Too often over the course of this year I’ve heard managers suggest that they can’t fairly be held accountable for measured levels of teamwork in their organizations because of the COVID pandemic. That sounds like an excuse to me. Of course we can, and we will. To be sure, we’re operating with a terrible headwind at the moment, but as Chinese scholars point out, crisis like this one come bearing both danger AND opportunity. Let’s be sure to focus on both ends of that continuum.
Teamwork arises from five things, and if anything, the pandemic gives us the advantage of having an even wider playing field:
- An abiding sense of shared Mission,
- An Environment built on the twin pillars of Trust and Caring,
- Leadership that inspires, enables, requires people to be/do their best,
- Processes that promote information flow and optimal decision making,
- Structures that allocate talent and other resource responsibly and equitably.
In a robust sense, “team building” goes beyond, way beyond the surface level socialization that occurs in picnics, parties, staff meetings, and more recently, virtual happy hours. In short, there is not an app for that. Let’s take one of those elements, trust, and dig in a little.
Trust is vital, and leaders are learning that it’s based far more on doing than saying. I dare say that the trust that occurs among the aerialists in a Cirque du Soleil show, US Navy Blue Angels, your workplace or mine gets built not so much over drinks, as over time, and over the wire in our particular arena, wherever that may be. Don’t tell me what you’re capable of doing, prove it. If I’m going to put my life or career in your hands, I need to know that’s a reasonable bet. Following are three things leaders should be doing, even in today’s distracted, dispersed workspace to build that trust:
- Be trustworthy. Do exactly what you say you’ll do, not just 1:1 with your teammates, but with everyone, even, no, especially when it’s difficult or unpleasant.
- Listen better. Showing people that you will respect them by listening, really listening to them builds trust. Fellas, we’ve got work to do on this one because the ladies are killing us on it. Yet, with a genuine desire to do better, we can move the needle pretty easily.
- Choose your friends and associates carefully, as, for better or worse, you will to an extent be co-branded.
I hope you’ll give these ideas a try. As with all of our advice, there’s no complexity to it. You just have to get started.