Today’s teams in the workplace look a lot different than they did a year ago. Most of us are working remotely so our meetings are held via Zoom rather than in conference rooms. Gone are collaborative business lunches and touch-base conversations in the hallway. Right now, we’re more concerned with coming up with a virtual background to hide dirty laundry or muting ourselves when the dog is barking.
Virtual Team Challenges
According to Gallup, nearly 40% of full-time employees are working entirely from home vs. 4% pre-COVID. But there’s been a shift we’ve never seen before: those who work remote all of the time are experiencing burnout more than on-site workers. Researchers have highlighted four main challenges that virtual teams currently face:
1. Maintaining Trust. In a traditional team, there’s a certain level of trust already established. You know your colleagues will show up to work, attend necessary meetings and communicate throughout the day about their progress. With decreased opportunity for observation, some trust could be lost. A lack of responsiveness could be viewed by a colleague as a trust violation. Since they can’t “see” you working all day, some confidence could be lost.
2. Sharing Information. In a perfect world, leaders would have developed and put their teams through training programs to adapt to the new way of working from home. But the current circumstances don’t allow time or budget for extensive team training for most companies. Managers can encourage teams to share information by setting up new ways to communicate and empowering employees to participate.
3. Fostering Inclusivity. It can be difficult to create an environment of inclusion virtually. Everyone has unique home situations right now: parents are managing their children’s remote learning, people are dealing with feelings of isolation, internet reliability can be an issue for some. Leaders should strive to foster an environment where team members feel safe.
4. Assessing teamwork. It’s much harder to monitor team members’ performance virtually. It can be easier to ignore requests and delay responses, so it’s important for leaders to provide continuous feedback that highlights any areas of concern. At the same time, now is the time to recognize your team players who are going above and beyond.
So, how does a leader deal with all four of these challenges we are facing with virtual teams today? Virtual team coaching can bridge the gaps.
Virtual Team Coaching
At JMA, we have transitioned all of our executive and career clients to online sessions, and the same can be done for entire leadership teams.
The CEO of a global manufacturing company once came to me because he wanted to level up his leadership team. Both he and the COO were deeply dissatisfied with the team’s overall performance and results. They felt the team’s performance was subpar and cited execution on the organizational vision and goals as the team’s primary weakness. Both felt they were at an impasse to successfully elevate the team’s performance and hired me with the intention to provoke new perspectives and spark change.
At the onset of the coaching engagement, I accrued data and measured the team’s prior year of leadership performance. I evaluated and calculated their productivity, their accountability and their ability to effectively execute to meet their individual, team and organizational targeted goals. What I learned was quite surprising.
The global executive leadership team performance was measured at a 33% delivery; meaning on average, as a team, they were hitting one out of three deliverables. This percentage was far lower than I had anticipated given two indicators:
- these individuals were the organizations top performing leaders and
- the team’s prior year’s focus and dedication was on improving execution.
Immediately I created accountability as a team value that was deeply embedded. I engaged the entire team in a full day Accountability Mirror™ workshop, which teaches a metric-based language framework, tools and strategies to immediately reach a higher level of performance.
In the first day of the workshop, I opened the meeting with a question:
“If your right-hand person failed to deliver results about 25% of the time, would you fire them?”
One to two peoples’ hands go up.
“What if it was 50% of the time?”
About half of the hands go up.
“What if it was more than 50% of the time?”
All the hands go up.
“Well, I guess you should all be fired.”
That certainly got their attention! Once I presented the data that revealed that as a team, they did what they said they were going to do only about one-third of the time, they were shocked, but they were also ready to get to work.
Using linguistically based metrics, I was able to break down their commitment process and the inherent systemic flaws relating to their scattered focus, inefficient meeting leadership, and pattern of overcommitting and under producing. Additionally, I engaged them in a MindMastery™ training to quickly have them identify their underlying operating system, gain emotional mastery and intelligence that would facilitate and identify any emotional or cognitive inhibitors to maintaining high level performance states.
Three months after the workshops, their performance and goal execution were measured at 82%. This was a monumental improvement in performance, and the leaders were not showing any additional wear and tear delivering at that level. In fact, a handful of leaders reported they were far less overwhelmed and stressed as they had a clear understanding of the systemic drivers that created their lack of success.
When I completed the team engagement six months later, their focus had been honed and sharpened and their expectations, deliverables, roles and responsibilities were clear. As a team they were transformed personally and professionally becoming more effective observers of themselves, others and situations and used linguistic, cognitive, as well as accountability frameworks to measure themselves and their departments performance.
The team moved their execution output from 33% to 82% within three months of team coaching and development and maintained it within the bandwidth of 79% – 87% throughout the subsequent year. What started as new leadership development tools and new concepts became a deeply, integrated way of being – without conscious thought. The result produced a more effortless leadership, which provided more energy available for the leaders to focus on the bottom-line, alleviating the frustration of failed efforts and results. They were left with effective methodologies and processes to measure themselves and others, proprietary apps to facilitate and support the gained learning and a transformed capacity to deliver.
The results of team coaching are powerful when you have alignment like that. Alignment eventually comes when you are able to address each individual’s personal performance gaps. Everyone is different and has their own personal challenges, but when each person is accountable for themselves and their role in the team, everyone’s performance improves which affects the company’s bottom line in a positive way.
The Birkman Method
One of the most effective ways to begin a team coaching engagement is by using the Birkman Assessment Tool with each member of the leadership team. JMA Executive Coach Katherine Lewis has been using the online assessment with her clients for over twenty years. The Birkman Method provides insight into how that person views what’s happening in their world, what their strengths are, what potential stress triggers they may have and how their different perspectives, or lenses, will affect their behavior with other people.
Once a coach has an assessment of each individual member of a team, they can use those results to map out how people will work together as a group. It allows a coach to leverage the strengths and compensate for the gaps.
Teams can improve through coaching in accountability, communication, meeting effectiveness, identifying patterns for breakdowns and optimizing performance. If you are ready to level up your own team, learn more about how JMA’s team coaching can be the catalyst for change.