Teams and teleworking: how to keep up morale during coronavirus

  • What are the challenges today?

If many or all members of staff in an organisation have to work remotely, for example in situations like the current coronavirus crisis, team dynamics might be impacted, making it more difficult for us to maintain our performance.

These dynamics, which are the forces between individuals, can strongly influence how a team reacts, behaves or performs. They include personality styles, team roles, environment, tools and technology, and organisational and team culture.

In the current context of uncertainty, when most of us have to work from home in isolation and potentially for a long period, we can imagine that some of the forces beyond our control can hinder team dynamics. For example, do we have an appropriate work environment at home? Can we use our IT tools exactly like in the office, or do we have more constraints? Does the lack of close relationships affect the team’s motivation? Is the current, unpredictable context affecting our morale?

We need to work on all these factors. Team dynamics are really dependent on every team member. We all have a role to play: team leaders’ roles, people’s mindsets and behaviours are critical forces.

  • So what can we do to maintain our performance and morale in the current situation?

Team leaders can instil the right culture, by clarifying expectations, by saying who acts as a resource when needed, or simply by giving the feeling that we are all in it together.

An important initiative that team leaders can take is to organise a meeting where people can share their concerns, frustrations, fears or struggles. Then they can invite colleagues to co-organise the following days. It can also be the opportunity to see that some tasks may not be so important, while others that are more complex or difficult may be better dealt with in this unusual period. Seeing the context of isolation as an opportunity to adapt our work or to choose more reflective tasks can also be a good thing to do.

On top of that, I recommend team leaders to abuse the power of informality, by giving out little treats from time to time to show that they care much more about their employees than their tasks. 

As to everyone’s mindset and behaviour, I humbly believe all of us have to show a sense of responsibility and conscientiousness as well as a growth mindset, fixing problems one by one. It is not good to blame without providing constructive solutions. It is not good either to think in terms of presence and being reachable rather than providing quality deliverables. We can do better than this!

  • How about relationships within teams?

Anything that can break the isolation will be good. So, as much as possible, use the collaborative platforms (e.g. M365, Jive) and instant messaging possibilities (e.g. Skype for Business, Signal) at your disposal.

Organise regular, online activities where you are as inclusive as possible. It’s not a good time for micro-management. On the contrary, more knowledge sharing and transparency will allow each of us to feel involved in something greater than ourselves.

I like the concept of a virtual social time once a week. Some tools (e.g Slido) can allow you to create quick polls and quizzes, which are great for stimulating interactions.

Of course, in all circumstances, be attentive to the consequences of too many distractions and respect the instructions from IT and HR central services.

  • What can we do to keep up our spirits and motivation?

Find a way to organise your days as efficiently as possible. You have the ‘pomodoro methodology’ for example, which says that you can concentrate better for 25 minutes, then you need a good break.

You can use mindfulness, meditation, or just focus on your breathing for 10 seconds.

Anything that can help you focus and unfocus will be good. There are tons of methods and tools that can help you let go, build resilience, and reach a state of calm.

And, have a sense of care. Try to help others, connect and talk with your colleagues. Don’t stay with your vulnerabilities. These difficult times call for a change of attitude.

(This article was originally written for the European Commission, following a webinar I organised on “Team Dynamics in a Crisis” on 20 March 2020)

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Lost in Collaboration? No worries, I show you the way

The collaborative journey ahead will bring you moments of joyful productivity. Yes, but not only. Collaboration will also mean less structure and less clarity, which can lead to potential chaos and uncertainty.

If collaboration starts with one person willing to open the door to others, it requires from all involved sense of responsibility and knowledge of inner boundaries, as well as a certain number of skills. According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Report, agility and collaboration are critical to organisational success. Yet 70% of CEOs say that their organisation lacks the skills needed to adapt.

In this post, my aim is to give you a glance at these particular conditions and skills.

