In what we’re calling the post-pandemic era, teams are functioning in whole new ways. A trickle of people are coming back to the office and some tell us they’re beginning to recreate the interactive culture they experienced before. Other organizations remain quite remote and don’t see teams as ever needing to be being co-located again. The sense of required shared space is fast fading from the work scene. Key team members are being hired without regard to their being located close to each other.
With the basic interaction being via videoconferencing, many see co-location as unnecessary and a thing of the past. Many organizations are working to create a hybrid model with required ratios of time in the office and time remote, and it could be a decade before anything like a “new normal” clearly emerges. For the short term, with gasoline at the pump topping 7 dollars a gallon in some parts of the US, few will be eager to hop into their vehicle and head to an office where it’s possible nobody will be there.
So in these times of team reorganization, as a team leader, the question is how effective is it and how happy are you and your team under these new conditions and dynamics?
Today more than ever, with teams that don’t interact face-to-face in the conference room, it’s all about metrics and morale.
It is easier now than ever to focus on process rather than outcome. Do members of your team have measurable objectives, individual, team, and organizational? Do you have a schedule to review your key objectives and key results? Does everyone know how the team is functioning, individually and as a whole?
So in the new environment where teams are not co-located, what are the challenges they’re facing?
- People are getting lost in teams. The CEO of a client organization observed to me a few years ago, “A person can get hired here and in a year they’ll spend every waking hour working on a project that they’re not quite sure what the point project is.” Teams can mask both collective and individual lack of achievement and provide a comfortable place to hide.
- Teams all too often average out brilliance. Brilliant leadership, which is critical to organizational breakthroughs, is often too time-consuming for teams interacting on a Zoom call. Those who have the greatest political ability to keep everyone on board are all too often not the most innovative. Collective team intelligence typically goes to the middle. The wisdom of the crowd is good at solid decisions, but rarely, if ever, brilliant ones.
- Team leaders choose harmony and lack of friction over tough results. Team leaders, if they are really brilliant and want to keep their jobs, may decide that they are most successful if they act as group coordinators, rather than true leaders, being unwilling to make some of the tough and critical calls. Keeping team members harmonious becomes more important than achieving outcomes.
- Teams are hugely expensive, and sometimes dangerously unnecessarily. Many of the massive layoffs that are taking place in corporate America are of teams that did not fulfill a function, and management discovered that the same functions could be achieved with better technology and a few people running it. There was no need for a team.
- Organizations put short term goals over effective teams. Especially with organizations working remotely, teams require recruiting, building, training them in their roles, giving them a great playbook, spending time coaching and evaluating them. The short-sighted organization opts for short-term profit over long-term viability and teams are under-developed as a result.
How Do We Create Teams for a World of Remote Team Members?
The world has reached an inflection point as decisive as the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution brought people together in cities and factories. Now technology is allowing society to re-organize in a decentralized way.
The advantage to employees and management can be enormous. Many organizations are reporting increased productivity. They can draw strong players from anywhere. Employees reduce travel time and live in the place they always wanted to live.
Today more than ever the quality of organizations depends on the talent and commitment of team members. .Organizations need star performers and now have the opportunity to recruit them all over the world. But truly successful teams today take even more intentionality on the part of leaders. It requires a relentless focus on the right metrics and a thoughtful and consistent attention to building relationships, engagement and commitment. In a remote or hybrid environment, that takes a lot more effort. But the pay-off is huge.