Updated: Oct 13, 2020
Remote working in dispersed teams has been around for many years.
COVID 19 has however seen almost all teams being dispersed and it has left a lot of leaders and teams unsettled
It is amazing how quickly it all happened!
Many organisations were still deliberating the pros and cons of remote working when all of a sudden, the decision in favour of remote working was made for everyone.
After this disruptive and quick process of initiating remote working, many teams are still finding themselves unsettled and needing to re-focus on deepening a sense of unity.
As humans, we all crave a sense of belonging, and so unity in teams has an important all-round, systemic, positive impact.
What is challenging about where we are as dispersed teams?
Disengagement in organisations was already at pandemic levels before we entered COVID-19, and now leaders need to strengthen unity with the additional challenge of leading remote teams.
The leadership skills that up until now attempted to influence team unity are in need of review.
What can you, as strategic leaders, do to improve your ability to enable unity in teams and that supports them with the many major decisions that have to be made remotely?
What are we looking for in unity as human beings?
It is essential that we understand the territory that we are operating in when we are leading people, irrespective of dispersed or in the office together.
As human beings, we are wired to be in relationship and to belong.
If we are stuck in tense or conflicted situations, or we feel disconnected from the organisation and team, we cannot bring our full self to work. We will not be as effective, creative, engaged and collaborative as we have the potential to be.
How everyone’s potential flourishes in the workplace, is directly linked to the degree of belonging they experience.
Why strategic leadership skills to establish unity?
The definition of the word Strategy in Wikipedia is: “is a general plan to achieve one or more long-term or overall goals under conditions of uncertainty.”
The differentiator that I would like to highlight here is that I am presenting strategic skills, not quick-fix solutions.
Leaders often get nervous about the mention of long-term, especially in times when the pressures and challenges require immediate attention and resolution.
Unity takes time to build, it needs to overcome mistrust and disengagement issues that are systemic.
Without this longer-term strategic approach, leaders jeopardise their opportunity for changing the status quo.
There needs to be clarity about the long term goal, if that is not clear, these strategic leadership skills will feel like distractions, and leaders will not have the needed ‘why’ to provide the strong certitude for following through.
Develop unity through these 3 strategic leadership skills:
Unity is a subjective term. It cannot be measured, other than through the subjective feedback from team members. It is an emotional experience.
So leaders need to be prepared and skilled to influence this subjective space, especially when the team is suffering from pockets of disengagement and cliques.
Here are 3 skills that allow leaders to make this transformational shift in their teams
(1) Create a platform in which all voices and views are welcome:
In the strategic journey to deepening unity in dispersed teams, the first step is to assess the current situation.
Leaders will need to gather input from everyone in the team; otherwise, they risk working in a vacuum, and immediately compromise their ambitions for achieving deeper unity.
So get the team involved right from the start.
Hearing and validating all the various team experiences, creates fertile ground conditions to deepen trust and confirm belonging.
This inclusive approach confirms the intent you as a leader have to further unity in your dispersed team.
Often leaders are reserved to ask everyone for ideas because they don’t want to set expectations that all ideas can be implemented. Therefore, managing expectations and the process of how decisions will be made must be contextualised right at the start of the conversations.
(2) Reading and working with the Emotional Field
A key strategic skill for all leaders with remote teams is to sharpen their skills to read and work with the emotions in the ‘room’.
It certainly is a different skill to be able to read the emotions in the virtual channels, but it is definitely possible.
The emotional field is the channel through which leaders will be able to pick up early signs of exclusion.
It is critical for leaders to articulate what they sense within the team.
A leader may not know precisely how to do this, but attempts to do this in an authentic way builds trust and creates a space of sharing and transparency.
Meta-skills are overarching skills. They infuse the ‘feel’ of the interaction over and above the many specific and technical skills that leaders bring forward. It creates a leader’s overarching emotional presence. His or her come-from place
An example of a powerful meta-skill during times of transition is ‘open-mindedness’.
This meta-skill has an overarching influence over how leaders approach their day, the challenges they face and the many questions that come their way during change.
A meta-skill can be any quality the leader intentionally chooses to infuse the given situation.
Be it bringing in more ‘light-heartedness’ to meetings or ‘fairness’ in preparation for a difficult conversation.
Meta-skills assist leaders by intentionally creating a clear ‘come-from’ place, or mood, that influences how they complete their responsibilities.
What meta-skill might help on the journey to enabling deeper unity in teams?
> deep listening
Intentionally bringing the chosen meta-skill(s) into how leaders show up, they very deliberately and powerfully enhance their communication skills and impact the emotional field.
When leaders come across as caring and curious vs just wanting to be right, it creates a completely different experience for the team.
As a leader, you are always at choice, so intentionally choose the leadership meta-skill that supports creating a sense of unity.
When leaders acknowledge that the strong driver in all of us is to belong, and when leaders understand that team members with a sense of belonging are more productive, innovative and collaborative, it sets the foundation for dispersed teams to strengthen unity.
While remote working brings with it many of its own challenges, unity is also a great source of resilience for individuals and teams.
These three skills are all strategic, and so will need to be applied and pursued constantly over time to deepen unity. The systemic shift to deeper unity is achieved through small intentional steps over time.
Relationship Systems Intelligence™ (RSI™) enables leaders and their teams to intentionally create a strong web of effective relationships that co-create a well-functioning team dynamic in a fast-paced, complex and pressured team and is especially vital intelligence for remote teams to experience unity.
Contact Klaus Lombardozzi to discuss in more depth how Relationship Intelligence could support you in dealing with your current organisational challenges.