  • Supportive context

Are you in a risk-averse organisation? Are people afraid to speak? Some organisations offer their employees the right conditions to launch a collaborative project. For others, it is difficult to challenge the status quo and take any bottom-up initiative. If the focus is on individual performance, for example, it is clear that you will be less inclined to call upon collective genius. Why even bother to consult others? It will take you longer, more energy, you may end up in conflicts and you are not sure that the result will be smarter.

If your computer systems are cumbersome, why bother to experiment with new practices that are sure to fail? For example, you may have the best intention of bringing everyone together for your project. However, if you know that poor network infrastructure make it almost impossible to reach anyone outside your geographic boundaries, why taking any risk? Tell me.

A top-down hierarchical culture also makes it more difficult to lead a successful initiative. Why? People have a tradition of playing the passive followers. So they will spend a lot of time watching you, expecting something to finally happen until they see the benefits of contributing. Until then, they will prove to you with a number of arguments that a more active membership is not possible for them. Either they are too busy, or it is not safe, or blah.

  • Inclusive leaders

In a complex world, no one is able to hold the knowledge required in all circumstances. In order to let everyone contribute whenever needed, your managers have to strengthen their ability to not be in control, not offer up their own views or judge others and be negative. They have to let go more of their power to distribute it with experts and give them the ability and willingness to assume a form of leadership in their relationships with their colleagues, stakeholders and clients.

For instance, they will ask questions and listen carefully, facilitate constructive arguments or give actionable feedbacks. If people in power speak authoritatively or speak first, they do not really open the door to speaking up and contributing. To me, they have a critical role to play to set the tone, walk the talk, say they don’t know and open the door to contributions, or even take risks. They can also develop powerful strategies to make sure collaboration happens, by reinforcing the sense of belonging to something bigger than yourselves and saying things like, “our experts have everything they need so they have a chance to prove us right”.

  • Accountability & Conscientiousness

You will distribute the benefits among the members to maintain motivation and enthusiasm, as well as a series of obligations. What you need is from everyone to show their sense of responsibility, a good dose of humility and conscientiousness. For this to happen, it will be important to define some common principles, which will serve as boundaries. They will provide a structure for the expected behaviours. Thanks to them, every collaborator will perform the requested tasks with as much autonomy as possible, while maintaining the necessary interdependence. In case of problems during the project, you will see the importance of these agreed principles. They are your temple keepers and will allow you to aim for agility.

For example, two shared values that impact collaboration are: integrity and benevolence (yes we care about you and what you know or say).

  • Self-awareness

From my experience in various collaborative projects, I understood the importance of one particular ingredient: self-awareness, which is an ongoing attention to one’s self. Understanding who we are, why we do what we do, how we do it, and the impact this has on others. For me, it is key to avoid ending up in escape, freeze or worse burnout. In fact, people who do not understand their emotional patterns can hinder the positive atmosphere through their behaviours. Worse, if they are faced with the chaos and the uncertainty of collaboration, they can totally derail or divert the whole project.

For instance, five common blind spots are: being afraid to ask for help; being insensitive of your behaviour on others; valuing being right above everything else; avoiding the painful conversations; playing the victim and refusing responsibility. Then, five patterns that can destroy a collaboration effort: not being open to feedback; showing duplicity; overstepping boundaries; misunderstanding instead of understanding; focusing on individual genius instead of collective performance.

  • Clarity

It is notorious that success in leadership is dependent on a clear sense of purpose. For collaboration, it is the same; every collaborator needs clarity about the shared purpose. Your collaborators will need to get clarification about why this project exists in a first place, and what they are trying to do before the launch. It is all about giving some sense of the challenge, which is part of the framing stage.

Throughout the collaborative journey, clarity achieved via effective communication will be key. For example, people need to understand their roles, your expectations, or how the context is evolving.

By providing clarity, what you want is to help focus attention, reinforce a collective identity and motivate action. However, what you need to avoid is controlling the outcome, while losing a much-needed agility. This is why the next advice is key.

