. By this, go mapping template of scoreboards and cards can be drawn to give a pictorial information about the task ahead and the progress made.
Step 4: Identifying performance drivers
All thoughts are equal until emotion is added. Emotion gives a thought its impact and acts as fuel for motivation. We are motivated not by logic but emotion as such, the team leader must identify common reasons to drive the team into great performance. How would success mean to them, promotion and the rewards that may accompany the team’s success must be employed as a winning tactics to get every member of the team onboard.
Step 5: Defining the timelines
The team must work within timelines and deliver results that are time bound. It takes greater commitment, balance of courage and consideration to meet timelines. Therefore, appropriate key measuring standards must be deployed to curtail time wasting.
Step 6: Actions to meet Objectives
It is equally important to establish as a team the action plans in order to achieve the set goal. The actions that may assist to boost morale, impact good energy and the motivation to bring out the success should be outlined to serve as guiding principles.
Step 7: Building synergies and partnership for support
Any goal worth striving for will almost certainly require the collaborative support of others starting from the team. Team members must work in tandem of support of one another and the need for bringing in professional and skillful parties who may not necessarily be part of the core team to assist timely. Once the team decides of the people whose help it may need to advance the course of achievement, it does not matter whether virtually or face to face, it would still deliver great results.
To a greater or lesser degree, performance is managed in every business. The processes team leaders’ use to plan and set work targets and to measure and monitor employee’s effectiveness have been made easy through several tools available today. From annual appraisal to more frequent reviews and continuous coaching, there are many ways that members of teams can be assessed and managed with the aim of eliciting the optimum performance from them.
In conclusion therefore, it is noteworthy that team leadership essentially play a vital role in executing the vision for the organization and setting the tone for staff engagement. Again, that leadership is complex and challenging and that, effective team leadership is an outcome of great leadership management of teams both remotely and face to face.
Discovery….Thinking solutions, shaping visions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The writer is the CEO and Strategic Partner of AQUABEV Investment and Discovery Consulting Group. He is an Executive Director and the Lead Coach in Leadership Development and best Business Management practices for Discovery Leadership Masterclass..