Leading From the Front

Author: Pavitha Urs, and Sanjeev Himachali
Date: 2021-10-26

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." -Andrew Carnegie

Team dynamics are the unconscious, psychological forces that influence the direction of a team's behavior and performance. They are like undercurrents in the sea, which can carry boats in a different direction to the one they intend to sail.
Team dynamics are created by the nature of the team's work, the personalities within the team, their working relationships with other people, and the environment in which the team works.
Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist, and change management expert is credited with coining the term "group or Team Dynamics" in early 1939. He noted that people often take on distinct roles and behaviors when they work in a group. "Group dynamics" describes the effects of these roles and behaviors on other group members, and on the group as a whole.
A team with a positive dynamic is easy to spot. Team members trust one another, they work towards a collective decision, and they hold one another accountable for making things happen. As well as this, researchers have found that when a team has a positive dynamic, its members are nearly twice as creative as an average group. Team dynamics can be good - for example, when they improve overall team performance and/or get the best out of individual team members.
In a group with poor group dynamics, people's behavior disrupts work. As a result, the group may not come to any decision, or it may make the wrong choice because group members could not explore options effectively. Examples of bad team dynamics are, when they cause unproductive conflict, demotivation, and prevent the team from achieving its goals.
Characteristics of Team Dynamics that Make for a Winning Team -
  1. Shared Purpose
  2. Trust and Openness
  3. Willingness to Correct Mistakes
  4. Diversity and Inclusion
  5. Interdependence and a Sense of Belonging
  6. Consensus Decision Making
  7. Participative Leadership
As they rightly say, "The difference between success and failure is a great team".
The Pandemic Year -
Because of the global pandemic, many of us are now working from home so that we can maintain social distance. The pandemic has also caused massive disruption. We have dealt with loved ones getting sick and dying. Kids have had to do school over video from their kitchens while parents, who have full-time jobs, are supposed to supervise.
Then there is the uncertainty. We do not know when, or if, anything is going back to normal or what the world on the other side of this will be like.
But those hard facts put down on paper do not tell the whole story, and that is because the less tangible, more human consequences of remote working are easily overlooked. Businesses are made up of people after all, and how those people feel and interact with each other is a vital part of how businesses operate smoothly and are able to grow. The pandemic year has changed the rules of the game forever. It has changed the way we will be working in 2021 and beyond. It has changed TEAM DYNAMICS.
In this new world, the what's of leadership haven't changed, but some of the how's have, and it is those small differences that can make a big difference in three dimensions - for you, for your team members, and for your organization. The bottom line is this - You need to think leadership first, location second.

Trust - The Most Critical Element of Team Dynamics

Can I trust you? Can you trust me? What does it even mean to trust someone?
As John Pepper, the former CEO of P&G once said, "Despite its powerful benefit, trust is the single "hardest quality to create in any organization, "and it's fragile."
When we talk about a trusting team or trusting partners, I think very often we forget that trust is not an instruction, trust is a feeling. You cannot tell someone to trust you. No leader can just tell their company, "Trust me." It does not work that way. Trust is a feeling. It is a biological, a feeling that comes from the environment we are in.
Trust inherently means risk, so why take that risk? Why not do the project yourself so you are not counting on anyone else? Well because the big ambitions in life require collaboration. We cannot do it all alone.
Trustworthiness in a team set-up is evaluated on two primary criteria - Competency and warmth. Competency is how others decide if you have what it takes. The expertise, the reliability to come through for them. Warmth is how they decide your willingness to come through. Are you friend or foe? Will you prioritize your own interest and needs over theirs?
If someone seems really warm, seems friendly, but does not have a clue what he is doing, we would be unlikely to trust him with any responsibility. We might like him or pity him, but we will not trust him. If someone has high competency but lacks warmth, we might respect or envy him, we might think wow, he knows a ton, but I am not sure he has my best interests at heart, so I'm not sure I trust him.
If someone lacks warmth and competency, we feel disdain and certainly no trust.
And the quadrant we want to be in is high competency and high warmth because this is where trust happens.
Even when someone has both warmth and competency, trust is situational.
So now that you have a better understanding of the nature of trust, be patient with people who are slow to trust you even though you are a genuinely trustworthy person.
They have no guarantee of your future behavior, and they are taking a risk on you.
On those trust dimensions warmth and competency. Learning to trust and to be worthy of trust is one of life's most challenging and rewarding tasks.
Building Trust in Virtual Teams - When we work with colleagues globally, trust is essential. Without trust, we slow down collaboration and the achievement of results and incur a tax on trust in checking and monitoring activity. However, at the same time, trust is harder to build when we rarely get face-to-face, and we may experience cultural differences or misunderstandings due to communicating through technology. In the past, trust-building was a free by-product of being in the same location. We had time to get to know each other over coffee or lunch or socializing in the evening. Today, when we have limited face-to-face time, we need to be more intentional about building trust.
As discussed previously, in the early stages of building trust, we typically pay attention to two types of signals. The first is competency. Does the person have the ability to do the job, and do they respond reliably and accurately to our requests? The second is warmth. Do they respond in a way that shows that they wish to collaborate and that they share our values?
In working together remotely, competence is not so hard to evaluate. If you are trying to build trust quickly, concentrate on responding fast, giving a good quality answer, and offering more help. If you are trying to help a colleague build trust quickly, make sure they can deliver quick wins and tell your colleagues when they do so.
Evaluating warmth, however, can be much more difficult remotely, under cross-cultural barriers. The main signals may only be coming through email. If we can get face-to-face, this accelerates trust-building. If we cannot, then we should look to create opportunities for people to work together via video and to get to know each other as quickly as possible.
As we receive confirmation of the competency and warmth of our colleagues, we take successive steps to higher levels of trust. We also call this the staircase of trust.
If you are leading a global team, think about the ways you can enable team members to demonstrate both their competence and their warmth to their colleagues. If you do not, then trust will develop anyway, but it will take longer to happen, and you may have misunderstandings along the way. So, remember to keep trust on your global leadership agenda and to create the conditions for trust to form quickly.
Here are a few strategies that can help you build trust, in a virtual context -
Socialize in virtual meetings - People get to know and trust one another through small talk. We lack hallways and water coolers on virtual teams. So, make time for socializing.
Be a connector - Help others on the team get to know one another. Unmute during meetings, unless your background is noisy. Some background noise, like a crying baby humanizes us. And conversation and laughter are more spontaneous when we are unmuted.
Clarify roles and expectations - In shared space teams we see and hear what others are working on. So, we know if there's overlap in our work. In virtual teams, we must work harder to clarify expectations.
Rotate power - Virtual teams with high degrees of trust, shift power among the members, depending on who has the most knowledge, for each stage of work.
Share the time zone burden - No one person should always have to get up for the 3 AM call.
And finally, be reliable - In virtual settings, reliability is the strongest predictor of trust. Make sure you are on time for meetings and follow through on what you say you will do. Virtually, your word is all you have.
Composed By: Pavithra Urs,Associate Director, People Operations, a Leading Entertainment Company, and Sanjeev Himachali, Principal Consultant & Talent Strategist, EclipticHRS
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