As Covid-19 descends upon our country, those of us in the business community are grappling with an ever-changing reality. Many business leaders are making difficult choices and piecing together plans to move forward through unprecedented challenges. Employees and teams fortunate enough to still be working, maybe understaffed and working with underfunded resources. Doubts and fears plague the minds of just about everyone, no matter the role. Coronavirus inescapably impacts our economy and our way of life. With constraints like these, unfortunately, people may not be operating with their best mindset. Now, more than ever before, it is critical to assess your responses as you communicate in your physical or virtual workplace, so you can preserve integrity and productivity, which matter so much.
We’ve put together some guidelines based on Patrick Lencioni’s Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team model. These guidelines can help every member of your team stay focused on the shared mission while minimizing the destructive responses itching to come out in a highly tense business environment.
The Five Behaviors of A Cohesive Team model has unlocked enormous potential for companies around the world and across the US, and truly becomes helpful when facing an uphill battle. The key behaviors that make the difference are:
- Trust one another. When teams are genuinely transparent and honest with one another, they are able to build vulnerability-based trust.
- Engage in conflict around ideas. When there is trust, team members are able to engage in unfiltered, constructive debate of ideas.
- Commit to decisions. When team members are able to offer opinions and debate ideas, they are more likely to commit to decisions.
- Hold one another accountable. When everyone is committed to a clear plan of action, they will be more willing to hold one another accountable.
- Focus on achieving collective results. The ultimate goal of achieving greater trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability is one thing: the achievement of results.
Each of us finds aspects of the pyramid to be more difficult and some aspects to come more naturally than others. Our own communication styles make functioning as a team under stress more difficult because we tend to rely (unknowingly) on our automatic assumptions and fear-based responses. These types of responses end up squashing productivity and hurting others when what we really need is comradery and strong relationships. So, let’s be vigilant about detecting our automatic thoughts, and reframing them as well as supporting other team members with different communication styles.
If you’re a decisive, outspoken, driver in your organization, Covid-19 has likely brought about an urgent need to regain control of the situation. Others’ emotional feedback, slow pace, and reserved nature might appear to cause inaction and barricades between arriving at much-needed solutions. You’ll need to work on your patience, and remind yourself of the value other styles serve in arriving at the best solutions you so desperately seek. Questions will be a critical tool for you. When action isn’t happening as quickly as you’d like and you feel your frustration begin to boil over, asking the right questions can help you to understand the thought process behind other team members’ feedback and behaviors. More information will help you to understand the intent and may open your mind to an approach you might not have considered before. Flexibility and creativity are key when a company has to make changes to deal with Coronavirus challenges. Open the door to these skills for yourself and your team by continuing to pose questions that stimulate the free flow of thought, not shut it down.
If you’re feeling emotionally rattled by the effects that Covid-19 has had on your work environment, and your sense of stability, it can be helpful for you to step back and look at the bigger long-term picture. The truth is, eventually our current situation will change, and solutions will make their way to the forefront. Learn to appreciate feedback from some of your more pragmatic colleagues. Limit your exposure to the news because hearing the same dire outcomes over and over will deflate your sense of purpose more than it will help. It’s important to stay informed, but there’s no need to drown yourself in negative thoughts. You’ll need to pay attention to how you interpret others’ vocal tone and word choice so that you don’t transfer some of your fear or worry into the messages you hear from team members. Everyone wants to be helpful. Be mindful that in most cases communication is more about getting ideas across than it is about harming you personally. Although changes happen daily and the near future reeks of uncertainty, remind yourself that today is the most important day. What you do now truly matters and plays a big part in how the future plays out. With a gift of influence, you have a great ability to rally individuals around your organization’s mission and values.
If your empathic nature has you taking several breaks to listen to the personal concerns of nearly everyone that has your email address or phone number, your productivity can start to drag. Plus, the weight of taking on so many of others’ concerns around Covid-19 can weaken you emotionally. It’s hard enough to manage your own concerns and still stay productive. Consider taking measures to ensure that you can stay as focused as possible while working. Set limits on your availability for personal talks and breaks in your productive time. This might be hard to do, but right now, it’s especially important for you to guard your time and keep your mind clear, to focus on the activities that bring incremental progress to your team. As much as you want to, you can’t solve everyone’s problems or take away their concerns. But your ability to help others open up can help you perform your role extremely well in a stressful environment. Your ability to empathize and listen during work-related interactions will help you provide a full spectrum evaluation of how others in your organization could respond to proposed changes. Seek to inspire open communication with your professional time in a professional way to see your talents as a value and not a deterrent to productivity.
Your thorough, matter of fact, way of working provides a comforting steadiness to an otherwise volatile environment. That’s a good thing! But your reserved communication style may come across as uncaring or missing the point to another style. This is where your self-awareness can help to bridge the gap. You may want to remind others of your C style approach and preface your communication with a reminder about the way you process information. Reassure your teammates that you share the same concerns they do and that you are committed to making a difference. Additionally, you may find it hard to break from systems you’ve found to be reliable in the past. While historical data on past processes and results can play a big part in accurately charting a future course, the Covid-19 threat requires innovative new ideas that may not follow a traditional or even a proven system. You’ll want to work on being flexible and open to new ideas. Use your understanding of data to slice and dice it in new ways that can uncover deeper insights and that can fuel a new and informed solution.
Everyone can benefit from self-aware, conscientious communication because it enables a clear sharing of ideas and a hospitable work environment. But now more than ever, our ability to produce the best results in an extremely constrained time depends on using great communication skills to strengthen our teams.