Team effectiveness has always been a big part of any company and its success. But as more companies adopt hybrid and remote work structures, leaders need to amp up their team management skills.
Everyone has emotional needs at work, but remote workers have some unique challenges. They may struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation, difficulties communicating and collaborating, and distractions. Without solid team leadership, these challenges hurt team effectiveness, ranging from lack of productivity to burnout.
So how can we ensure that teams work effectively as we work in remote and hybrid settings? Here are six team effectiveness factors that contribute to keeping your employees engaged and focused:
1. Reinforce a shared purpose.
Leaders are often laser-focused on strategy and keeping the business running. But leaders must also inspire their teams with a sense of purpose and vision.
Leaders must lay out the direction and provide updates for their work teams. They need a true north for their teams to rally and align around.
Leaders also need to show their teams how changes impact their individual goals and purpose. And most importantly? Leaders need to show their teams that they value their efforts.
Simply put, employees need to know why they’re doing something, and how and why it makes a difference. Everyone should know if their team goals are aligned with their company, overall. Teams should understand why their team even exists, and its business impact.
This sense of purpose isn’t just to make people feel good. It has huge bottom-line implications. The Global Leadership Forecast 2018 found that purpose-driven companies outperformed others by 42%.
And creating this sense of purpose throughout the organization is top of mind at the top of the house. According to the Global Leadership Forecast 2021 research, having a compelling organizational purpose was one of the top challenges concerning CEOs with 26% saying it is one of the challenges they are most concerned about confronting by the end of 2023.
2. Provide role clarity.
Over the last few years, as millions of people quit their jobs and sought higher paying roles or better work/life balance, a lot changed—and not just where they worked changed, but also how they worked. Many people’s roles changed to meet the company’s needs. When responsibilities shift, that can sometimes cause confusion among teams, so leaders need to communicate about roles.
Especially in remote and hybrid working environments, everyone needs to be clear on who does what so employees can remain focused on achieving goals, and leaders don’t need to micromanage. Team leaders establish role clarity by setting individual goals and responsibilities, and making sure expected contributions are clear. More importantly, leaders should make sure each team member’s qualifications, capabilities, and motivation should match the role. Also, team members should help leaders by knowing their own boundaries when making decisions and assigning work.
During our webinar about team performance, a poll revealed that approximately 27% of attendees weren’t sure who was doing which jobs in their organization.
3. Promote enabling processes.
Hopefully teams know their objectives. But do they have the means to accomplish those objectives?
Leaders can’t let this area slip. An effective team shares progress and gathers feedback, and being intentional about this is even more important for hybrid and remote teams.
Teams need time to reflect on their successes and failures. They also need to ensure they have the time, staff, funding, and resources to do their job. Successful teams have clear team processes for planning, tracking, documenting, and managing work.
Teams also need to control how they spend their time. In a survey by Igloo software, about 47% of people say meetings at work are unproductive. According to research from meeting effectiveness expert, Dr. Stephen Rogelberg, there are more than 55 million meetings in the United States alone, with the average employee spending five or six hours per week in meetings. One study found that senior managers spend nearly 23 hours per week in meetings.
Time management in the workplace can be difficult, no matter where you’re working from. With 71% of managers also calling meetings unproductive and inefficient, it’s easy to see how some work teams may get frustrated with meetings.
Leaders need to make sure their teams are not falling behind because of inefficiencies or wasted time. Leaders should check in regularly with their teams to get feedback on whether they have what they need.
4. Be aware of emotional security.
Team members want to feel comfortable, valued, and involved. Unfortunately, the vast majority don’t feel this way. Only 31% of employees say their leaders promote an inclusive team environment, leading to a lack of emotional security.
Teams establish emotional security with a high level of trust, comfort, psychological safety, and understanding. They also need to respect one another, and intentionally invite everyone’s input and incorporate it into collective activities, like brainstorming sessions. Simple things like using video during conferencing can help to encourage participation and allow a team leader to look for non-verbal cues around engagement and inclusion.
Emotional security is one of the most important factors in teams, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty. Leaders need to engage with their teams on an emotional level to keep them engaged and productive.
5. Encourage a collaborative spirit.
There’s a reason we work on teams—we need each other to accomplish our goals. A collaborative spirit encourages everyone to come together to think about the best ways to tackle work. It often brings new, diverse ideas and perspectives to the project team.
But team collaboration isn’t a guarantee. The Frontline Leader Project reported that 52% of leaders say that their teams work in silos instead of working collaboratively. This can create problems outside of individual teams, too. For example, one department may not know what the other is doing, or work streams could overlap.
A lack of collaboration impacts everyone differently. But for remote workers who may already be at risk of feeling isolated, collaboration is essential.
That’s why leaders must encourage a collaborative spirit if they hope to achieve team effectiveness. They should share relevant information openly and clearly with their teams and encourage their teams to prioritize collective contributions over individual competition.
6. Foster growth orientation.
People need to learn and grow if they want to improve their performance. But we’re not talking about additional training courses—we’re talking about good old-fashioned teamwork and collaboration.
One way to continue growing is for team members to learn from each other. Teams provide opportunities for everyone to grow and develop skills together.
Effective teams provide more ideas and output to benefit the entire organization, sparking growth. These ideas come from experimenting or brainstorming new ways to solve problems.
Leaders should encourage and provide these opportunities. This is one of the best ways to find innovative approaches to complete work while keeping your team engaged.
These challenges help teams learn and grow. It’s also important for leaders to know when to simply listen. Sometimes allowing the team to lead and coach their leader provides invaluable insights.
So we’ve established that teams have both practical and personal needs, all of which impact team effectiveness.
The first three factors address the practical side of teams. They need to understand their purpose, roles, and processes.
The last three factors address their personal needs. They need to feel safe and valued, work well together, and be challenged to learn and grow.
What happens when you don’t meet these needs? Chances are, you won’t succeed. Both practical and personal needs balance each other out. Good leaders engage their team’s heads and hearts.
DDI can help you develop more effective leaders to take your teams to the next level. Learn about more ways to boost performance with the on-demand webinar, “How Teams Thrive: Boost Team Performance for Business Success.”
Verity Creedy is a director in DDI’s product management team. Usually living in London, Verity has spent time working at five different DDI offices, including U.S. Headquarters.