Lead Your Team Through Four Stages of Team Development

Sometimes leading a small, growing company is like working as a rollercoaster attendant. You are constantly watching the twists and turns and the ups and downs. Through all this turbulence and volatility – and motion sickness – you will see teams make or break it, and people come and go faster than business cards can be printed.

 

Turnover and change make it difficult to form cohesive teams that are able to perform effectively. What if there was a model of team development that could help you lead a team to achieve, grow, face challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, and deliver results?

 

Apply the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing model of team development and give your team a path to follow on their way to high-performance.

 

After applying, enjoy the benefits of identifying and understanding why team behavior changes so you can maximize team processes and productivity.

 

Forming

 

When teams form, people come together with excitement and positive expectations for the team experience. You will see people on their best behavior while they seek out similar people with shared needs.

 

At the same time, members may feel anxiety, confusion, and ambiguity since they are a group of strangers with little agreement or team purpose. They may question their “fit” in the team or if their performance will measure up.

 

Everyone at one point in their life experiences this excitement and anxiety when forming a new team, making it critical for the leader to provide guidance and direction. Use this time to guide the team to create clear structures, goals, direction, and roles so members begin to build trust and confidence.

 

Storming

 

Conflict and friction are inevitable when relationship styles, work ethics, and communication patterns arise and clash. For example, people may challenge each other for power or clash over team processes.

 

Lead your team to persevere through this phase because it can make or break a team! Lead your team through storming and learn the skills necessary to push through. If this phase is skipped, the group will keep revisiting until the skills are gained, such as task-related skills, group process, and conflict management skills.

 

Fortunately, storming is not always “glass half empty.” A little friction can be good. For example, conflict can reveal issues to solve innovatively and collaboratively and spur thought-provoking and challenging conversations. This respectful disagreement can increase a team’s open-mindedness and consideration of others’ thoughts and ideas. 

 

Norming

 

If you are norming, you will most likely notice team members solving personal clashes between their expectations and the reality of the team’s experience. But the storm passing over does not mean your work is over yet.

 

Encourage your team to set more flexible and inclusive norms and expectations, making the team stronger and more comfortable voicing their concerns and exchanging constructive criticism.

 

Once team members have established these norms and ground rules, they can re-focus on the team’s tasks as they persevere in becoming a high-performance team.

 

Finally, the team is performing!

 

You will know when your team reaches the performing stage when everyone feels satisfied with their team’s progress and comes together to be “greater than the sum of its parts.” They will share insights into personal and group processes and have a visible “can do” attitude. Roles will become more fluid as members take on various responsibilities as needed, and differences among the members are celebrated and used to enhance the team’s performance. For example, people will balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

Do not stop there, though. Team commitment and competence are strong, but there is always more opportunity to deepen individual skills and abilities, including continuously improving team development.

 

Celebrate

 

You cannot switch on teamwork. It takes time and team building for a team to move from strangers to collaborative co-workers. The progression through these phases is essential in ensuring that a group becomes a cohesive, functional unit. 

 

Imagine the positive impact it will make on your company. You can lead your team to perform optimally and manage crises, and you can foster an inclusive and equitable environment that celebrates difference, collaboration, and accountability.

 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 

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The Truth About Reactive Management

If you’re a business owner or manager of a team, you likely wear many different hats. Especially for small businesses, owners often find themselves going in different directions every day. If this sounds familiar, ask yourself when was the last time you were able to sit down and think ahead? What about actually plan ahead?

All too often, leaders get wrapped up in moment-to-moment tasks, allowing their time to get sucked down the drain of immediate crises. Working in a constantly reactive state can feel good, though. You may be thinking:

I’m a fast and efficient problem-solver!
I’m a doer. I get s**t done!
I don’t let problems bring me down—I face them head-on!

Yes. You probably are all those things. But when you spend 100% of your time being all those things, you miss out on time spent being a strategist, a planner, a thinker, and a visionary! How do you expect your business to grow if you can’t think farther ahead than the next problem brought to you?

Reacting to every little thing that comes across your path can make you feel like you’re getting a lot done. But while you’re focusing on what’s right in front of you, more significant problems will grow in the background, and you may not even notice them developing. And when they catch up to you, you won’t have the time or energy to manage them.

