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Creating high performing teams in a pandemic

As we continue our series of articles on recruitment during a pandemic, it seemed only right to look at how to create high performing teams once you’ve found some wonderful new talent for your business. And who better to help me advise you than our friend and colleague, Adrian? He has spent 30 years in the industry, working with the likes of JCB Finance, Cedo, and Boots. The following is a transcript of a discussion we had on the topic. We’ve tried to cover every area but if there is something you think we’ve missed and would like information on, please contact us.

Ian Moore (IM): We all know how important it is that new employees are onboarded as effectively as possible, but this isn’t just about a laptop, zoom calls, or a task list. It should include how the team works together to get the best out of each other.

In spite of the circumstances the pandemic has thrown upon us, ensuring that your teams are working effectively together is still important and will be critical to how the teams will work together as life starts to return to normal. Especially when many teams may never have been in the same room with each other.

Getting a new team working effectively together was hard enough pre-COVID, but in the new norm of blended working, it can be an even bigger challenge.

Adrian Bennett (AB): Yes, in some ways the easiest part of a manager’s job is to issue a list of tasks to complete and think that activity equals integration. Everyone in a new role wants to contribute but this approach is focussing purely on what we do as opposed to how we do it. Covid or not, a team community or even family needs to establish a psychological contract of how we will do things round here. As an example, my family, while locked down for Covid, agreed we would eat together every evening and we have largely stuck to it. It is what I call social glue and we all need it to feel part of a group or team. So establishing some team rituals is really important and these act as touch points to keep you connected.

IM: Right, in the situation we’re in now with millions of people working remotely, finding that way of keeping connected is key. But what about establishing new connections? Tens of thousands of people have entered a new job in the last year.

They will have most likely received some sort of remote onboarding but a full return to the office may still be some months away, and that’s too long for a business to wait to start that effective team working. Businesses need to make positive interventions now.

And as the recruitment drive steps up and the return to the office begins, we’re expecting a hybrid of remote and face-to-face onboarding for brand new starters as well as those who are a few months into the job. How well do you think the effective team working process works Adrian? And if we focus on the new recruits that joined within the last 12 months, what’s the best plan for ensuring they are integrated effectively into teams?

AB: I mentioned earlier sitting round the table together as a family but of course over the last 12 months most organisations have not been able to do that type of thing. A recent graduate recruit I worked with was not sure about asking questions of his new team. Would he look engaged, curious, stupid, demanding? He just was not sure how to behave. So I’d say managers should get their teams together online to discuss and share this kind of thing and definitely introduce new people into the group. Steven Covey would call this Important but not Urgent activity, and with many people no longer commuting 10 hours a week, managers can find the time to do this.

IM: With new people in the team, it’s important to reset team expectations and identify and re-evaluate the strengths of the team. Adrian, you’ve done a great deal of work using methodologies such Lencioni, Belbin looking at behaviours etc. What would you advise businesses to focus on?

AB: I am a great believer in Lencioni’s approach to building Trust as an essential for any high performing team. After all, who wants to be a low performer? So, for a new team, this is sharing their concerns and vulnerabilities. I facilitate group coaching sessions where I ask everyone to share both their recent successes and areas of concern or challenge. This always leads to offers of help or support or just understanding – now you are building relationships. The best part is any manager can do this with their team and if you go first, I promise you, it will not only set the bar (high I hope) but almost certainly you will have a new and different conversation. The benefit for you is that you are now operating in the world of Coaching and that will unlock so many opportunities. The team I hope will ultimately feel listened to, engaged and trusted. Worth the investment I’d say.

In conclusion, video communication may feel a poor alternative to face-to-face contact but what it has enabled businesses, friends and families across the world to achieve over the last 15 months is nothing short of incredible. Therefore don’t make it your excuse not to start efforts to connect and engage your team now.