July 1, 2020

by Michelle Rios | July 1, 2020 | Blue Tiger Tales

Team Culture – When we think of team culture, we sometimes think it’s about how many free lunches we have together, or that time we did “team building” and went bowling. Culture is a difficult concept to nail down but at its core are the values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors shared by the people on a team. It’s not the “what” we do together, it’s the “how” we do it. Team cultures are influenced by the overarching organizational culture, but it’s the smaller groups that most impact each person positively, or negatively. In a nutshell, culture is created by people. Sometimes culture isn’t really noticed until times get tough, then suddenly we notice something’s missing.

In this new normal we’re navigating, people are no closer than six feet and you can only see their eyes, or they appear on a flat digital device. This makes our culture more important than ever. That invisible connection between people on a team is what will keep them engaged from a distance. There are three important aspects to culture: mission and values, relationships built on trust, and communication.

  1. Mission and Values are the invisible poles that mark the boundaries for a team. It’s helpful to revisit the mission and values to see if you’re still on the right track or if you need to make some adjustments due to current circumstances. It’s especially important in this crisis time when everyone is traversing their own personal path through a multitude of unknowns. Reminding one another where you’re headed, and why, keeps the team’s path lit. Spend a one-hour meeting interacting with your mission and values, and see what might need to shift or be adapted for these uncertain times.
  2. Relationships built on trust are the hearty foundation for all team members to stand on in good times—but even more so when times get rough. Teammates and managers are still connecting around their work tasks during social distancing, however there are many new opportunities to take advantage of. One leader I’m working with has recognized that, though she had decent relationships with her direct reports and teammates, there were many times when she would prioritize the work over the relationship. She has decided to use this time to reach out in a concerted way to connect with people and take the time to ask specific questions about how they are, not just what they’re doing. This is creating more cohesive relationships in each facet of her professional life which will only serve to enhance the team culture over time. What would happen if you took the time to make just one phone call every other day to someone on your team, or in your organization? Have a few questions at the ready to spur dialogue and see what you might create.
  3. Communication is key whether we’re all in one building or spread out across the world. Teams without it really aren’t teams, they are a group of individuals with the same email address. Good messaging takes some forethought and time, but it pays huge dividends. It’s all too easy to jump on a Zoom call and tell, tell, tell without ever knowing if a single person was truly listening. Real communication goes in both directions and needs the attention and engagement of every person on the team. One way to get more interaction is to ask everyone to be prepared to speak, cameras on, and try having a whiteboard or a shared google doc up so that all can participate in taking notes together. If it’s a relatively small group of 10 or less, it can also help to have everyone unmuted, so interacting is easy and doesn’t include the pause to look for the unmute button, or “hey, Dan, you’re on mute” types of delays in natural conversational speaking. The team can create ground rules together around these things and we’ve witnessed some teams become better versions of themselves through this process.

Neural Networks – We are spending an inordinate amount of time in front of our screens and devices lately and I’ve found it fascinating to notice time shrinking and expanding in different ways. For instance, sitting down to write Tuesday’s Tips should only take me about two hours. However, if I have my phone in front of me, my email on screen, my messenger app and calendars up, invariably it will take me two days to write. Why? Because our brains are wired to focus on one thing at a time. We have been fooled into thinking that we can multi-task and what happens instead is that time shrinks. For example, I begin a stream of thought and then my email notifies me Gary just sent me something, so I switch screens to check it out. Oh, just an update for our meeting later, nothing I need to do. Okay, now where was I again? I reread my paragraph to get back in flow and out of the corner of my eye my phone blinks with a text from my mom. She’s letting me know her dog food delivery arrived. Okay… Let’s see, where was I? I begin writing again and maybe get two sentences in and my office phone rings. I turn to see who the caller ID is and realize it’s AARP calling again to remind me I now qualify. For Pete’s sake, it’s been 30 minutes and I have one paragraph written. In neuropsychological terms these are “task switching costs” and can add up to a loss of 40% of your daily productivity.

The refund to this high price is focusing on one thing at a time. David Allen helped me look at my work differently years ago with his book “Getting Things Done,” but I have struggled recently spending so much time in the office. I turned back to what I know to be true about the human brain, it needs distraction free zones to be at its best. So, I turn off all notifications, shut down email, messenger, calendars, turn the office phone volume off, and turn Do Not Disturb on my cell phone – it’s exhausting just writing out all those distractions. Now, I can get into my writing flow and feel time beginning to expand! I was able to write extra Tuesday Tips material in two hours that I can keep for next time. I’m even further ahead than I expected. It’s almost magical. AND when I turn email back on, it only takes me 15 minutes to respond. Wait a minute, I have spent whole days chasing email, how can it be that I completed that in 15 minutes? Distraction free time expansion, that’s how.

I encourage you to just try it once in the next two weeks and let us know how it worked for you. I’m going to bet you’ll be surprised at how much your brain will reward you for it.

Your Biweekly Does of Upliftment – Our very own Phil Incorvia has begun creating some short tips via video segment so we are debuting his work here this week with a tip to try different methods of structuring our days.

Also, this joy-filled musical number by Jimmy Fallon, Roots and the cast of Hamilton will put a kick in your step. The movie version is coming out July 3 (on Disney +) if you haven’t had the opportunity to see it on Broadway. EXCITING!

Please let us know if you find any of these to be helpful and share how you put them into practice. Also, if you have a tip to offer, let us know and we will include it in a future email or video.

We wish for you to find your special ways to thrive through this unprecedented time.

May You Be Well –

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