Building high-performing teams for a ‘new normal’ way of working

Lockdown has forced many SMEs to continue to run their team operations from home and in many cases the experience has proven to be a positive one.

Building high-performing teams for a ‘new normal’ way of working

Lockdown has forced many SMEs to continue to run their team operations from home and in many cases the experience has proven to be a positive one. But with continued restrictions and government advice on how to safely return to work, how can owner-managers move their businesses out of the forced response phase and start to plan for a new normal way of working that may be entirely virtual or a hybrid of office and home working?

Creating a high-performing team can be a hard goal to achieve even under what we used to consider ‘normal’ circumstances. However, many of the principles and ideas that would typically be advised in a ‘normal’ situation remain the same when applied to a virtual environment, with the difference that these may become more significant to compensate for the lack of face-to-face interaction.

For instance, setting common goals is imperative for the team to be moving in synchrony in the same direction with everyone taking responsibility and being accountable for their own contribution. Within this, it is vital that each team member is aware of their role and the roles of their colleagues, and how these fit together to form a high-performing team. There must be a firm understanding that the team would not function if it weren’t for each individual in their determined roles. Furthermore, each member of the team needs to fully buy into the common goal and have a shared desire to achieve it. With every goal comes a KPI and ensuring the goal can be measured helps to introduce clarity and determine direction. It can also be helpful to introduce milestones for making sure that progress stays on track.

In terms of team collaboration, as a manager it is crucial to understand different working patterns and preferences, and that different people may be higher-performing in different work contexts ‘ it can’t be a one size fits all. This understanding should be perpetuated among the team. Work preferences can include communications preferences, such as email, phone or web conferencing, as well as understanding what times of day individuals find themselves to be more productive. Some people are better at working alone while others feed from interaction. And, to complicate things, such preferences may change over time or in response to changing environments, so it’s important to ask employees regularly. By understanding and mapping the diverse preferences, it is possible to understand the conditions needed for the team to perform at higher levels, after which it becomes a matter of organising and enabling these work conditions.

Another area to consider is that regarding team rules. In a virtual environment, rules may be different from those in the office, and as we move into a ‘new normal’ way of working it’s important to ensure that rules are reflective of the context. Rules need to be clear and simple and established by everyone in the team – this way there is less room for error ‘ and it needs to be clear that rules are dynamic and may mutate over time and in response to varying conditions.

A key task of the owner-manager is to lead by inspiration and build the motivation within the team. This helps with gaining momentum as a team and moving forwards more effectively. Reflecting on achievements can help to build the belief and increase the team’s motivation to raise the bar. Individuals can be asked to make weekly reflections on their own contributions to the goal, and teams can be collectively asked to reflect on their actions that demonstrate their capability as a team.

There are so many aspects and areas of the business that have been impacted by coronavirus, but we believe that a high-performing team is one of the key levers not only for keeping the business in business but being able to look towards a future of profitable growth. 

This article was brought to you courtesy of Cranfield School of Management we assist owner-managers of SMEs with growing their businesses, whatever their aspirations are and whatever the circumstances may be. Find out more about how we do this please click here



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