  • Fuzzy purpose 

You have to expect unplanned and unexpected contributions that will change your initial scope. You must prepare for the inevitability of change.

A fuzzy purpose will be important to avoid a sense of manipulation. People need to feel that the journey can lead them anywhere else than what the initiator of the collaboration had in mind. If the purpose is too much defined, it is like telling, “You know, I am very clear about what I want to achieve, your contribution will not really count”.

It will also be decisive to boost motivation. Collaborators involved in the collaborative project will achieve more to get to a more ambitious goal than the approximate one set. Finally, a fuzzy purpose will ease the process of connecting individual purposes with the team’s purpose and the higher organisation’s purpose. Identifying the level of interdependence will ensure that people will be more motivated to doing the work.

  • Open communication culture

Your attitude will support collaboration or undermine it. This attitude needs to tell, “I want openness, co-creation, growth mind-set, giving up control or letting go, seeing conflict as an opportunity to grow, being accountable”. Members need to perceive your genuine desire to work together and your sincere willingness to learn from each other.

Everyone in the project will have to feel comfortable being vulnerable, admitting mistakes quickly or suggesting stupid ideas. This won’t happen over night, so work hard during the framing stage, focus on developing relationships and quality interactions. Your ability to foster an environment of trust, warmth, respect and psychological safety will be critical hereOtherwise, people will be reluctant to explore, understand and join the collaborative process.

  • Power & Love skills

As I mentioned earlier, good relationships are a critical factor. But harmony is not what you want. It often makes collaboration counter-productive in the long run.

Therefore, you will have to stretch your skills to achieve power and love. I do not mean that here you will have to love all the other members to work together and reach ambitious goals. However, you will have to develop a power drive (to defend your positions) and a friendship drive (a need to connect and be in communion with others). In theory, it is simple. In practice, it is difficult because there is always a degenerative side: Love saps power. And power saps love.

To conclude, let me emphasize that in the case of collaboration, the objective is not to learn. Things have to be done smarter and faster, not slower. It is therefore essential, in my opinion, to put the necessary conditions in place and to make sure that your people have some of the above skills before the launch. Obviously, I could write a lot more on this subject which has been at the center of my research for the past few years. But wait, I’m preparing a little book on “co-leaders of the future” which is expected be published in the coming months. In English this time. And obviously, you my dear readers will be the first to know all about it 🙂 In the meantime, if you are looking for training courses or workshops, please feel free to contact me. 

 

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Why I said that breaking silos can be detrimental

Following my post last week, a former colleague of a large company contacted me. He wanted to know why breaking silos without the help of a professional can be detrimental. I leave my next post about the kind of leaders our world needs for later…

To illustrate my point, I will use this simple story. Say you give a gift to your son, making him a very happy kid. Now, apply the rules that govern your home, in which you define sharing and collective sense as non-negotiable principles. And ask your son to share his new gift with his sister. Hmm, I’m pretty sure your request spoils his party a little … you might even see him resist. Or worse, oppose your request, accusing yourself of wanting to diminish his power.

Now you want the same rule of “sharing” in your business. You plan to ask your staff to work together more to improve your organizational agility.

The double-bind of cross-collaboration

With my little story, I hope it will be easier for you to see the conflicting messages. In fact, the conflict lies here between two strategies: “to be the strongest” and “to be the most humble”. Let me explain :

  • The “law of the jungle” is the first well-known strategy. It’s our automatic mode, a set of principles that puts personal interests first. “Only the fittest will survive” makes us want to grow, to have more or to build a wall to protect ourselves.
  • The “collective genius”* is the second strategy. It says that we cannot succeed alone. We can only achieve better if we are together and we can only respond to complex problems by gathering collective intelligence.

What are powerful strategies?