Rewiring your approach

Although reacting to urgent problems is part of every leader’s job, it’s critical they also make time to manage for the future, not just the current moment. Get a handle on your reactive managing style and start building a foundation for the future by:

1. Sharing responsibility

One of the major issues with reactionary managing is allowing unimportant but urgent tasks to eat up your time. Start practicing the art of delegation and hand off some of these tasks to your team. It can feel scary to delegate, but hopefully, you’ll soon find that your team is more than capable of answering phone calls and emails, calling that cranky client, or fixing a botched order. Save your time for issues that need your attention specifically—not just attention in general.

2. Re-imagining your schedule

If you’re wondering where you’re supposed to find the time to plan, look at your calendar and pinpoint areas that can be re-prioritized.

But I don’t have the time!” isn’t an excuse.

Yes, you do have the time. You’ve just decided it’s better spent elsewhere. But is it? Really?

It’s a safe bet that you’ve got 30 minutes, or even an hour, every day you could re-allocate to a different activity. If you’re not sure where to start, try tracking your time throughout the week, detailing exactly how you spent each moment at work. Chances are, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by how much time you ended up spending on unnecessary tasks that don’t require your energy.

Block out designated time on your calendar to spend looking at the big picture of your business. Allow yourself to identify those background problems that are much more easily dealt with before they grow, rather than after they’ve boiled over. Hold boundaries around this time. Tell your team you are unavailable during these blocked-out times and give them time to develop their independence with your newfound delegation.

Treat this time like it’s sacred—because it is! You need that time to make sure your company grows smoothly and efficiently.

3. Creating, refining, and implementing processes

A common issue among businesses that are run reactively is a lack of clear processes for employees to follow. If your management style is running around putting out fires, you probably haven’t had time to build an organized system for solving problems and dealing with spontaneous change.

Every leader, team, and organization will face roadblocks, speed bumps, and detours. But if you don’t have a map for your team to follow to their destination, the efficiency with which they’ll arrive at a solution will take a big hit.

It is time well spent to work out and document processes for your team to follow when issues arise. Proactively planning for potential challenges that your team may face will save you a lot of time and energy for when they do appear.

Be proactive

Being quick on your feet and always moving to the next shiny new challenge may be fun at times, but it’ll eventually burn you out and leave you with larger problems. If you want to grow your team or business in a sustainable direction, prioritize strategy and proactively plan for your future. It’s the only way to win.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

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Facing Challenges as a High-Performance Team

Imagine your team works on a project or goal, and they need to get from point A to point B. Do you believe the bridge between the two points provides the necessary support to carry your team over? What if an obstacle is thrown their way?

Perhaps an essential team member calls out sick, and the team depends on them to reach a deadline. This is when your team will show whether they are a high-performing team or merely highly productive.

You can have intelligent, capable, and productive individuals on your team, but if they cannot persevere through challenges, it is time to foster a high-performance team. This is possible by establishing the primary components of a high-performance team: a positive work environment, collaborative problem-solving, and leadership.

Positive work environment

The first component of a high-performance team is having a positive work environment. Start by creating ground rules to establish the values of the group. The ground rules communicate personal behavior expectations that reflect the team’s values.

And how your team handles emerging challenges depends on your team culture!

For example, if a team values learning and openness to new approaches, they would expect others to ask questions and offer guidance while promoting curiosity.

Foster a team identity built on a commitment to a shared goal or vision. Strong team identities are built on listening, trust, respect, and understanding strengths and diversity. These values are critical for working interdependently because they enable people to rely on one another.

Collaborative problem-solving

By fostering listening skills, trust, and team identity, a team can problem-solve collaboratively. Problem-solving demands an exchange of ideas, which is possible only if team members work hard to listen to perspectives that are different from their own. An excellent way to approach collaborative problem-solving is by using divergent and convergent thinking strategies.

Divergent thinking helps high-performing teams identify many solutions to
a potential problem. The spirit of the activity is to defer judgment and encourage contributions in a free-flowing and creative way. There are
many exercises you can use to promote divergent thinking:

  • Letting your team have time to think about the problem
  • Making lists of the potential solutions to the problem
  • Doing verbal brainstorming or mind-mapping

Once you have a solid set of potential solutions, the team moves into the convergent thinking stage, where they work together to:

  • Narrow down options
  • Decide on the best solution
  • Reach a consensus based on a benefit and risk analysis

When you have fostered a healthy team environment, the inevitable conflict will be manageable through your ground rules of mutual respect. Create a positive work environment with strong listening skills and team identity and you will see your teams making decisions and action plans to face challenges head-on in a collaborative way.

