Teams are crucial for any organization to get through the challenges we currently face. If you don’t pay attention to your teams, this harms engagement and with that your organizational performance. And in times when teams are dispersed, a team leader has a huge challenge ahead. Learn how a team leader successfully navigated through these challenges.
Let’s start to think about your organization as a baseball field. In a baseball field, team members are grouped into three teams: the outfield team, the infield team, and the battery team. Each of these teams is connected differently and requires different capabilities to act as ONE.
The outfield team – marked as yellow – is spread in a large area. Communication on who catches the ball is needed and endurance to run over a long distance to cover other team members in the outfield is key.
The infield team – marked as blue – is more compact in a smaller area. Quick reactions to new situations are critical. They also need to be flexible to take over the position of others on the same team.
The battery team – marked as purple – is a small and highly specialized team. They communicate via signs so that the pitcher knows how to throw the ball to the catcher.
What happens when the infield team or battery team become more dispersed? The infield team probably has not trained long-distance running. It was never a part of the team’s requirement. The battery team cannot use signs to communicate, because the pitcher cannot see this on a longer distance.
This is exactly what happens with your teams. The change to work from home and the new normal where we work more dispersed change the way how teams are connected and what capabilities it needs to keep up the performance.
Let’s link this baseball field metaphor to a real-life example from one of our clients.
Our client had outfield teams which were their fieldworkers. The infield teams were the office workers in the headquarters. The battery teams were both field and office workers who worked in a niche of the market.
This client successfully led all their teams in times of increased connectivity. They regularly checked up with their teams on connectivity and employee experience. This resulted in ongoing feedback and helped the team leaders to intervene effectively to build better teams.
The team leader knew he needed the right insights to succeed. Every quarter, he knew how the team was connected and how the team members felt. This helped him with target interventions.
It’s simple! There are only four steps to build better teams:
- Baseline team connectivity
- Check-up on the employee experience
- Act based on data
- Track progress
Let’s have a closer look at how this team leader inside a headquarters checked up with its team quarterly and used the insights to build a better team.
Step 1: Baseline Team Connectivity
The team leader got a baseline for the team. This baseline helped him to know how team members were connected. It gave him insights if there were potentials and the need for new connections.
The checkup showed both a need and potential on team connectivity.
- Need: There was low connectivity. Not everyone could easily be reached and therefore the access to their knowledge and experience was limited. This was an issue because the purpose of the team was like the baseball field analogy. The team supported the specialized work of the teams outside the headquarters – the outfield teams – as well as the specialists – the battery team. Access to each other and their knowledge was needed to support those teams in the best possible way.
- Potential: Team members indicated who they wanted to have more access to. This input helped the team leader to bring the right people together because data showed some team members both pointed to each other.
Step 2: Check-up on the Employee Experience
The team leader also got insights into how the employee experience of the team evolved. The team members were asked to rate their satisfaction on 10 team variables, such as well-being, productivity, and transparency.
The satisfaction of these 10 variables was constant. There were no huge differences after each of the quarters that he checked up with his team. It was only when the COVID-19 pandemic hit this team that the satisfaction of these variables showed some clear differences. These differences gave the team leader the right focus to build a better team – even in times when all team members worked from home.
The above graph shows how the satisfactions changed between the two quarters when the team started to work from home. A negative percentage indicates a decrease in satisfaction and a positive percentage an increase in satisfaction. The team felt less productive. The team leader needed to reinvigorate a new meeting culture.
Step 3: Act based on data
In the first two quarters of the checkups, the team leader started activities to increase the connectivity in the team. His objective was to change the low connected team into a highly connected team.
Two key activities helped the team leader to turn his team in a highly connected team:
- The right people worked together. These were the people who did not yet work together but who both indicated that they could benefit from each other.
- The team met at a minimum twice per week. A Monday meeting to share who was working on what during the week and a Friday meeting to share what the team achieved. This increased alignment and trust in the team.
In the third quarter, it showed that the connectivity was high. The team leader succeeded in his activities. This was however the same period the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality for this team.
As a result, the way how the team connected was disrupted. Everybody started to work from home. This did not result in lower connectivity between the team member. It however resulted in a decrease in productivity because they needed to reinvent the way they met as a team.
The team leader intervened around the meeting culture with two key activities:
- The meetings were made shorter. The team members felt they could not work on the tasks to do their daily work mainly because the meetings were becoming a big part of their everyday.
- The team leader was not allowed to micro-manage. He knew that he had built a highly connected team. The team as a whole was greater than the sum of the individual team members. He needed to trust the team could do the work after he succeeded to maintain the team to be a highly connected team.
Step 4: Track progress every quarter
The quarterly checkup with his team helped the team leader. He could see how his interventions impacted the team’s performance, but also how their needs were shifting.
Regularly checking up with the team informed him when he had reached the goal in the minds of his team members. It also helped him to keep a balanced focused on his interventions. Different periods required him to act differently.
Innovisor supports team leaders like you. Get answers to questions about:
- Your team’s connections
Do people challenge each other? – Do we have barriers or bottleneck in our collaboration? – And what can I do about this?
- Your team’s culture
Do people understand how they can add value? – Are we sharing information with the whole team? – How is our meeting culture? – And how can I work with this as a team leader?