Last month, we spent time discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all facets of business around the globe. We took a look at a simple, but great business book by William Bridges called Managing Transitions. This concept of managing transitions seems more relevant than ever in today’s new workforce change.

The author’s premise is that companies and people in general are able to think through change — and the situational factors that come with that — moving to a new location, staff changes on a team, etc. However, the same people and companies are far less equipped to handle the actual transition — which involves the psychological impact of the change itself.

Today, we want to deep dive into four factors that can guide a team through this tricky time and an idea of how you can implement team change with each of them.

Four factors that will generate opportunities for your team during a period of transition:

  1. Leverage the uncertain time to discover creative new ideas for the team
  2. Try to redefine the transition period from discomfort to purposeful change
  3. Use the time to strengthen interpersonal connections with the team
  4. Officially monitor the status of this phase with the goal of getting everyone to the next phase of New Beginning

Now here is how you can handle each…

ONE = Leverage the uncertain time to discover creative new ideas for the team

It may seem counter intuitive, as times of immense uncertainty automatically force thoughts of change and transition. However, it’s important to guide the ideas stemming from the transition, and ideally ensure positive thinking. One opportunity to take advantage of this period with your team is to have a team brainstorming session to determine new ways the team can engage and be productive as a group.

A natural starting point is to have the team discuss 1-2 ways in which they’ve had to be more creative with their daily routines since the COVID-19 crisis started. The answers could be something as simple as making masks, rethinking meals and cooking, having a new morning routine, etc. Once the team has had a chance to share some of their ideas, have them switch gears to think about how they have adapted their work schedule and approach during this timeframe.

Using this narrative, ask the team to think about ways that the group might creatively approach projects, meetings, reporting, collaboration, etc. in this new environment. Press them to think of completely different ideas — even if they seem a bit offbeat initially. Then follow up with the group with threads of 2 or 3 of the initial ideas to determine how to refine them to make them able to implement/test that same month. You’ll be surprised at how many good ideas came organically materialize during a session like this!

TWO = Try to redefine the transition period from discomfort to purposeful change

While some team members are still experiencing discomfort with the new business “normal,” it is important as a leader to demonstrate how the team can use this time to make deliberate changes that will benefit everyone.

What’s an easy target you can use to start? Meetings.

The next time you host a weekly status meeting — or any other routinely scheduled session — carve out time in the agenda to specifically note that you want to think about how virtual meetings need to be more effective, and how the transition to being forced to operate virtual meetings can help the team evolve the meetings to make them more effective. Ask the team to identify 1-2 ways that they think this specific type of meeting can transition in the virtual world. Promise to take those top ideas and immediately test them out to make a better meeting environment.

Even if the change is minimal, you can start to demonstrate how changes/transitions can be positive and effective — which will help your cause as other elements need to change as well.

THREE = Use the time to strengthen interpersonal connections with the team

Team meetings are also a perfect opportunity to allow for personal sharing and having team members get to know each other individually. The key is to facilitate this type of sharing in a fun and safe manner.

One easy way to do this is create a list of interesting questions that team members can think about before a specific meeting. That way they can be prepped as to what questions you will ask. Such questions might include:

  • Name one thing that you like to do in your spare time that many team members might not know about.
  • If you could retire today and have a new career only for fun, what would it be?
  • If you won $1,000 and had to spend it on something, what would it be?
  • Name one super power that you have that you would enjoy helping other team members with.
  • Describe one past work or school experience that really had a positive impact on you.

The questions you choose should be appropriate for your group. Remember, you don’t want to have any questions that someone would be uncomfortable to answer. The goal is to give a team member the chance to answer 1 or 2 questions in a given team meeting and that way everyone can learn a bit more about each other. Try it in your next team session — and don’t forget to provide the person answering the question a chance to think about it before the team meeting. Finally, mix up the questions to keep things unique!

FOUR = Officially monitor the status of this phase with the goal of getting everyone to the next phase of New Beginning

The last step is to remember that people may be struggling in different ways to adapt to their new work and personal life realities. One way to keep the team focused is to freely admit that life right now for the team is different. You have proactively decided to use this transition time to set some short-term goals to keep everyone focused and moving together for the transition period.

Follow up that narrative with some outlined goals. You can start out with simple goals for the group for that given week. With those really short-term goals, you should explain the reason that reaching the goals is important and how they fit into the overall longer-term goals for the team.

In addition, explain some of your views on the team’s top 2-3 goals for the month and the quarter and discuss how everyone can work together to meet those goals. For the longer timeframe goals, make sure to have some interpersonal team goals mixed into more traditional goals like revenue, tasks, etc.

Focusing time on short- and long-term goals will help keep your team focused and showcase how you are still remaining calm and making sure the team is set up for success in an uncertain time.

In summary, we at Corporate Path Leadership recognize that leading teams right now is challenging. We hope these simple ideas are elements that you can leverage now and customize to best work with your group. If you need additional help with a customized plan for your team, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.

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