Leadership

Leadership helps provide the bridge’s strength and support to push a team to persevere when faced with a challenge. The leader creates a positive work environment and encourages collaborative problem-solving while nurturing their team’s capabilities. Remember that leaders are not always the boss; you can have a de-facto leader on your team too!

Leaders contribute to high-performance teams by attending to the team’s health, maintaining the strategic vision, supporting team members individually, demonstrating and encouraging accountability, and modeling the way through behavior and action.

Be the three-legged stool

Although the three primary components of a high-performance team are fostered separately, they all depend on each other like the three legs of a stool. If one leg is not stable, the others will not be either. Nurture all three components and embrace challenges head-on!

 

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5 Steps Towards Organizational Agility

More than ever, we know how valuable a genuinely innovative team can be. Organizations that weren’t flexible enough to find solutions to 2020’s problems have suffered and closed their doors. On the other hand, agile, innovative, and quick-thinking organizations have had a much easier time navigating the challenges that began in 2020.

Changes are happening fast—not only in our economy but also:

  • In how customers communicate and set their expectations,
  • In businesses adopting new processes and technology platforms,
  • In the ways people communicate with one another, and
  • In the types of resources people need and use.

Because of this, flexibility and innovative growth are the keys to developing thriving businesses in the years to come.

If you’re looking around at your team thinking, “Well, this isn’t us,” don’t worry! Agility and innovation aren’t innate traits that we either have or don’t have. They are teachable, learnable skills.

To help put your organization on the right track, try these five steps.

1. Maintain honest conversations

Growth can’t happen without collaboration, and true collaboration results in the best your organization and team have to offer. But that can’t happen without a system designed to encourage and nurture open and constructive feedback. This atmosphere often comes from the top down.

Consider how you, as a leader, ask for and receive feedback:

  • Do you ever ask your team’s advice?
  • Do you ask for their input when developing new processes or reviewing old ones?
  • Do you encourage their feedback on projects?
  • Do you celebrate their input?

Take note of how you demonstrate the value of open, constructive feedback. Then work to encourage it in areas where it’s lacking. Remember to train new employees to expect feedback and to feel confident enough to give their own. Make time in meetings to discuss ideas as a group and ask each person’s opinion. Single out people who seem shy and help bring them out of their shells (and the same goes for those who are incredibly confident—single them out!).

The goal is to work open feedback into everyone’s expectations about how things are developed and created within your company. When people expect it, it’s much easier to receive it, and it feels a lot less scary to give it.

2. Create room for growth

One way to nurture innovation is to make an effort to stop employees from stagnating in their career development. Offer opportunities for them to learn new skills, to expose themselves to new ways of thinking, and to move forward.

Yes, it will help deepen the resources they can offer your organization, but it will also foster employee loyalty, engagement, and satisfaction. Professional development adds value for everyone involved, and your team’s productivity and strength will demonstrate that.

3. Create a culture that rewards creativity

For innovation to thrive, there needs to be a level of psychological safety within your organization. Employees need to feel free to try new things, to fail, and to try again. Fear of failure is one of the main reasons things fail in the first place—because people never felt free to try.

Train your employees to try new things. Develop their confidence and encourage their ideas. This atmosphere will foster excitement and work against the age-old resistance to change.

4. Enable initiative and ownership

One way to encourage growth and innovation is to provide employees with a strong sense of ownership over their contributions. Train your managers to empower their team to take the initiative. Does someone have a new technology they think would be an asset to the company? Encourage them to prove to you why their idea is a good one.

When employees feel like their work is guided by their inspiration, knowledge, and expertise, they’ll be more likely to put more energy into what they’re doing. Ownership leads to excellence.

5. Establish your values

Review your values. Far too often, organizations’ values look something like this: integrity, dedication, and excellence. If that sounds familiar, then you’ve got some work to do.

Develop a values system that genuinely reflects your goal of driving growth, encouraging development, being challenged, taking individual ownership, and pushing the goal post farther each year.

Your values are the road map to your company’s future. They inform how you approach challenges and navigate difficult situations. Give them the thought they deserve and encourage your employees to take them to heart.

