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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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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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

Make It as Simple as PB&J

A few years ago, a comedian took a video of himself with his two children as he followed their written instructions to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In the video, he follows his kids’ instructions exactly. As you might have guessed, it goes rather poorly.

Instruction: Put the peanut butter on the bread.

Dad: Puts the jar of peanut butter on the slice of bread.

Instruction: Take one piece of bread, spread it around with the butter knife.

Dad: Takes a plain piece of bread and spreads it around on the counter using a butter knife.

Instruction: Get some jelly, rub it on the other half of the bread.

Dad: Rubs the jar of jelly on the other slice of bread.

And so it goes. Complete chaos. While this video is hilarious, it speaks to a fairly common issue in the world of business. How often do we give or receive instructions that are lacking? If you’ve ever had to build a complicated piece of furniture from Ikea, you know the utter rage such things can incite. Despite the fact that Ikea does everything it can to make its instructions perfect—pictures and all.

It’s not that simple

How often do we leave gaps in our explanations, and send someone off with instructions made up of 50% assumptions that they think the same way we do or know the same things we do? It’s not surprising, really. Writing instructions—good instructions—is tedious. It’s boring. We already know what we’re asking for, leaving us inclined to leave out the obvious.

But not everyone has the same brain, the same frame of mind, or the same references. This means leaving out what’s obvious for you could be leaving out a key ingredient for the reader.

It’s all in the details

When you hire a new employee, change leadership, or implement a new piece of technology, how common is it for things to go awry? Think about how easy it is for roles to get mixed up or tasks to be incorrectly completed. This type of thing doesn’t just frustrate everyone—it wastes time and money. And the worst part is, it’s avoidable. If only you had prepared thorough instructions.

So next time you’re writing out instructions, follow these steps:

  1. Write down everything.
  2. Don’t skip anything.
  3. Walk yourself through the instructions after you’ve written them. Take them literally.
  4. Ask someone else to read through them and look for gaps.
  5. Treat it like you’re talking to an alien. Don’t assume they know what anything means.

This isn’t a flashy topic, but it’s an essential one. While you’ve been trained to do many things, you’ve probably never been trained to write instructions. We all just assume everyone knows how—but they don’t really. Because “common sense” is dependent on common experience—and those aren’t the same for everyone.

Next time you’re writing instructions, ask yourself: is it worth a short amount of tedium now to be as detailed as possible, or a more frustrated, repeated tedium later when you have to start over? The answer is obvious.

 

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Photo by Iurii Golub

If You Care About ROI, Follow This Strategy

When you measure progress within your organization, you don’t do it by checking off each individual activity done by your team. You do it by looking at how well you’re accomplishing your overall company goals. So why do we often approach projects from the opposite direction?

A common mistake that leads to loss of ROI and efficiency stems from our human need to get swept up in the details. Now, there’s nothing wrong with getting all the details right, but details shouldn’t be first in the pecking order of priorities.

For progress to happen, you need to measure your activities. But without goals and a strategy, you can’t measure anything accurately. If you don’t have a solid plan of alignment, you won’t prioritize what actions and details need the most attention.

The flaw in quick solutions

As we’ve all learned in the last year, crises happen, and they can happen overnight. Organizational pivots can be spurred by internal and external events within your market, industry, or location. With varying levels of success, businesses responded to shifts caused by the pandemic by implementing new technology, changing processes, and rearranging priorities.

Even outside the pandemic, it’s incredibly easy for organizations to implement “solutions” to their problems, creating more friction. For instance, many organizations struggle with data duplication because they use different systems to track their prospecting and sales, marketing, and client management. The result is a chaotic mass of unusable data that provides extremely limited information to those who need it.

Here’s how to ensure your organization avoids this type of costly mistake by changing your approach to problem-solving.

Stepping back

Before you decide to implement a solution for a problem, start by following these steps.

1. Identify your core goal

Your goal should be in the context of the result you’re looking for, not the solution. For instance, “We need a system to help us manage our prospecting” is an example of a solution statement. A goal statement looks more like, “We want to make more informed decisions around how we manage our prospecting and have a smoother handoff between prospecting/sales and client management.” Starting with the goal statement stops you from identifying possible solutions before you’re ready and keeps the door open to make connections between this goal and other related goals.

2. Review department alignment

If you want to save time and resources, spend time reviewing how this goal might affect other departments; specifically, determine if it aligns with issues cropping up in those departments. In the case of data duplication, if an organization approaches marketing, sales, and client management as separate tasks, they miss what it’s all about: the entire customer experience.

Suppose they approached this issue with a broader lens. In that case, they could implement a tool to combine each of these activities under one system, resulting in no data duplication and a smoother transition between the customer journey stages.

3. Identify your KPIs

If you’re interested in measuring how well a solution is working (which you should be for several reasons, ROI aside), then identify core KPIs you can use to track a tool’s success. Keep them measurable, attainable, and specific.

To continue with the example used above, KPIs for this type of solution might involve:

  • Increased customer retention rates
  • Increased closed deals
  • Decreased time for client onboarding

Refer back to your goal statement to help you identify the results you hope to achieve.

