Team agility in the time of Covid-19

Effective teamwork has never been more important than it is today, as organisations face an exceedingly volatile economy with significant business threats. Teams need to be agile to meet this challenging new landscape. Team coach, Ruth, discusses building team resilience and the benefits of team adaptability, as an alternative response.

remote team working effectively

Coronavirus has changed working life as we know it.

Building team resilience

Dictionary definitions of resilience align around it involving people working through or recovering from disruption and a return to the same end state. It involves coping so you can get back to how things used to be. Suddenly having to work from home, or being on furlough, in response to lockdown could certainly be described as a disruption. Perhaps your focus has been on reducing stress and using energy productively, so you can get the most out of this temporary situation and before you return to the office or work. Unfortunately though, the return to the office, or work, doesn’t look like its coming anytime soon – does it?

Adapting to new conditions

Where resilience is about responding to disruption and returning to the same end point, one alternative, adapting, is about adjusting to the new conditions, consequently creating a different end state. Perhaps you have already started adapting? For example, have you been developing new skills, such as how to set priorities, manage time and focus on work, instead of everything else you could be doing at home? Or have you been learning about how to make the most of the technology you have available, or staying sane through a day of non-stop Zoom calls? You adapted by putting effort and energy into creating a different, more skilled end state. Or has working at home been a deeper struggle about how you see yourself as a leader, now you are unable to interact with people face to face? Have you had to re-think what being a leader means and re-assess what is important to you now? In which case, have you adapted by holding different beliefs about leadership?

The challenges facing teams

As a team leader, the challenge is exacerbated, as each team member may be responding in completely different ways. Some people really may be hoping deep down that there will be a return to how things used to be. They may be unaware of, or unable to grasp the scale of the impact the coronavirus is having on organisations and industries. Others may have seen this disruption as an opportunity to reflect upon life as much as work. They may have seen new possibilities at work and home that render a return to the original state undesirable.

Focusing on the end state is a very simplified way of looking at resilience and adapting, in what is a very complex field. However, it does raise a question about where it is best to place increasingly limited resources. At individual, team or organisational levels, what is different now that is likely to pass, or will some things never be the same? How appropriate is it to put resources into building resilience, when you really need to create a different end state to meet the new circumstances you find yourself in?

Achieving a new and different ‘end state’

The period, or process, of going from one state to another is defined as a transition. Managing this well calls for an understanding of what the different end state looks like, putting in place what is needed to achieve it, then getting the new state up and running. All of this takes thought, as well as effort. On the thinking front, how clear are you on what the new end state needs to look like, what do you need to keep, drop and develop to get there? Equipped with this clarity, so begins the messy, disorienting and effortful process of letting go of what you need to drop and developing what you need for the future. It’s an experimental phase as you see what works. Finally, it’s about integrating new ways of working, so you can achieve the new and different end state you needed.

Team resilience versus an adaptive response

It has been said that everything depends for its quality on the thinking we do first. So, rather than rush to a response, how much time are you devoting to working out what the end state needs to look like. How clear are you on what is staying the same and what could be, or needs to be different? Does the situation call for a temporary difference that will revert within a couple of weeks or months, or could this be for the foreseeable future?

Once you have clarity about the end state, what resources do you need and are they available to get you there? A return to the same end state will call for fewer resources than a different end state. In the short-term, transitions can have a negative effect on performance as you learn to do things differently. They can also take their toll on people physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. How prepared and able are you to deal with that drop in performance and if you put energy into this, what are you taking energy away from?

We are all aware of how difficult it is to think clearly and make the best decisions when we are emotional. Before choosing a response, how are you, and members of your team feeling? The coronavirus pandemic is perhaps one instance when it is possible to say that everyone has been affected by the same thing. The experience and effects are, however, likely to be unique for everyone. What have you and your team had to deal with, and how has that made you feel?

Choosing the most effective team approach

Where a return to the original state is desired, developing resilience to cope and use energy productively may well be the best approach. However, if a different end state is required, focusing time and effort into the process of adapting to fit the new conditions could prove to be a better use of resources. The purpose of this post is to raise awareness that you have a choice.

Given there is so much to consider, who could you work with to think through what the situation calls for and where will you find the energy and resources necessary to achieve the desired outcome? The most effective answer is likely to be unique to every individual, team, organisation and situation. So, do you need to be resilient, or do you need to adapt?

Team coach, teamGenie®

Putting insights into action:

How is your teams agility? Resilience and adaptability are drivers of an effective team measured by the teamSalient® diagnostic assessment tool. If you would like to find out more please get in touch.

Get in touch to see how your teams measure up

Contact us