The pandemic has given leaders many challenges. But there’s a standout one for me that I’ve been puzzling over lately given the recent changes in government guidance. How do we bring dispersed people together again and keep them connected?
At Futures, we’ve recruited more than 100 new staff since the first lockdown. That’s a lot of new starters who have had very few opportunities to meet real people in the same space and find their place in their team.
And even now, when in theory things are more ‘back to normal’, we’re clearly in a different place to where we expected to be. Long before Covid-19 showed its face we had embarked on a journey to agile working with a state-of-the-art, flexible, collaborative workspace as a central hub. We opened it to coincide with the relaxation of the Government’s ‘work from home if you can’ policy. We’d expected our people to be fighting for an (ergonomic) seat…but the response has been much more muted.
Fear of picking up the virus could be contributing to this. But equally something else could be the cause. Maybe it’s the familiarity of working from home or recognition that commuting really isn’t that much fun. We’re still getting the job done – and more – that’s not the problem. But the glue that held us and our teams together seems to be less effective and that’s not something we want to ignore.
So how do you settle a team into a new dynamic of working well?
And how do you realign a team to an organisation’s purpose after so much change?
Today I’m sharing something we’ve been trialling at Futures that has been helping us with these challenges.
What are we doing differently?
We’ve been testing a new technique called systemic interventions.
This is a way of establishing very open, positive connections between people by exploring unseen dynamics in relationships. It allows people to understand their identity, role, and connection to the wider ‘system’ – that is either their team or their organisation.
It allows individuals to physically map out their view, and where they are in relation to others, in a system. Through exploring that situation in a three-dimensional way, patterns emerge. You can also test scenarios for creating better balance in the future.
Systemic interventions help people to gain a clarity and depth of understanding about where they are, or how they feel, in relation to either something concrete like their team, their role or something more abstract like the team or company purpose.
What is unique about this systemic way of working is that there is less talking, rationalizing or logic involved. It’s more about working with ‘gut feel’ or intuition. By listening to our intuition, we can often unlock a new way of thinking about the issue that our conscious may have never been aware of. As Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same way of thinking that created them”.
We seem to have come to value logic over intuition and I would argue that each has its place and value in helping us to understand and solve issues.
We have been using systemic interventions to introduce new team members to the team and help them settle and be accepted into their teams. One of the ways we do this is a very simple yet incredibly powerful technique of getting each person to find their place standing in the timeline of joining the team and sharing what they notice about their place in the shared timeline.
We’ve also found it helpful for enabling teams to reconnect with our organisation’s purpose – exploring their current relationship with it, and what they want it to be. Again, this is done with very little talking to start with, using more of our intuitive sense. Just a simple process of feeling into where you are now and what a move towards better might look like is surprisingly illuminating and motivating.
What impact has it had?
We’ve seen teams that have never met in person become more settled and integrated very quickly as a result of this way of working with them. We’ve seen it change team culture. It is surprising how often just gaining clarity on how things are is all that is needed to shift a culture to be more positive. We quite literally see where our colleagues are standing in relation to us and in relation to issues or ideas. We’ve been able to shift people from focusing on targets at any cost, to confidently bringing forward issues that could impact the quality of what can be achieved.
By understanding what’s underneath the surface and not being said, either consciously or unconsciously, we’ve also been able to adapt messages as leaders to support teams more effectively too.
It’s still early days, but it’s exciting to see the impact on individuals and the business already.
In a time of continued change and ongoing lone working, what matters is focusing on creating connections between people. The need to belong isn’t going away. It’s getting more understood. And it’s our job to do something about it.
At Futures, we intend to continue to use this approach and I’ll be happy to share how it unfolds.
I hope this article inspires you to think about connecting differently as our world changes. And that your what next includes trying something new too.