In my previous post, I shared tactics you can use to realign your team if the inevitable changes in the external environment, shifts in organizational strategy, bumps in the road, and feelings of lethargy have you at less than full speed ahead.
If you want to reset your team, it’s best to start with realignment (clarifying what the team needs to do) for two reasons. First, connecting your attention and action to what’s most important for your organization is critical. Second, many team dysfunctions that manifest as trust issues are misalignment issues in disguise. If you didn’t have a chance to do the exercises from the first post, start there and then loop back here.
Address Team Dynamic Issues
Once everyone is on the same page concerning your team’s purpose, goals, strategies, and tactics, you can consider your team’s dynamic. Have you noticed that lately, your team is less of a team and more of a loose collection of individuals who meet on Tuesdays? Or worse, is friction or mistrust making it feel harder than it should? Then, it’s time to switch from focusing on what your team needs to do to how you do it.
Reset Your Communication
It’s easy to get into communication ruts that interrupt connection. Take some time to think through when and how you interact with one another, looking for opportunities to enhance candor, improve clarity, or increase efficiency.
Different messages suit different communication approaches, but many teams get stuck using only one or two methods for their interactions. (What percentage of your team’s communication is in a meeting or an email?). Auditing your communication and looking for better approaches can be a great refresh.
Change the Channel
Communication channels like face-to-face meetings, hallway huddles, video calls, email, Slack, IM, text, and phone calls have pros and cons. When you use the wrong channel, it degrades the quality of the communication. For example, if you’re using a meeting to share information and an email to debate a contentious topic, you’ve got it backward. Look for opportunities to use rich communication channels for content that’s new, contentious, or complex (and if you’re including participants who aren’t as familiar with your team or your jargon). Shunt anything routine, informational, or detailed to Slack or email.
Get in Sync
Studies conducted by Microsoft show that the average employee has more than double the hours of meetings they had before the pandemic. That is hugely inefficient (and at an average of 22 hours per week, when is there time to do anything with what you decide in a meeting?!?) Consider which types of communication and what information would suit asynchronous communication that doesn’t disrupt people’s schedules and simultaneously force their attention on the same topic.
Fade to Black
Another excellent tactic to reset your communication is managing the barrage of emails people get. Check out my guidelines for making email suck less here. In addition, you can institute blackout periods during the day where everyone can turn off their notifications and work uninterrupted for an hour or two twice a day. Making communication with colleagues seem like less of a burden is refreshing.
Reset your Meetings
Meetings are another excellent opportunity to change things up to revitalize your team. Here are some options to consider.
Do More of the Same
Standing meetings are often chock-a-block with content of all different types. In your standard Monday meeting, you’re trying to cover the most strategic and the most mundane, the most proactive and the most urgent. That’s not optimized for how our brains work. Try having separate meetings for operational, organizational, and strategic content. I’ve outlined how to do that in this HBR article.
Revise the Guest List
Another way to improve the conversation might be to change the participants. Are there new voices who would bring fresh perspectives or renewed energy? Could regular participants send delegates occasionally to mix things up while providing developmental opportunities? Would new people bring new perspectives that will unlock productive conflict? If the same group has been meeting regularly for months or years, it might be time to revise the guest list.
Prime the Pump
It’s a common refrain to hear people complaining about meetings. But meetings can be fantastic. It’s inefficient, ineffective meetings that are infuriating. The difference between a great use of time and a complete waste is often how prepared people were when they walked into the room. Revisit your approach to meeting prep and double down on the discipline of meeting primers. That way, the person who owns the agenda item has done the work to set up the conversation, and the people contributing are ready to add value. Find the instructions here.
Reset Your Behavior
Once you’ve explored the process changes that could make your team more effective, you can consider the required behavior changes if you’re going to reset your team dynamic.
Set the Rules
Ground rules effectively define how people need to show up if they want to be a positive part of the team. Do you have a set of ground rules that was top of mind for a while but needs to be revisited? Are your ground rules at the bottom of every agenda, but still, you ignore flagrant violations? Is the idea of ground rules completely new? Here’s an example of how to create ground rules for productive conflict.
Pay off Debts
Conflict debt is the term I use to describe the plaque of unresolved issues that choke a team’s blood flow. If you have conflict debt on your team, identifying the underlying dissent and gradually working through resolutions can be one of the most liberating exercises available to you. Identify the unresolved prioritization trade-offs, the lingering resentments about past decisions, and the friction among people with different styles. Stop ignoring these issues and start addressing them.
Unsavory and unproductive team dynamics sometimes stem from a need for more self-awareness and empathy with different styles. In those cases, enlisting help from a team development expert is well worth your time and money. They can bring psychometric tools, group coaching, and team development exercises to help you appreciate and benefit from those different styles.
If your team is getting things done but not having much fun in the process, use one or more of these techniques to improve that trajectory.