Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

author: @aestranger

Reading time: 8 minutes

Emerging as a team after Quarantine

The use of team-building experiences to bring your team back together

Nations are starting to consider how to relax some of the measures of quarantine and lockdown. And quarantine will have affected your teams and employees. Therefore it is worth considering the questions of what it looks like when emerging as a team after quarantine.

You will likely need to consider how you can bring your team together now and after the quarantine. There are the probabilities that communication may have become excessive, causing team members to possibly avoid each other. Or communication may be scarce, meaning team members are not as adept at collaborating. These are new issues that may arise during these lockdown periods.

And it likely won’t be the last time that something like this happens, if we are to take the warnings from Bill Gates into account. So, how do we consider our choices of ensuring that our teams remain positive and productive when they are working remotely and when they can work in-person together again?

We know that effective teams positively affect the organisations that they are in. And effective teams are only possible if the members and employees in them are happy. Since employees are more productive and collaborative when they are happy.

What we need to do then to ensure that our teams are resilient, happy and productive is to change our viewpoint and mindset around what teams are. Teams do not need to be ‘optimised’, and teamwork does not need ‘enhancement’ or an ‘upgrade’. Teams aren’t machines, they consist of living breathing individuals, and should be handled as such.

We, therefore, need to initially change the language we use; team members need care and development and teams need to be fostered and nurtured so that they can grow. As Patrick Lencioni states in his book; The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (2002): “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.

Building on this idea of the ultimate competitive advantage, we need to start by taking into account each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. And allow for opportunities where each individual can discover what they can contribute to the team and where they require support from the team. That is essentially the crux of having a team-building experience, that team members can discover this for themselves.

And so, when your teams return from an unfamiliar and maybe unwanted experience of remote working, they may require some help and support to find their bearings again. A team-building experience is something that can help them do this. To help you consider the use of such an experience, it can be defined as: “interventions designed to improve effectiveness in working together by confronting and resolving problems” (Boss, 1983).

With my experience of developing and delivering gamified team-collaboration experiences with aeStranger, I’ve found that for it to be truly effective, you need to have these 6 features of team-collaboration in your team-building experiences. These features are all based on theories by Bruce Tuckman’s Stages Model, Robert Bales model, Stewart Tubb’s 4-phase model, Fisher’s 4-phases, McGrath’s TIP theory, Susan Wheelan’s integrated model, as well as personal observation and experience with groups and teams.

A short TL;DR list is:

  1. Familiarization – getting know each other (again)
  2. (Re-)Arrangement – figuring out roles (again)
  3. Resistance – friction and figuring places
  4. Balancing – learning to accept, compromise and move forward
  5. Implementation & Accomplishment – becoming a cohesive unit (again) and completing the task
  6. Continuation – continued support and check-in’s and giving teams a new goal!

Familiarisation

When your teams emerge from their remote world and need to reconnect in a face to face manner, they will likely need to learn to get to know each other again. Hopefully, communication continued regardless, but being in the same physical space again might need some assistance.

Essentially teams exist and thrive when they have a common problem and goal to achieve. Otherwise, there is no reason for them. And they need these challenges to boost their creativity and productivity as individuals and as a single unit. And especially after a long period of pseudo-isolation, they may need to be stretched in directions that they hadn’t thought of on their own.

The best method for facilitating a way in which your team members can get to know each other is through a common Problem and Goal. And to do this in an accelerated manner, you would need a one or two-day team-building experience. What this specifically offers is common ground for everyone in the team. They can use the challenge of needing to figure out a problem, its limitation, resources available, etc. to reconnect and (re-)form as a cohesive team.

 

(Re-)Arrangement

The next aspect of team-building is that of members (re-)arranging themselves in their teams. Individuals will likely want to assert their independence, especially after a long period of remote working. They will need to learn to work together again, learning who each person is now, and how that interaction and collaboration will work.

What you will notice is that particular roles and persona’s will appear in people as they try to rediscover where their place is within the team. This will eventually lead to some tension, but you shouldn’t interfere when this self-assertion occurs within your team members. This could be seen as micromanagement, and that is fatal for the team’s health and progress.

The aim is to allow your team members to feel each other out and to feel autonomous and independent in their choices and actions. Doing this fosters understanding and trust in the long run, between the members and you as their manager.

 

Resistance

As team members learn to work with each other, they come into conflict and opposition with each other. This is all part of the learning process and the overall journey of any team. A team that doesn’t have conflict, much like any relationship, is one that isn’t learning and isn’t growing. The adage of ‘growing pains’ comes to mind here.

