Everyone I talk with lately is grappling with the “What’s Next?” question for their teams. That being the case, I can’t think of a better time to reflect on what you’ve learned during the pandemic. As the CEO or leader of your team, consider starting that reflection by answering the following questions:
- What has the pandemic taught me about my team?
- What values/behaviors emerged that I want to encourage going forward?
- What did I learn about myself as a leader?
Likely, you would never have chosen a course that involved all or most of your people working from home at a moment’s notice. Yet, for many of you, you made it work. Think about how your team responded and how they managed to keep the business running while dealing with their own challenges at home. Quite remarkable when you think about it.
As you consider the first question, please take note of your employees’ values and behaviors during this time and consider how to recognize, award, and reward their heroics. Moreover, how will you continue to do so in the future?
Finally, what did you learn about yourself? Do you believe you brought your best self to the challenge? If you answer that question with a yes, would your people agree with you?
Based on this reflection, you may find that reexamining what it will take to be successful in the future is a timely exercise. Who are the right people? Do they enjoy a high level of psychological safety? Are we helping them be as productive as they can be? Are we fostering a strong culture of team member-to-team member accountability? Am I doing everything I can as a leader to support their success and inspire a love for what they do?
For the answers to these questions, all you need to do is invite your team to share their responses. As you address each question, talk about where you are now versus your collective definition of what’s ideal for the future. If ideal is a 10, then put a number ranking of where you are today. If there is a gap, talk about what it will take to close it, and then identify the action steps you all believe will be required to make closing that gap possible. That way, everyone owns the plan.
The questions were developed using Peernovation’s Five Factor framework that CEO Peer Advisory groups regularly use to assess and improve their performance.
What does having the right people look like? Based on what you learned about one another and how they align with future challenges, this conversation engages team members to make tacit promises to each other about their purpose, what it will take to set a new standard of excellence, and how they thrive as a team. They are also developing new criteria for everyone when it comes to selecting new hires who seek to enjoy the privilege of joining them.
Does the team enjoy a high degree of psychological safety, and if so, are we leveraging it to its full potential? As many CEO peer advisory groups have experienced, believing the environment is safe is one thing; taking full advantage of it is quite another. Having a culture where team members give one another the benefit of the doubt, trust each other’s intentions, and speak up, speak out, and take risks is where you start to get real value from the “right people” you hired.
Are we as productive as we can be? Will it be all remote, all hands on deck at the office, or a hybrid model? Please talk about your team meetings and how to get the most out of them. Meetings can (and should) be an effective means for getting things done and nourishing the soul.
What is our culture of team member-to-team member accountability? The best of the best, CEO peer groups, sports teams, and business teams, hold themselves personally responsible for bringing their A games every day. They do so primarily because they know everyone else on the team is doing the same. This mindset serves as their personal currency with one another. It’s not about achieving KPIs and impressing the boss; it’s about being there for one another. When they do that, they accomplish both.
Ask your team what you can do to support their success and happiness? Feel free to give your team some space to talk about that. Also, know that they need you to be a part of the team, not apart from it. You may own the role as the team leader, but you enjoy shared ownership for what makes the team great!
I read an interesting post on LinkedIn by Vistage Master Chair Jay McDonald that nicely summarizes the sentiments of leadership scholars Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, as well as one of my clients, Quest Corporation of America CEO, Sharlene Lairscey:
“Love creates trust, trust leads to commitment, and commitment leads to sacrifice. If you love your team, you will give your all to the team. Love also makes people more accountable. If you love your team, you will want the best for them, and you want to help them be great, too. We found a tweet that said, ‘A team with a lot of love doesn’t need a lot of rules.’”
Consider the exercise outlined in this article an act of love.
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