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Sustaining team connectivity, motivation and focus in times of uncertainty, volatility and change

Organisational & Team Performance 04th November 2020
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In this highly volatile environment that we all find ourselves in, sustaining focus, motivation and a sense of connectedness with our team can feel like a huge undertaking – particularly when we feel under pressure, tired and uncertain.

Whilst the future is unclear and many circumstances remain out of our control, we can equip ourselves with some simple tools and techniques to best cope, manage and respond to situations as they arise.

In this article and accompanying guide we share a few tools that will enable you and your team to sustain connectivity, motivation and focus, irrespective of the environment. 

Enabling a team to function at their best, right now

Our work in team and organisational performance shows that there are 4-areas that enable a team to function at their best (Fig.1). These 4 components build resilience in a team and are crucial for maintaining team connectivity; sustaining energy and focus; and creating a shared sense of ownership and support.

Fig.1

  1. Clarity: Every team member understands the ‘why’ ‘how’ and ‘when’ of what the team wants to achieve.
  2. Support: Tools, processes, and other formal mechanisms exist that proactively increase transparency and help team members sustain work pace and achieve goals.
  3. Experiment: The team are solution-focused and challenge assumptions about what and how work is done to improve workplace efficiencies.
  4. Collective ownership: All team members own the management of work demand and pace.

Yet data from Rubica’s survey on building team resilience demonstrates during times of pressure and change, even high-performing teams find it a challenge to build and/or sustain the 4 components outlined in Fig.1. Overlay this with the volatility of the current environment and this challenge is exacerbated.

How to build resilience in a team so that connectivity, motivation and focus is maintained

Tip 1 for how to build resilience in a team: Build clarity

During times of uncertainty and change, it’s crucial to establish a sense of stability, if only for short periods of time.

There are various ways in which leaders can promote this:

  • Offer actionable strategic guidance and take more control of priority setting.
  • Share your vision and purpose. Let people know why they are doing what they are doing.
  • Orientate your teams around specific actions, with a focus on what matters most.
  • Establish small workforce ‘cells’ that are fit for purpose and accountable. Encourage teams to take responsibility for results.

Some useful tips

  • Keep it simple when setting priorities and avoid over-complicating the process. This will help to create useful conversations and encourage participation from the whole team.
  • Try using a simple matrix (download our guide on ‘Sustaining team connectivity, focus and motivation’ for an example), during a 10-15-minute team check-in, virtually or face-to-face. It focuses discussion and helps people decide what to prioritise for the week ahead or deprioritise for the time being.

Tip 2 for how to build resilience in a team: Provide support

When times are difficult, team camaraderie is not enough for team members to feel supported. You need formal support mechanisms to improve transparency, build trust and actively develop the ability to manage disruption, pressure and the symptoms associated to this.

Some useful tips             

The pressure curve (Fig. 2) is a great tool for team members to express how they are currently feeling and is easy to use in a virtual, face-to-face or blended working environment.

Fig.2

Source: Robert Yerks & Don Johnson in 1908

When using the performance pressure curve, you ideally want at least 60% of your team in the green ‘stretch’ zone. That’s where we are more likely to feel healthily challenged, engaged and at our most productive. A lack of challenge and focus leads to underperformance. Conversely, being overchallenged with too many competing priorities creates strain, which undermines productivity and performance.

To use the performance pressure curve during a team check-in, ask individuals where they feel they are right now. For those in ‘overwhelm’, provide an immediate, one-to-one response, and remove one or two stressors.

For those in ‘strain’, ask how the team could help.  Those in ‘comfort’ can probably contribute most here or encourage the letting go of minor or even major tasks.

For a step-by-step approach for using the Performance Pressure Curve, download our guide on ‘Sustaining team connectivity, focus and motivation’.

Want more tips for how to build resilience in a team? Download our guide: Sustaining team connectivity, focus and motivation

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A guide to sustain team connectivity, focus and motivation

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