But unlike when individuals are arranging and asserting themselves, if conflicts boil over into fights, then you may be required to interfere. This is mostly to maintain a level of civility within the team. Do what is needed to settle down tempers and then step back again to minimise any interference. Teams need to learn how to self-manage and learn self-control.

The friction is natural as members come to terms with each other’s quirks, opinions and so forth. As they work together on the collective Problem and Goal, they will start to express personal ideas, hopefully, listen and contribute to arguments and explore different points of view. The best outcome for this is compromise. But that takes time and it cannot be rushed. It needs to be organic or the team will eventually fragment as it wasn’t based on mutual understanding and acceptance.

Within a team-building experience, as within company projects, the Problem and the Goal will be the source of the tension, as well as the glue that keeps the team together. A team-building experience will do this in an accelerated manner, allowing individuals to experience the focus it offers during difficult periods, the loyalty it invokes for being together for the same problem and the growth and learning it eventually enables for them.

Balancing

The objective of any team-building experience, in the end, is to create an environment where the team members learn to accept each other and establish an organic system of (unspoken) rules and guidelines that exist within that team.

For this to occur, especially within the corporate environment, you will need to give your employees the space they need to figure this out. This refers to both emotional and physical space. If they feel crowded over or watched, then this process will not occur or will take too long to happen. And this will likely become another source of hostility.

Do not be worried though if there is still some resistance within the group, as the team learns to balance itself, accept its own set of rules, it will have some pain points and this is normal. As they review and clarify the Problem and the Goal, they will start to change and/or conform to certain roles. To make sure that the team is moving in a positive direction, keep an eye out for these points:

  • Questioning performance & actions
  • Individual assertiveness towards specific ideas
  • Intentional listening to each other’s ideas
  • Testing of new ideas
  • Raising risky issues with each other
  • Identifying each other’s strengths and weaknesses

If these occur then you can take comfort that the team is learning about itself and how their personal goals fit within the overall Goal of the experience or project. As well as what actions they need to take to ensure a successful outcome for everyone.

Thanks to the central Problem and Goal provided by a team-building experience, teams will come to a consensus, through some necessary compromises, and ultimately consolidate and solidify as a single entity.

 

Implementation & Accomplishment

As the team and its member have gone through the difficult phases of learning about each other again and learning to work together, they will come together and work as one to achieve the Goal for the Problem that has up to this point kept them together.

Having fully reconnected, and working together as a single unit, the team will likely fall into a state flow and engage in a time of intense team productivity to solve the problem and reach the desired outcome for the objective that they were given. As they go into this flow-state the team’s motivation should increase as its members work on their own goals, each other’s goals and the overall goal. In essence, a symbiotic entity could emerge and the team becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

This esoteric concept of how a team comes together is essential. It cannot be directly quantified in the moment that it occurs, but it is a necessary moment of collaboration if the team is to survive beyond the current Problem-Goal that they have been given. If they become greater than the sum of their parts and have a successful completion of their task, then you will certainly have a cohesive team. But you cannot become complacent, as a team’s purpose for existence is still having something to strive for.

 

Continuation

Once a team has completed the Goal of the Problem, they will feel fulfilled. Especially in one or two day team-building experiences and workshops, the sense of elation and euphoria will be quite strong. The want and need to remain as a team will be very powerful at this point, and therefore support and follow-up conversations will be needed to maintain the cohesion of the team.

If a team-building experience was indeed used to (re-)start your team’s collaboration then you will need to ensure that there is a project ready and waiting for them to jump into when they come out of the experience and go back to their regular day jobs. You need to ride the wave as it were.

For the general health and wellbeing of your teams, will have to follow up a few days after the experience, and keep doing this for several weeks after still. Or if it was an externally facilitated team experience, then perhaps the outside facilitator will be able to follow up as well and check in with your teams to make sure they are doing well. Though this isn’t a free pass for you, it simply provides you with another point of view beyond your own check-ups.

Providing this level of support during and after a team-building experience will help foster a better team culture for your company, and promote trust and loyalty between members and managers. And it will also stimulate a healthier, more inclusive and productive work culture in your organisation.

Remember, the goal of a team is to kill the task and not kill the team. And this can best be done through a tailored team-building experience.

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Do check out the other posts on æStranger.com, and do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

Please do Share if you found it helpful and if you know of someone who would it find it helpful as well. 

Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on email
Email
Share on reddit
Reddit

And if you wish to support us in any way, then you can do so by buying us a Beer or a Coffee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

en_GBEnglish
nl_NLDutch en_GBEnglish