What are the powerful strategies to make cross-collaboration more natural? I would say, it is the right time to embrace friction since you want to promote efforts that go against human behaviour. So, like your child’s reactions, resistance or opposition will be natural. The good thing is that it is always possible to make efforts to raise the level of consciousness of your people. What you want is to encourage the transition to a less automatic mode of “collective genius”.

These are useful strategies that I’m using:

– Apply the reciprocity standard and demonstrate its benefits. By sharing more, your son invites his sister to share more. In the end, both have more power because they will be able to play with more toys!

– Develop your team players’s skills towards more trust and safety, which Lencioni summarizes best in his book “The Ideal Team Player”

– Give clear instructions and the necessary guidance. Develop a “freedom in a framework” set of rules – i.e. empowerment in a safe environment (internal copyright rules could be a first step).

Use games to put your team players in a situation where they cannot hide their behaviours. Let the culture emerge from the games to be able to hold the right conversations.

– Ensure the transferability of successful cases.

Only by bringing people together to share their knowledge can we solve the complex problems of today. Our goal as leaders or consultants is to reduce barriers and educate employees that they do not have everything to lose. On the contrary, they have everything to gain too.

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* You will find this rule explained in different forms in our literature. For instance, I can recommend these amazing books for further reading : “Superminds”, “Collaborating with the enemy”, “Social Intelligence”, “Radical Collaboration”, “Leading Global Innovation”, “Superpowering People”, “Collaborative Genius” or “Teaming”. To name a few 🙂

Horizontal Cross-Collaboration? More than ever!

Two years ago, I left this blog in standby mode to follow my intuition that the world would need new models for organizations to be more agile and especially collaborative. Today, I am happy to be back to share all my lessons on this passionate topic, that is cross-collaboration.

While the world continues to change, when it comes to cross-collaboration, the pace of change is drastically slow. Our organizations do not seem to be able to respond to current threats. From food security to our pensions schemes, from the protection of nature to the protection of our rights… There is a growing sense of mistrust and fear that affect our everyday lives and our hope for a better future.

If we are all more or less worried, as far as I’m concerned, the last years have also seen me change a lot. I went through an extraordinary development path to affirm my conviction of the solutions to be implemented.

When I experienced cross-collaboration (or horizontal collaboration) in multiple sectors and countries, I found myself stuck in the chaos that occurs when an organization does not give its managers and staff the necessary skills and opportunities to act. I dealt with most of the limitations, challenges and ultimately very lonely struggles that this way of working entails. Breaking the silos (for more fluid communications and efficient processes) without an adequate professional support is detrimental to the well-being of individuals, in the long run. And it has a high cost for organizations – e.g. burn-outs, lack of motivation, mistrust, productivity loss and ultimately failure in reaching organizational goals.

Many organizations around the world have been experimenting cross-collaboration to address today’s challenges. There are many lessons to learn from a range of successful and highly unsuccessful experiences.

From now on, I will be writing regularly again on this blog to share with you my main lessons on how to make horizontal cross-collaboration a sustainable practice for any organisation that wants to seriously tackle the constraints of a world full of surprises.

Follow me as I write about:

  • Trust and psychological safety as the foundation for any true performant and cross-collaborative culture
  • Habits and routines, and why they act as a roadblock for changes
  • Self-serving bias as a hinderer for recognizing the need for change
  • Influencing without formal authority
  • Mastering healthy conflicts
  • The leaderful organization
  • And many more topics!

 

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Your organisation as a community: Key #2 to your transformation

Collaboration is not an option but a necessity to support performance, innovation and efficiency. Whatever your organisational configuration (Mintzberg), whether it is bureaucratic, entrepreneurial, missionary, adhocratic or professional, you will have to improve collaborations if your goal is to turn your organisation into a community. In fact, without collaboration, no ecosystem can survive long enough to accomplish much.