As your team develops around these concepts and begins to identify with the values you create, you’ll see the magic that happens when a team is empowered, driving growth, and taking ownership of your company’s future. It can be a beautiful thing. Keep working at it. Keep coming back to it. And watch your organization thrive.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility, and great responsibility calls for regular reflection upon who you are as a leader and how you are growing.

Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that we are heading in the right direction regarding empowering our people, making progress towards our vision, and creating a sustainable legacy over the long term.

Asking meaningful questions that bring you discomfort and get to the heart of what it means to be a leader can show you how well you measure up and highlight areas where your attention is needed.

Is the ‘Why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?

Change is inevitable. Processes, plans, priorities, and even those on your team will change or evolve. Your Why/Purpose is what drives you to emotionally do what you do. It’s the rock upon which everything is built, and it drives every decision you make in the organization, which is why it’s important to consistently reflect on it.

Start by asking, “Is the ‘why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?” If your ‘why’ has shifted, then you may have strayed from your values or mission. If that’s the case, ask yourself what strategies you can create to ensure a successful re-alignment, so your purpose continues to drive your organization. If you want to inspire people to get behind your purpose and vision, they need to believe in what you believe in.

How am I developing as a leader?

There are no perfect leaders, so if you think you have it all figured out and that you’re at the pinnacle level of leadership, then it’s time to reflect on how you’re developing. Leaders who remain agile and curious and who value continuous development are best able to adapt to the most significant and most unexpected challenges.

Reflect on how you’re developing. If your list is limited, contemplate how you can seek opportunities to grow and develop your skills as a leader in your organization.

Am I as accessible as I can be?

Take a moment to reflect on this question.

Did you think of physical availability? For example, perhaps, you considered yourself accessible because you have an “open-door policy” or a “virtual communication policy” if you’re remote. If so, it’s essential to differentiate physical availability and accessibility.

Accessibility goes beyond physical availability because it’s everything that happens the moment someone walks in your door and your accountability that follows. Now reflect on this question again and ask yourself:

  • Have I created an environment that encourages people to come to me in need?
  • Am I providing enough support?
  • Do I demonstrate genuine appreciation and gratitude for my team members?
  • Am I actively listening to others’ input? 
  • Do I consistently follow up with people?

For example, if you’re going to encourage your team to share their input and ideas because you one time read in an article that you should, ask yourself if you’re genuine. Especially in the case of leadership, actions speak louder than your words.

Have I been seeking enough feedback?

There are copious amounts of people who don’t seek feedback because it could bruise the ego or harm our self-confidence, but as the saying goes – no pain, no gain. One of the most courageous acts you can perform is to seek honest and constructive feedback on your performance as a leader. You can do this during team performance reviews or one-to-one employee check-ins.

Actively seek out suggestions on how you can improve and support your team. It’s critical to follow through and integrate feedback for it to make a meaningful impact. Take this feedback, reflect on it some more, and embrace how you can grow as a leader.

Self-reflection makes the best leaders

Just as leaders expect certain standards from their people, their position as a leader holds them to greater standards.

Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that you’re holding yourself to this standard and that you’re heading in the right direction.

Regardless of whether you’re in a leadership position or not, these questions can help you bolster your strengths and make any necessary improvements that will enhance your ability to be of greater service and benefit to yourself as well as others.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

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Exit Interviews: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The value of exit interviews is a long-standing debate in the HR world, with people landing on both sides of the aisle. Some argue if an organization is broken, exit interviews are useless and hurt the interviewee’s reputation. Others say they are an excellent opportunity for an organization to learn from its mistakes.

The reality? The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Every time a valuable employee leaves an organization, it suffers. Not only because of the cost it takes to hire and train a replacement, but also:

  • For the loss of institutional knowledge
  • For the time it takes for teammates to adjust
  • For the potential dip in productivity and team morale
  • For the loss of value to customers

So, it makes sense that the smartest move for an organization is to try everything to mitigate loss.

Where they go wrong

Exit interviews, team check-ins, increased training, and team development are tangible ways to counteract the loss of a valued employee. However, if your organization suffers from a toxic company culture and mindset, or functions under a fear-based leadership style that discourages open and honest conversations about what’s not working, you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands.

In this kind of culture, exit interviews will likely be ignored and forgotten. Organizations failing to manage these issues will likely experience (at least) one mass exodus of employees. For that reason, it’s worth doing what you can to conduct honest exit interviews.

