Maintaining a team’s energy during difficult times has always been a difficult task – but maintaining resilience in a pandemic? Nobody wrote a manual for it. 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 burnt out?”
Through our coaching practice, we collected data on the behaviors and practices of 272 global companies. This dataset helped us codify three simple-to-execute, high-return practices that teams can adopt to kick-start their mindset, generate energy, and increase performance.
1) Resilient teams know that “collaboration” is not synonymous with “meetings”.
We all know meetings are overcrowded. An April 2021 survey of 1,000 full-time remote workers by meeting scheduling tool Doodle found that 69% of respondents said their meetings had increased since the start of the pandemic, and 56 % said that the overload of working hours was detrimental to their professional performance. According to one estimate, up to $283 billion is lost each year due to unproductive meetings.
But the problem is not an inevitable consequence of remote and hybrid working. The real problem is the misguided belief that all collaboration starts with meetings, especially synchronous meetings.
Resilient teams understand that effective collaboration can start asynchronously. Our data reveals that asynchronous collaboration can reduce meetings by up to 30%. We’ve also found that asynchronous collaboration can lead to better decision-making because it gives more time and space to reflect on their contributions – and it allows more people to contribute, compared to face-to-face meetings. face, in which it is easier for a few people to dominate a conversation.
Take the example of Gil West, the former chief operating officer of Delta Air Lines, who became chief operating officer of the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of General Motors Cruise in early 2021. Gil told me that ‘during his career, he used to arrange a meeting to discuss issues. But he found asynchronous collaboration at Cruise, where they use Google Docs to discuss issues, to be faster and more efficient.
A powerful asynchronous practice is decision advice. You can use this method to start a new project or to test a project already in progress. Using an online tool, such as Google Docs or MURAL, ask team members to answer the following four questions in their free time:
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- What bold solutions are we considering?
- Where will progress be blocked? (Who or what in the organization may have trouble with possible bold solutions?)
- Who should be invited to this discussion? (Who could bring greater innovation? Who will be integral to the execution? Who would benefit from hearing, even outside the organization?)
The team’s answers to these questions can then be disseminated more widely to promote the challenge and the debate between employees and stakeholders.
One of our clients, a large manufacturer, prepared a decision chart with his team using a simple WALL chart in less than an hour. She said they couldn’t have painted a fuller picture of their change management challenges if they had met with the company’s presidents for three hours.
This collaborative approach is more inclusive than any in-person meeting could ever be. This gives introverts or anyone who prefers time to reflect the opportunity to do so. More thoughts, insights and constructive feedback will surely emerge from a week of three or four dozen people deeply engaged in reading each other’s ideas and contributing their own thoughts than from the handful of people who might have express during a 50-minute meeting.
Teams are often surprised by the level of candor found in the decision board process compared to a synchronous meeting format. “The process allowed for an open honesty that we don’t usually see, and for everyone’s voice to be heard,” said a team member at a client company who had recently prepared a decision board. “Most of the responses we saw were unexpected. Some of these people I know might not have shared these ideas if it required them to speak openly and on the spot in a meeting.
Sitting in meeting after meeting and not feeling heard is a surefire loss of resilience. What most people see as the main cause of fatigue is often overlooked: how the way we work can be one of the biggest contributors to mental stress and emotional exhaustion.
2) Resilient teams build caring and supportive relationships with each other.
Productive relationships thrive on top of strong connectedness and caring, the basis of much of Keith’s writing and research. Sincerity, transparency and risk taking are all hallmarks of strong relationships. You can’t unlock your team’s full potential if you don’t know what others are thinking.
A simple practice that helps build caring, trusting, and supportive relationships is the Personal Professional Check-In (PPC). Whether you’re starting a meeting or just having a phone call with someone you haven’t spoken to in a few days, be sure to do a quick PPC at the top of the conversation. Ask these two questions:
- What are you personally struggling with?
- What are you struggling with professionally?
Roshan Navagamuwa, chief information officer at CVS Health, used these check-ins with his team at a time when they were under great pressure working with a new CEO amid the merger between CVS and Aetna. The drills “opened up a level of shared commitment” to the team’s new mission, he said.
3) Resilient teams feel a collective responsibility to increase everyone’s energy and well-being.
What we have seen emerge in the best teams, especially during this latest crisis, is that collective resilience becomes a team responsibility. The social contract changes from “I know everyone has enough on their shoulders, I don’t want to bother them with my stress” to “It’s our responsibility to support each other in difficult times by celebrating and supporting each other. elevating each other.”
This is a rare characteristic of team behavior. Our data suggests that only 14% of team members feel they have a collective responsibility to increase everyone’s energy and mental well-being. In most teams, resilience is seen as an individual responsibility.
A high-yielding practice to encourage this mindset is the Energy Check-In, which gives team members the time and space to really reveal how they are and what’s going on in their lives. At the start of a meeting, say every two weeks but no more or less than once a month, the team leader says to everyone, “Hey, we’re just going to do an energy check. How is your energy level? Put a number from zero to five in the chat. Zero means “I’m in the mud” and five means “I’m sipping rainbows with unicorns”.
If a team member reports that their energy is at two or less, then the team should ask if they are okay. In a session I coached, an employee shared during an energy checkup that his spouse had recently learned that he needed a kidney transplant. As a result of this revelation, the team was able to offer emotional support and even help offload activities to ease the burden on their colleague.
Anja Hamilton, director of human resources at enterprise cloud computing company Nutanix, said her team used energy checks at the start of the team’s first strategic planning meeting. “As everyone shared what was draining their energy, we could feel the virtual room becoming lighter – probably because people were relieved to have been able to share with the team what was going on with them,” he said. she declared. “The energy recording was a powerful reminder that we are all human beings first, something that easily goes unnoticed in our virtual world. This influenced our interactions for the remainder of our strategic planning meeting and beyond. We now have the context to collaborate effectively.
“It was amazing how a quick energy check-up (done virtually) could set the tone for trust within the team,” added Deep Mahajan, Senior Director and Head of People and Culture Development at Nutanix. . “We could identify commonalities and appreciate our different experiences.”
Our research, which is explored in depth in our new book Being competitive in the new world of work, revealed that the way we perform teamwork contributes more to resilience than external stressors. In resilient teams, individuals feel responsible for energizing each other. This stands in stark contrast to teams that struggle with frustrating ways of working and fractured relationships. As we enter the third year of pandemic uncertainty, adopting these three simple practices will help managers build more resilient and re-energized teams.