Key #2: Improve your collaborations

The main challenge found out through a survey I conducted in 2016 at the European Commission  is to improve collaboration in the inter-organisational space. This is where it is perceived as the least effective. Let’s call this type of collaboration “cross-collaboration”. It happens when people collaborate in the Around (not within their teams) and in the Outside with external people. In very complex organisations, the Around can be of a great importance.

Why cross-collaboration fails

“Whether we like it or not, we are led to collaborate beyond our working teams with another service, with our publics, with The “Others”. But we are not good at this…”

The results of my survey reflect a major problem in our organisations today. Cross-collaboration can be weak. There are many reasons for this, for instance:

  • This form of collaboration happens in a space where formal authority can be blurred.
  • People maintain a limited network of relationships outside their usual teams.
  • Employees feel that they need to rely heavily on procedures.
  • There is a perceived lack of trust when collaborating outside formal teams.
  • In this inter-organizational space, members need more than ever to show autonomy, and responsibility – which is not the traditional practice of their organisation.

The power of cross-collaboration

Collaboration means that the traditional top-down model “command-and-control” must give room  to a “collaborate-and-connect” horizontal approach. The benefits of cross-collaboration are numerous: breaking silos, ensuring strategic alignment or increasing synergies and efficiencies.

Unleashing the full potential of cross-collaboration

To be successful, a cross-collaboration process needs more players who are involved, creative and empowered. More active players and less followers, using the leaderful approach described in my previous post.

To achieve this objective, managers need to create more opportunities for cross-collaboration in an “enabling” and “empowering” environment. By promoting a permanent process of relationships construction between people (Falzon), they will make sure to develop collaboration opportunities on top of traditional team collaboration.

“In the 21st century, we must build communities in which everyone shares the experience of being a leader, not sequentially but simultaneously and collectively.” (Realin)

In order to help you remove one by one the barriers to cross-collaboration, together with Yves Monsel, we designed a seminar that allows for enhanced and successful collaboration “with others” addressed to all employees. I invite you to contact me here or on LinkedIn should you want more details.

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Your organization as a community: Key #1 to your transformation

During these last months, I continued to go deep into the subject of organizational transformation. So I got away again from this blog to dedicate myself to this research project that you know is close to my heart. And I’m finally back with some previews for you.

Community management, collaboration, leaderful or distributed leadership, change management,  Generation Y, digital tools adoption…. All our top modern issues are interconnected. Facing us, the organization of tomorrow is not a pile of teams or projects. It is a community. The community management, which is the focus of my book is actually part of a long transformational process that any organisation must undertake in our increasingly complex world.

On this blog, I am going to share two keys to transform an organisation into a community. I hope you will enjoy these new posts and I am looking forward to reading your thoughts as well!

Key n°1 – From Leadership to Leaderful

 Leadership when you hold us

Some leaders tend to make the following assumptions:

  • They are the only ones
  • They should be up even more
  • If they do not do it, another person will do it, and they risk losing their power
  • They must have an answer for everything and for them to say “I do not know” is another way of saying “I am incompetent”

Is that bad? Yes, if it causes stress for them. And even more, in a complex world where no one is able to hold the knowledge required in all circumstances. Super heroes do not exist in real life!

The “leaderful” organisation

Many public and private companies seem to share the same destiny. They work with employees to achieve impossible tasks with too short deadlines assigned by management, which often include less than the nature of the problem. As for the first-line managers, they are often the most overloaded. As a result, employees feel undervalued, underused, and overwhelmed by pervasive labor (busy work) which is often neither productive nor stimulating. The conclusion is obvious: “[…] Leadership is potentially the most desperate problem we face in organisations today. “

Something can change, and change dramatically.

“We need organizations that empower each of their members by giving them the ability and willingness to assume a form of leadership in their relationships with peers, colleagues, customers, suppliers and other partners in ‘organizations’.”

 

The principles of leaderful

Joseph A. Realin coined the term to describe leaderful which is another vision of the leader and the organisation. He does not claim to have invented the concept, he is just trying to gather under one banner, various approaches.