For example, suppose employee retention is low. In that case, it’s likely at some point leadership will take a keen interest in figuring out the cause, at which time those exit interviews will come in handy. No matter the case, exit interviews can be instrumental if handled correctly. If you’re interested in doing what you can to improve your organization, inform your leadership, and mitigate loss, then exit interviews are a great place to start.

Follow these steps to make the most out of them.

Be proactive

It’s essential to get your interview in before too much time has passed. Everything will still be fresh in the interviewee’s mind, making it easier for them to recall information and offer suggestions. However, be sure to account for heightened emotions as this can be a rather tumultuous time for a departing employee. It may be worth it to schedule another interview a few months down the road when the dust has settled to allow for hindsight and clear thinking. 

Be clear about your objective

Before you start your interview, work out what it is you’re trying to gain.

Do you want:

  • To uncover processes that need a review?
  • An honest assessment of managers, leadership, or team dynamics?
  • To get a picture of the job they’re leaving for?
  • To find out why their new job is more attractive than their current role?

Knowing the goals and what you want to gain will help you frame intentional questions and prepare for the answers.

Follow up

A common misstep is to forget the interviews as soon as they’re done. But there isn’t any point in conducting them unless you’re ready to follow up, analyze the data, and use what you learned.

Apply what you learned

Once you’ve gotten what you can out of an interview, set up action steps for integrating what you’ve learned. If your goal was to see how your company compared to its competitors in talent attraction, your response would look different than if you wanted to uncover issues with leadership styles. Make sure you lay out your goals and how you’ll reach them both before and after an interview; otherwise, all it will do is gather dust and become irrelevant.

A holistic approach

Internal reviews are a critical part of growth and development. While exit interviews are an excellent way to mitigate loss, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution to uncovering issues within an organization. If you’re interested in improving the employee experience, work out leadership problems, evaluate company culture, and generally drive your organization in a good direction.

Don’t wait until an employee leaves to get their opinion. Start early and start strong. Set internal reviews throughout the year, with individuals as well as entire teams. Normalize feedback and open, honest communication. Train leaders and managers to respond to and positively integrate constructive feedback. And above all, work to foster a trusting environment where employees feel free to share their experience without fear of retribution.

All of this may be uncomfortable, but the positive impact on your organization makes it well worth the effort.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Antonio Diaz

Take the Formality Out of Performance Reviews

Let’s see if this scenario is familiar.

You call your employee into your office. You review their strengths and weaknesses, assess their performance, and set goals. You may even use a rating scale to show the employee if they met, exceeded, or failed to meet expectations.

You’ve just conducted a formal performance review, and when it comes to this process, organizations lose anywhere from $2.4 million to $35 million a year in working hours for employees to participate in reviews. Yet 72% of companies still conduct annual performance reviews.

So maybe it’s the process of conducting performance reviews and not the reviews themselves that need to be changed.

What should be included in a performance review?

You may hear performance review and professional development used interchangeably. But they are two different things. A performance review measures past performance and how well an employee performed in their expected role; professional development looks forward and inspires employees to improve.

Both have their place, but a performance review is geared toward just that: Performance. Consider these things as you’re conducting reviews:

Ask questions 

To ensure there are no surprises, send the review agenda to your team member beforehand, so they’ll know what will be discussed. Ask them to provide feedback about the agenda; doing so gives them co-ownership of the conversation.

During the review, ask open-ended questions to gain the best responses. Close-ended questions that only allow a yes or no answer won’t allow opportunity for insight and make the review unnecessarily formal.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What accomplishments are you the proudest of?
  • What goals did you meet?
  • What skills do you have that we can use more effectively?
  • What about your role helps the company succeed?

You can also allow employees to do regular self-evaluation. While there are myths surrounding self-evaluations like “Employees only want to explain away their bad performance,” reflecting helps make employees happier and less likely to burn out. When coupled with an open and honest culture, self-evaluations will also be open and honest.

Consider doing a weekly check-in with self-reflection questions that look back at performance and how well team members feel they did over the past week:

  • Did you complete your ONE THING item from last week?
  • What was your greatest success over the past week?
  • What was your biggest challenge over the past week?
  • What did you learn this week through training and insight?
  • What is the ONE THING you must accomplish over this coming week?