Don’t skip ahead

If you find a new tool that seems excellent, great!

But stop before implementing it.

It’s easy to get excited about a solution without first clarifying your goal. Who doesn’t like to nerd out about new solutions? But if you don’t have processes in place to stop new solutions from being implemented before completing these steps, you’ll end up wasting time, money, and resources.

These steps should be followed for nearly every activity, process, and solution your organization implements. So even though you’re excited, stop, take a step back, and make sure you cover these bases before running ahead with your new solution. The results will be far more impactful, efficient, and sustainable.

 

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Are Exit Interviews Really Worth It?

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.

The catch

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.

Don’t wait 

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. 

Clarify goals

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.

Review  

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.

Respond 

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.

Start before it ends

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 really 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.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Getting the Competitive Advantage: Optimizing HR

Your HR team worries about a lot of things.

They worry about compensation, compliance, retention, engagement, attraction, productivity, company culture, and more. Over the past few years, HR has gotten more and more attention as leaders recognize its ability to drive results and growth.

If your C-Suite hasn’t yet, it’s well past time to start strengthening the ties between HR and your leadership teams. With the right direction, HR can provide insights into different levels of your organization that direct managers, individuals, and high-level leaders can easily miss.

Uncovering the competition

A large part of attracting and retaining top industry talent is standing out among your competitors. This requires an intimate knowledge of the different factors employees care about right now, not what ten years ago.

HR has a unique window into this subject. They have access to internal team reviews, the benefits you offer, and professional development plans. They’re there for interviews and can track what questions candidates ask about the culture, what you offer, and how your business is run.

All this is a roundabout way of saying HR has the hard data you need.

If you’re wondering why a clutch of employees all left at the same time or why you don’t see a strong ROI on your benefits plan, your HR team has the answers in substantial, verifiable numbers. Their insight can be invaluable when deciding what perks to offer or how to develop company loyalty and engagement.

Setting you up for success

While HR may have a lot of insight into your organization’s critical parts, it’s essential to remember they are busy. Without a concerted effort on behalf of the leadership, their wisdom can go unspoken, unused, and wasted. To make sure you don’t waste your opportunity for development, take these steps.

Start the conversation

At the beginning of every year, sit down with your HR team and start a high-level conversation about your organization’s current state. Ensure you hit the major talking points: benefits, employee engagement, retention, compliance, and culture. Get a gauge on where they think you are on the competitive landscape. Think about and ask such questions as:

  • What are your competitors offering?
  • Who have your employees left your organization to work for?
  • What do employees care about currently?
  • What are the trending challenges employees are struggling with?

Use this conversation as an opportunity to brainstorm ideas, solutions, and possible challenges. Identify three high-level, long-term goals you have.  Break those goals down into actionable, measurable, short-term goals to focus on throughout the year.

Revisit, review, repeat

Set quarterly meetings to review progress on each of these goals. Make sure to set the tone for open, honest communication. Your HR team needs to know it’s okay to talk about these issues because without that confidence, these meetings will be useless. It can help to focus on hard data to de-personalize successes and failures.

Make these reviews about progress and engage and encourage your team’s creativity to solve problems and develop new ideas to help you keep your competitive advantage. Set measurable, SMART goals to create a clear path forward.

Unlock your potential

Since the HR department touches different parts of your organization, its ability to affect change and assess your company’s health can be meaningful. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to gain real insight, gauge where you are in your competitive landscape, and set yourself up for success. Strong leaders understand the need for transparent internal processes for growth, and HR has the insights to get you on the right path.

Together, your potential is more significant than you may think.

 

Photo by Roman Samborskyi

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Driving Growth with Purpose

Keeping employees engaged is a constant worry for leaders. There are many ways to address engagement in the workplace. Benefits, company culture, and professional development are some aspects of the employee experience that drive engagement. But if you look at engagement from a personal—even emotional—level, there’s something deeper at play.

Think about the last time you became disengaged with a project. What was the deriving factor behind your disengagement? More often than not, we become disengaged with our work because we feel it doesn’t matter. We become disengaged with our roles when we lose our sense of purpose.

That deep human need to feel valuable, of use, and appreciated—to feel like we matter­—plays a central role in whether or not we give our 100% at work or if we slowly decline and become less and less interested in our contributions.

While creating a supportive company culture, good managers and fair compensation can make a huge difference in employee engagement. It’s important not to leave out this simple yet critical part. You need your employees to feel like they matter to you, your organization, and your customers. 

So how do you do that? Try these steps.

Ask them about their career goals

Whether an employee is just starting or has been with your company for years, engaging them in a discussion around their future and interests can make a serious impact. By doing so, you can:

  • Align their aspirations with your goals for the future of your business. Maybe their interests lie in learning a new set of skills your organization could use!
  • Show them you acknowledge their individuality, path, and personal trajectory outside of your organization.
  • Get them thinking about how they can grow within your company—creating a path to a good future for both them and your organization.
  • Help them realize the work they’re doing will play a part in their future opportunities.

Recognize, recognize, recognize

And the more often you do it, the better.