This is not an approach based on empowerment models or advisory models. This is not a temporary delegation of power by necessity.

“Instead, this approach turns leadership from something that we individually have, to a new paradigm that defines leadership as a collective practice.” 

This is a mutual and shared leadership. Leaderful can be translated by leadership “shared”, “mutual” or “distributed”. It is a letting go rather than a delegation.

Why leaderful?

Whatever the attempts to change the nature of command and the will to better engage employees through quality management, process simplification, learning & development or organisational development, the results will be disappointing. Indeed, as the vertical hierarchical option will not be replaced with a real opportunity to become leaderful, we will continue with some general passivity that, faced with a problem, employees will conclude – you know, I only work here!

“What could be the most leaderful about the manager is not that she takes the reins, but that she encourages others to take them when the situation justifies it. “

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Why my book on community management

Today, the multiplication of social and collaborative technologies in the workplace leads many employees to optimize their internal and external networks and become community managers, regardless of their primary responsibilities.

The aim of this practical manual is to offer a broader vision of community management skills that social media have emerged in just 10 years. It aims to help implement effective management of communities of people, regardless of the tools used.

Community management will:

  • improve the responsiveness of organizations through more listening to internal and external partners,
  • seek synergies and complementarity beyond the traditional hierarchies and boundaries of the organization,
  • offer communities the opportunity to play a key role in spreading the positive word of mouth and generate innovation.

The implementation of communities, large or small, formal or informal, and their new working methods become a strategic issue in every sector.
This manual published in French by Politeia editions and available here, is aimed at:

  • People who wish to develop their professional practice towards greater openness and participation,
  • People who have the role of managing collaborative projects among groups of internal or external partners (colleagues, customers, etc.).

It will also be useful for communications professionals and for anyone seeking to better seize the opportunities of the web and the sharing economy.

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Back soon

If you are wondering why I publish much less posts now, rest assured this is only temporary and I will come back in a few weeks with new posts:

  • I have just written a book in French due out soon and you will be the first to be informed of its release date. This is a practical manual on community management skills published by Politeia editions. I am proud of this achievement, I hope you will enjoy reading it. And as I have lots of projects, I intend to continue writing.
  •  I am following a master in training design and consultancy in France, to develop myself further and discover new learning methods. I have always been keen to return to School, I really enjoy this new challenge. In parallel, I am also following a few moocs in the field of Digital.

This is just to tell you that I take a step back only for – I hope – the better 🙂

Feel free to contact me. I will be very happy to stay in touch.

See you soon.
Julie

About the Value of Social Media

Close your eyes and imagine that social media no longer exist. What would you be missing the most?

On a personal level, social media have become irreplaceable. With experience, you have developed your own use, which can be different from that of your partner for instance:

  • Sharing parts of your story
  • Having your say
  • Reading customer reviews
  • Getting quick feedback
  • Asking for help
  • Connecting with like-minded people
  • Growing a home-based business
  • Getting news updates

Now think about the specific value social media has brought to your professional lives. Same as before, imagine they no longer exist. What do you miss most?

I suspect it is not so easy for each of you…

Why? Perhaps, you still need proofs that social media can help you in your tasks.

Obviously, if there is a lot of beauty to the stage of the unexpected web, at the end of the day, only “value” counts.

For those of you who are looking for inspiration, here is a possible list of values:

  • Streamlining processes
  • Reducing workloads
  • Enlarging human networks
  • Generating more innovation
  • Gathering collective intelligence
  • Providing emotional data

I could notice them in various environments, from large multinational companies to smaller entities.

Now if you are looking for ways to provide similar values to your employees, a recurrent mistake is to consider that IT departments will be the right people to deploy them. What you need is someone to partner with in the longer term, someone able to understand your business, someone who can ensure a strategic deployment of social media at work. This person will help business units translate their limitations into tangible business solutions. Feel free to contact me should you need any recommendation.