Now is the Time for Teamwork – But What if You’re Not Good at It?

I don’t read every article that crosses my laptop these days.  If I did I’d never get anything done.  But I’ve noticed a trend in some articles, the emphasis on teamwork during this time of crisis.  I totally agree.  Not only does teamwork help with pooling the collective talent of your organization, but it helps keep people feeling helpful rather than helpless.

But what if your company, or some of your internal teams, really struggle with teamwork?

Another trend I’ve noticed is that all these articles assume teams are working perfectly together.  And we all know that isn’t exactly the reality on the ground.

So what do you do if you need teamwork now, more than ever, but your teams aren’t as effective as you need them to be?  Here are a few thoughts.

  1. Acknowledge the difficulty. This is really tough to do, especially in a time where you feel the need to take action…and quickly.  But acknowledging you have a problem, will actually help you find the solution.  How?  Once you say the problem out loud (not to your whole company perhaps, but to your key leaders) it can lead you to the next action.  Which is:
  2. Tap into your great team leaders. Not all of your teams are struggling.  [But if they are, call me, I can help, but that is a much longer discussion.]  You probably have several team leaders, perhaps even several teams, that do work well together, that are high performing.  Redeploy them to your crisis teams.  Put them in charge of your crisis teams.  These are the teams that can help keep your lights on and the products flowing – as much as possible.  You need the team leaders to be experts and your great team leaders aren’t?  Then pair them with Subject Matter Experts with the
  3. Create team advisors. If you know a team is struggling, give them an advisor who can help guide them and show them what good can look like.  Most team leaders that haven’t excelled in this area will be aware of their shortcomings.  Giving them an advisor who can guide them (not be their boss) and share their experience can go a long way in improving performance.  Many team leaders I have worked with blame their team shortcomings on everything and everyone but themselves.  This can be challenging, but a team advisor can help keep them focused and on track, no matter why they think they haven’t been successful.  Have regular team advisor meetings to give the team advisors a way to also have support during this time.
  4. Lead with Empathy. Now is the time to realize that everyone is hurting to some degree.  Maybe a spouse is out of work.  Maybe having all the kids home, and working from home has raised their stress levels exponentially.  Maybe those who thrive on routine are feeling rudderless.  Whatever is going on, all leaders from the top down to each and every team leader, needs to lead with empathy.  That doesn’t mean that work doesn’t need to get done. It just means there is an element of understanding and openness to how it gets done.

This isn’t a comprehensive ‘how-to’ guide on working within the limitations of your current company and employees, but it is meant to show you that having perfect, high-performing individuals and teams isn’t the norm.  But you can do this anyway.  And that leads to number 5.

  1. Believe in yourself. Believe in your company.  At the end of the day, your confidence in your ability and the ability of your people to rise to the challenge coronavirus has brought is critical.  Don’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You really can manage through this.  Expect people to rise to the occasion and if they don’t, gently move them into activities that aren’t on your mission critical line.  Be the first to communicate, the first to reach out, the first to ask questions in a way that encourages answers.  You can do this.  And so can your never perfect, always a work in progress company.
Beth Banks Cohn
Beth Banks Cohn
BETH is dedicated to helping individuals and companies implement business changes that actually work. Beth believes in the ripple effect – that change handled well benefits everyone in an organization, over and over again. As a recognized expert in change as well as corporate culture, Beth consults domestically and internationally with a wide range of disciplines and businesses. Beth is the author of two books: ChangeSmart™: Implementing Change Without Lowering your Bottom Line and Taking the Leap: Managing Your Career in Turbulent Times…and Beyond (with Roz Usheroff).

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