Did an employee write a great email? Tell them. Did a team complete a project without any hiccups? Celebrate it. Tell your managers to watch the individuals on their teams and identify and celebrate their particular strengths. When people feel seen, they put more intention in their actions. Appreciation goes both ways, so make sure you’re not stingy with yours.

Make your organizational goals personal

A great way to foster purpose is to help your employees see their role from a broader perspective. Engage them in conversations about the future of the company. Ask for their advice and input on how things could be better, and center all of this around your organizational goals. Help your employees see how their role is essential to your organization’s success.

Consider having interdepartmental check-ins where each department talks about how they rely on one another. When your company meets a goal, celebrate your employees for making it happen.  

Be flexible when you can, where you can

Employees have lives outside of your organization. They have families, personal goals, friends, doctors’ appointments, and mental and physical health to manage. So, when an employee approaches you for help, be it flex time, extra time off, or medical leave—supporting them to the best of your ability can make a lasting impact on their loyalty and engagement. They’ll feel valued and taken care of as individuals, and that will translate to how they see themselves as employees.

Some employees expect to be resented for taking time off—and in many cases, it’s true. They fear losing their jobs, their position, and their standing. Show them it’s safe to be human and that you have their back.

It can be challenging to find effective ways to make employees feel seen and valued, but the effort is worth it. It will foster strong, loyal relationships and a sense of value and purpose for everyone. This value will translate into high-quality work, dedicated employees, and a culture and brand that will attract, retain, and drive talent.

 

Photo by Vassiliy Kochetkov

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Five Steps to Developing an Innovative Organization

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 this year’s challenges.

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! Innovation and flexibility 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 in 2021 and beyond, try these five tips.

1. Encourage honest, open feedback

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. Professional development

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. Psychological safety

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 were never able 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. Employee empowerment

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. A values system

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.

 

Photo by ammentorp

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Tips for Virtual Onboarding

Hiring is a tricky process. You’ve got a lot at stake, and you want to make sure you start strong. But what does hiring look like with remote employees?

You can’t have them shadow someone all day, and you can’t walk them around the office to get acquainted with the team. And onboarding goes beyond the first day–it can easily reach into the first few months after someone assumes their position.

Today, managers hiring remote employees grapple with many questions:

  • How do company values integrate into the onboarding experience?
  • How can new hires feel more connected to the team?
  • How can new hires feel welcomed?
  • What is the best way to mentor and coach new hires?
  • How do you ensure the psychological safety and well-being of new hires?

Try these tips for improving the virtual onboarding experience.

Help them connect

One way to help new employees feel connected with their team and your company values is to boost both individual and group face time. Instead of merely introducing the new hire at the next team meeting, consider breaking up onboarding tasks and assigning them out to different team members to complete. For instance, if you need new employees to get a handle on your file-sharing system, your various communication channels, and your project management processes, assign each team member one task to teach them.

Don’t worry if you have overlapping subjects shared between team members. It never hurts to learn something twice, and it helps reinforce the way your company approaches communication. These one-on-one meetings give new team members a chance to question their peers about what it’s like to work for you. This opens up opportunities for your team to instill company values from the get-go. 

Keep your new hires safe

Psychological safety is a crucial component of a strong company culture. Particularly in virtual environments, it’s critical to over-communicate—especially in the beginning. Creating a transparent feedback process that’s open, encouraging, and constructive will help prepare new hires to interact with your team and accomplish projects.

To counteract possible anxiety stemming from a lack of social and interpersonal cues, make an effort to expressly tell employees when their work meets or exceeds expectations—even for something small. A well-written email to a client, a clearly organized document—whatever it is, make sure you tell them. A simple “well done!” can go a long way in helping them get a feel for how well they’re performing in their new role.

Additionally, make sure you have a transparent system to catch and deal with bad behavior. Workplace bullies don’t go away just because your team is virtual. Develop a company culture that discourages any toxic behavior and a system to manage it if it occurs. 

Clarify the unspoken rules

With many people suffering from increased anxiety and depression due to the pandemic, developing ways to make your work environment less stressful goes a long way in helping people acclimate to their role and to your company culture.

Every workplace has a list of unspoken rules people slowly pick up on as they acclimate to the work environment. But these rules may be harder to pick up on in a virtual work environment, leaving employees to guess what’s acceptable and what’s not. For instance:

  • Is it okay to turn off cameras for a short time during long meetings?
  • Is it acceptable to take a break and go for a walk in the middle of the day?
  • Are you expected to respond immediately to messages on Slack?
  • How are you expected to dress for internal and external meetings?

Make a list of unspoken company rules available to your team members. This will relieve stress and help your new employees settle in quicker and easier.

It’s a team effort

When approached with a collective mindset, onboarding becomes easier than leaving it to one person to guide a new employee through the first few months in their role. A team approach encourages new workplace friendships, better communication, and clearer company culture. Consider doing a post onboarding survey to gauge what you did well and what needs improvement. Keep looking for new ways to engage your team members, both new and old. Virtual work environments don’t have to be lonely and isolating.

Give your team a structure for clear communication, community, and connection, and watch them thrive.

 

 

Photo by mavoimage

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners