A team is a feeling, not a place

A team is a feeling, not a place

5 MinutesIn Blog, Inspiration, Strategy

I have yet to read, in articles or research about high performing teams, that The Office or The Team Meeting are critical factors. Instead, it is activities that are “metric rich” and an environment in which “people talk to each other, and what they talk about”; it is having “clarity on vision and roles” and is having a culture where this is outstanding “trust”, “collaboration”, “psychological safety” and “excellence” and which is “forward looking” that matter. Of course, The Office and The Team Meeting can be places where these things are engendered – but they are not the reasons why these things all happen.

If I think about some of the great teams I have worked with – often with people flexibly working, part-time working – I remember: how good communication was – we knew enough of what was going on in each other’s lives outside the office to be understanding, but not so much that it was invasive; the understanding we had of each other’s roles and challenges we were facing; how we had each other’s backs so that when things went wrong, we didn’t blame, we looked forward and learned; how we had clarity on what we needed to do, for whom, by when, and were trusted to get on with things. We didn’t have a lot of Team Meetings, we came together around our day to day work, with just enough top level connecting that we could run our days without feel blocked. As a leadership team we were responsive but also kept a clear eye on strategic intent and targets…. We were also human beings- as a leader of a team and a person in one of these great teams, they were ‘places’ where you could explain a personal matter, get some empathy, and then create a solution. They were not soft places, but they were kind. Tough but human, that is my experience of being part of a great team.

Clearly, it can feel it is easier to build a great team if everyone is sitting with one another. I work with a few clients who do indeed (well, until a few weeks ago) all sit together – some of them even on one floor! – and this doesn’t, in and of itself, automatically create a high-performing team. You still have to work hard to create a great team, regardless of the office configuration.

I love Bruce Daisley’s idea in his fabulous book “The Joy of Work”, that 2020 leaders having some version of the 19th century mill owner living within them – if I can see you, I can control you, I can crack my 2020 version of a whip and make you all work harder…..COVID19 means that in many knowledge and service businesses, that mill owner cannot play his part.

So, what do we do now that we don’t have a place to gather? Virtual team meetings are playing a big part. But just in the same way that it has never been The Team Meeting or The Office that has ultimately made your team high-performing, the question is, what things do leaders need to do now to create the feel of great teams, without being able to physically engage.

Of course, there isn’t a single right answer for this. But the answer is within you and the team – what feelings are you looking to create now and what activities and conversations are going to create them in your team?

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