You can use/revise this template or any number of templates you can find on the web by searching the term “employee self-evaluation template.” Choose whatever fits your company culture.

Treat performance reviews like conversations

Think of a review like a conversation, and it will remove any stress or burdens on you and your team members. But keep in mind exactly how you word things. Even things you meant as praise could be misconstrued as negative feedback if not worded correctly. Avoid:

  • Definitive terms like always and never
  • Subjective terms like rude, polite, and enthusiastic
  • Vague terms like good and poor

Instead, go further and use phrases like:

  • “I encourage you to continue [doing this action]. It provides good results for the team.”
  • “When you contact a customer after a sale is closed to ask them if they need anything, that shows you go above and beyond.”
  • “I advise you to stop [doing this action]. It results in [this consequence].”

You can also keep the review language and tone conversational by:

  • Not using a formal rating system
  • Making clear what factors of the review are tied to employee raises
  • Assuring employees this is a check-in as opposed to a performance judgment
  • Focusing on creating a culture of listening and growth
  • Having open conversations as opposed to formal discussions

Consider your cadence

Having a performance review once a year is a traditional approach. But that may not work for your organization. Think about what would be the best: Quarterly reviews? Monthly? Weekly? Consider your current framework and process and adjust accordingly.

Also, couple reviews with open feedback. When leaders provide their team with frequent and honest feedback, your team is more likely to be motivated and engaged at work.

Show your appreciation

No matter what kinds of questions you ask and how often you conduct reviews, they aren’t just about formality, ratings, and numbers. They are a way to show your employees appreciation for their work and help both you and them develop a better future. And that is a good thing.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Somsak Sudthangtum

Formidable Traits to Cultivate for Remote Teams

Learning new things is always a challenge. And they’re even more challenging when everyone has to learn them all at once. Imagine working for a company where everyone was hired within a week. No one would have any support or experience. It would be chaos!

That’s the way most companies felt when they made the switch to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone was scrambling, very few were prepared, and there were many mistakes, followed by halted projects, increased frustration, and uncertainty.

As with many things, it helps to model yourself after those who have been successful in doing what you’re attempting to do. And while you may have worked out the major kinks in the first year of working remotely, it pays off to delve deeper and take a look at the foundation of how you’re running your remote team. Especially if you’re planning on keeping remote positions available long-term as 76% of employees say they want to keep their flexible working arrangements after the pandemic.

To generate a powerful remote team that drives results, focus on cultivating these four traits.

1. Independence and empowerment

For remote employees to be their most effective, they need to have a fair amount of freedom to take the lead on their work. Allowing team members the leeway they need to find the answers to their questions, create direction for themselves, and take the initiative whenever they can helps them in more ways than one. Having the ability to take the initiative will:

  • Encourage employees to take more ownership over their tasks
  • Motivate employees to become self-sufficient, creating room for professional development
  • Urge team members to reach out to one another (instead of the boss) for direction and help, increasing collaboration and team involvement
  • Create a more efficient team that only brings challenges to the boss once they’ve run out of ideas and solutions, freeing up time for the team leader to focus on their work

2. Value space for casual connection

Like any on-site team, your remote workers need time to relax in a social environment with each other. Hosting a virtual happy hour, end-of-week check-in meeting, or virtual games can help your team feel more connected and engaged with one another.

People who say they struggle with working remotely often point to feeling isolated and disconnected. Successful remote teams take this seriously and make efforts to create time for employees to connect. Even if you don’t have a weekly happy hour on your calendar, consider encouraging your team to take a minute or two to chat about non-work-related things before a meeting begins, just like you would do in person. This practice creates a critical moment of social connection and mental break from an otherwise quiet and focused day.

3. Developed and powerful values

One of the most effective ways to help your team stay aligned and engaged with your company is to develop your team around a set of core values that your company holds. Integrating your company values into your onboarding process, your communication, your goals, and your employee (and customer) experience is a wonderful way of creating a mental foundation for your employees to work off of.

When your employees are familiar with your company’s core values, they can make informed decisions about approaching challenges, meeting their own goals, and setting expectations around how they should be working on their team. Strong core values create a roadmap for employees to follow that provides clarity and a sense of understanding around their function within your organization. This is particularly important for remote employees who need a strong connection with your company to feel connected in their roles while working from home.

4. Respect and clear boundaries for employees’ time

While working from home can lead to increased productivity and engagement, it can also mean that employees struggle with creating boundaries between work and their personal lives. Without the physical distance between home and office, there is a literal lack of separation between work and life that remote workers experience daily. Employees who can’t step away from their work while at home may start to burn out.

Set very clear boundaries around when employees should be available. Encourage your team leaders not to answer or send emails after 5:00 pm and to discourage their team members from doing so. Make a healthy work-life balance part of your core values and set the expectation that your employees don’t work on their days off or in their free time. Boundaries will help employees feel more comfortable stepping away from their work and allow them to take the time they need to lead a healthy life.

Stay open to feedback

As you continue down the road of remote work, check in frequently with your team to find out what is, and isn’t, working. Keep a running list of the challenges your employees come across and check back with them about their progress. Keep tabs on what other companies are doing and look for new solutions and ideas to keep your team fresh, engaged, and happy. Like anything, it takes practice, patience, and perseverance. Keep working at it, keep talking to your team, and keep trying new things. Eventually, you’ll find your swing.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Vadym Pastukh

Managing Workplace Conflict Like a Pro

Interpersonal conflict is something every workplace must deal with at some point. When people work in close quarters, there is bound to be some type of friction that comes to the surface and needs to be dealt with.

Sometimes the people in the conflict can work it out themselves. This usually happens if both people are willing and able to sit down and hash things out. However, many people are uncomfortable directly addressing issues and conflicts and will do anything to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

This results in passive aggression, negativity, decreased productivity, and team dysfunction, which can spread and begin to negatively affect other employees. Conflicts like these are best solved quickly, and strategically, and often guided by management.

Unfortunately, if leadership isn’t prepared to handle conflicts correctly, they can have a much greater negative effect on the situation and make it worse for everyone. Here are a couple of leadership practices guaranteed NOT to succeed in solving a conflict.

Evading

We know you’re busy. You’ve got a million things on your plate and goals and quotas to meet. So that argument between Tim and Kathy on the production team just doesn’t seem important enough for you to prioritize today. Oh sure, you’ll get to it, but it not today. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week? You’re hoping that maybe by then, it’ll just go away. Spoiler alert: it won’t.

Avoidance can come in many different forms. For instance, say you’ve talked to Kathy and Tim separately and heard their sides of the story, but you haven’t yet set up a meeting with both of them together. It might feel like you’ve made some progress after hearing them both initially. People often feel better after they’ve had a chance to get their story out and feel heard. This might have even deflated their frustration for the time being. But it won’t last.

No one likes to have uncomfortable conversations, and you’re no exception. Being in leadership doesn’t mean you’re automatically exempt from having the same reservations about confrontation as the rest of humanity. You may be a good problem solver and a good listener, but if you just stop having individual conversations and don’t move forward to confronting the issue together, you’ve halted the healing process.

Disconnection

Separating people when they are fighting might work with children, but it isn’t a sustainable solution for dealing with conflict at the office. Employees must be able to work together and rely on each other as a team. Just trying to give them different projects and hoping they won’t run into something that requires them to work together isn’t going to help you or them in the long run.

Listening to their individual stories and sending them in different directions is setting your team up for failure. Plus, it’s setting an unhealthy standard for how your company handles interpersonal conflict.

Lead them back together

Unless you take the step to get them talking face-to-face, you’ve just put the problem on hold, not dealt with it. Having a functional, healthy team should be a top priority for any leader. The chances of meeting your goals with a robust team working together are much greater than working with a dysfunctional team and their infighting.

Taking an hour out of your day today to solve a conflict will save you hours of cleanup work later on down the road. It’ll also ensure that the conflict doesn’t expand and begin to affect other team members.

Time to get constructive

If you’re uncomfortable with confrontation or not sure how to mitigate the conflict, it helps to go in with a plan:

  • Structure the conversation so both parties have their chance to speak and respond to each other.
  • Encourage them to each take accountability.
  • Set the expectation that they will come to a resolution, creating a clear, actionable plan for how they will move forward.
  • Set a follow-up meeting a week or two down the road to help keep everyone accountable.

You may never be comfortable with confrontation, but fortunately, with practice, you can get better at successfully dealing with it. The more you set the expectation that conflict will be dealt with in this way, the easier it is to do it. Hopefully, it becomes so ingrained in your company culture that co-workers will begin to do it themselves without the need to bring in leadership to help mitigate the discussion.

