The calls have started coming. Teams are reaching the boiling point. Some have gone past it and the lid has blown clear off. In some ways, I’m surprised (and impressed) how long teams have made it through the stresses of pandemic and lockdown without losing their cool. It speaks to how much of a shock to the system this has been; leaders were in their crisis mode and stifling a lot of personal issues for the good of their teams and organizations. Two months in, we can’t tell ourselves that this is going back to ‘normal’ anytime soon. We’re stuck between crisis and new normal. The temperature is rising.
Is it Hot in Here?
I’m hearing different situations, different stories every day. Recognize any of these scenarios and feelings?
- Your revenue line just fell off a cliff. You are propping up small parts of your business that still make sense in this environment. You’re trying to reinvent others without eroding your brand. Leadership team discussions swing from one teammate’s ridiculous hail Mary idea to another’s nay-saying conservatism. You’re caught in the middle.
- Your revenue is growing faster than ever. Pandemic has been a boon to your company. You need to build capacity at an unprecedented rate. You’re trying to keep up. Your leadership team isn’t communicating enough because you’re all heads down working through your priorities. You’re hitting the wall.
- You’re holding steady but waiting for the plunge. Covid hasn’t had a direct impact, but at some point, there’s just not going to be money in the economy and the dominoes will start to fall. You’re trying to figure out how long to carry on business-as-usual and when to start adapting, innovating, cutting. Your leadership team is crippled by the ambiguity. There’s no chart or graph, no past precedent to help guide you. You’re getting anxious.
- You’re agonizing over decisions about your staff and wrestling with how to decide who stays and who goes. What does fairness even look like? Is it fair to cut a whole department, even if it means losing great people while less-effective colleagues in the sustainable business get to stay? You’re feeling horrible guilt.
- You are bringing on people as fast as you can find them. But onboarding new team members virtually feels so odd. You don’t know how to build rapport this way. You worry what they’ll think about your organization and how this will be a turning point for your culture. You’re sad about all that might be lost.
- Nothing has changed…yet. You carry on and try to help the team stay focused on the task at hand. You’re struggling with major disparities in how productive team members can be. You worry about some because they never seem to turn off. Others only get in a couple of good hours a day because they can barely cope with the demands of working from home with kids and other distractions. How do you manage performance differences in this? You’re conflicted.
- You feel the weight of your obligation more profoundly than ever right now. You are working all hours, doing whatever it takes, and trying to let a lot of issues slide for the good of the organization. You’re starting to get annoyed with a few behaviors that were tolerable for a while, but now getting on your nerves. You’re on edge.
- You are really struggling. Your teammates seem to be surfing this wave but somehow it keeps taking you under. Your concentration is still not what it should be. You’re sneaking naps at 2pm because you can’t keep your eyes open. So why are you wide awake a 3am? You’re barely hanging in.
- You’re not sure what to think. In some ways, this crisis has been a great reset on what matters most. The organization is protecting its core and it’s nice to have fewer priorities for a change. You’re less worried about working from home and more worried about going back. You’re not convinced.
Getting Close to the Boiling Point
Pay attention so you know if you’re getting close to the boiling point. Any one of these signs should cause you to disengage for a moment, reflect, and return to the action only once you can do so productively. Are you:
- Noticing your pulse racing or palms sweating as your brain triggers a stress response
- Jumping in, interrupting, preparing rebuttals while your colleagues are talking
- Stewing after meetings about your teammates’ motives and behaviors
- Sending unproductive private chat messages to other participants on web calls
- Struggling to get out of bed in the morning, dreading facing the day
- Forming alliances with sub-groups on your team, talking about others behind their backs
- Reflexively saying no to anything and anyone
- Grasping at straws throwing out ideas without first thinking them through
- Getting bleary eyed from going such long stretches without getting up from your computer
- Feeling the toxic effects of carrying resentment toward one or more members of your team
- Jumping to conclusions about people’s intent without hearing them out or giving them the benefit of the doubt
These are just a few examples of signs that you should be watching for to know that you’re getting near the boiling point. Carrying on much longer will put both you and your team at risk.
What are you experiencing on your team? What’s causing the temperature to go up for you. I’ll be collecting your answers and responding on the blog and on my YouTube channel with some techniques you can use to help your team simmer down. Let me know either in the comments, or by email.