So next time there’s a conflict at the office, don’t hesitate to deal with it then and there. Don’t put it off, don’t avoid the uncomfortable conversation. Show them you believe in their ability to solve the problem themselves by bringing them together to do so. You’ve got this, and so do they.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by romastudio

Non-Insurance Solutions That Make a Real Impact

The world of employee benefits experienced significant growing pains since the pandemic hit a little over a year ago. With all the new challenges employees began experiencing (job loss, loss of childcare, financial instability, mental health, and so much more), employers learned, fast, that ensuring the wellbeing of their employees is essential.

Let’s break down some of the factors contributing to employee resilience and wellbeing that employers can effectively take action on.

Employee Wellness

It’s important to understand that while the term ‘wellness’ is singular, it encompasses a variety of factors that contribute to it. While someone may have good physical wellness, if they are experiencing hardship in other areas of their lives, their overall wellness will be affected. In this way, employers need to approach wellness holistically, focusing on more than one contributing factor in an employee’s overall wellbeing.

Financial stability

A 2018 report by the Federal Reserve found 40% of adults would struggle to pay off a $400 unexpected expense. According to the MetLife Employee Benefit Trends Study 2021, financial stress is both the top concern and the leading factor contributing to poor mental health among employees. A staggering 86% of employees reported financial stress was a leading source of anxiety now and going forward.

These numbers vastly differ between demographics, showing a disparity in the experience of white/Caucasian and Black and Latinx respondents. When asked if they had been worried about their financial health, 53% of white respondents and 70% of both Black and Latinx respondents said yes. These numbers are concerning not only because of the disparity they represent but also because they demonstrate the vast number of people suffering from financial stress.

Many employers function under the misconception that their employees are financially stable, but there is no way of knowing what kind of financial burdens employees may carry. They may be a single parent, a caregiver of a family member with medical needs, or struggling to pay off staggering student loan debts. Whatever the case, employers that offer financially focused benefits can help make a significant difference in their employees’ lives.

Consider offering financially focused benefits aimed at developing financial stability for your employees now and into their future:

  • Student loan support
  • 401(k) and other retirement savings
  • Monthly wellness stipends
  • Financial coaching and education
  • Childcare support

Mental health

One of the positive side effects created by the pandemic has been the increased availability of accessible mental health support. Organizations like BetterHelp and Talkspace provide access to qualified therapists that provide therapy services online or over the phone, and these services have taken off over the past year as more Americans have reached out for mental health help. Offering programs designed to overcome cost barriers that may deter employees from accessing mental health services is a great way to help support your employees’ wellbeing.

Flex time

Another way to provide support to employees is to offer flex time. Many organizations have started to use flex time since the pandemic began, along with remote work. According to the same MetLife study, 76% of workers are interested in continuing alternative working arrangements developed during the pandemic such as remote work and flexible schedules, but 90% of employers who said they implemented these alternative solutions are planning to go back to pre-pandemic working arrangements when possible. That is a concerning disparity that may result in employee frustration when they are forced back into the office, expensive commutes, and less flexibility to manage their personal lives.

68% of employees working remotely want their employers to allow them to make the decision for themselves. Over half of workers in their 20s, including Gen Zs and young Millennials, are happier with their working arrangements now than before the pandemic.

Flexible scheduling, remote options, and unlimited PTO programs allow employees to better manage their personal commitments with less stress, enabling them to maintain their overall wellness with greater ease.

Social justice

2020 wasn’t just the Year of the Pandemic, but a year of great social unrest and change. 42% of all employees say that social justice issues are a source of anxiety for them. These issues reach across demographics, location, age, and economic status. All employers must do what they can to provide support in this area.

Consider offering:

  • Paid volunteer hours
  • Paid holidays or time off during election days
  • Inclusivity training for managers and employees

In it for the long haul

Employee wellness was a critical issue long before the pandemic and will continue to be one well into the future. Employers who are serious about developing a company that can drive growth, attract, retain, and engage employees, and leave a positive legacy behind them need to be considering these issues consistently throughout the years.

What’s good for your employees is good for you: employees who identify as mentally and physically healthy are 37% more productive than those that aren’t. And that’s just one statistic that shows how caring for your employees creates a positive ripple effect within your organization, their community, and the world.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by fizkes