Back to the Office Life: A Coaching Manual for Leaders
“If you can create work that enhances your life...do it!" ― Richie Norton
How do we return to the office as a team?
Start with an encouraging atmosphere. How can your group talk about the culture and atmosphere you want to co-create together? Even though you have been working remotely as a team, in-person experiences involve body language and preferences that are different than in a remote setting. As a team, you can identify the words and feel you want to be working with. “I want to feel confident by encouraging each other to be brave and try new things.” “I want to feel like I can bring ideas to the table without these ideas all becoming my work.” “What about meeting free Fridays?”
It is important to listen to the team and figure out how you work best. Take time to figure out what each member’s preferences and challenges are with the return to the office. Listening can seem like a waste of time when comparing it to product output, but it is an investment that yields gold in relationships and loyalty. A lot of managers take a “telling” approach to inform the team how things are going to be. No one likes being told without offering space for input. When a manager doles out the duties by telling everyone on the team what to do, it kills the personal process of discovering a better way of co-working. Asking what each person needs opens the doors to ownership in the returning to the office process. When a leader steps back and creates room for sharing and invention, other voices on the team step up. Leaders need to allow time and space to foster creative sharing. Ideas, voicing needs, and an exciting building of teams emerges that only a collaboration can create. A listening session establishes a safe way to create a new atmosphere. After the groundwork is created, the leader’s job is simply to smooth out the rough edges in the process of active teamwork interactions.
Fear and Dominance
When a team feels free to share without fear, there is a culture of inclusion and possibility. Everyone is frustrated when one or two people dominate a team and blocks ideas or processes. It is a dance to listen to all of the voices and decide out of the mix. What is critical is the feel of this think-tank process. Great words to frame and model a meeting time are invited, open, generous, emergent, hopeful. What words resonate with you when working on a team? How can you open dialog to create an alliance for a working atmosphere? “I flourish when…” “I want us to respond with respect and kindness when things are difficult.” “I hope we can count on each other to accomplish great things on our team.”
Please Speak Up
The components to thrive on the team are encouraging more people to engage in the conversation. An easy tip that is not commonly used is an agenda sent ahead of the meeting every time. Include space in the agenda for quieter voices to share and contribute. It’s amazing how this simple tool is overlooked yet is invaluable to time management, focus, and team inclusion.
Welcoming Warts and All
Everyone’s whole life is welcome at the table of collaboration. Remember, we’re all learning new things every day. This means things don’t always go as planned. Do you want to be a team that rejects the bad and only celebrates the good? There’s a lot of fruit for learning in the things that go wrong. When a team feels like they can try and see how it goes, development is possible.
No Secrecy Please
It can often happen that a dedicated, professional and motivated team is driven by individual achievements vs. whole team work. This is a dangerous atmosphere that slows development. Secrecy for personal gain limits how far a team can succeed. This promotes hiding the need for help and ridicule for failure. It is possible to turn this culture around by listening and being curious about project transparency and idea generation. Ask powerful questions and hold space for quieter voices.
If I don’t do it…No one will. Project Overwhelm
Not true. Pull the team together again and gently pile the projects on the table. Every team needs to understand where things are at to re-prioritize and ask for help. Amazing things can be created with fun, open, big fail/big success wins together. It does require an atmosphere where all voices are valued. Introverts and extroverts need to offer silence and space for variety to emerge. See how everyone interacts. Create space for voices to join the conversation and jump in. It is in silence that shy leaders step up. Silence is a powerful tool to bring forth leaders in the wings.
Be sure to celebrate success as well as fabulous fails. Great work happening is a culture to foster a great team. Maintain an inclusive, relaxed culture. Your team will thrive in that environment.
PS. Keep power at arm’s length. “Power corrupts—if you’re corruptible, right? But if you’re aware that, “If I get this power, I am corruptible, and what can I do to manifest an antidote to that tendency?” I think to the extent that they can maintain their sense of common humanity, that’s really, really important. If they can resist the temptation to think of themselves in an exceptionalist manner and instead really focus on the ways that other people’s efforts and actions and presence are essential to the privilege that they’ve got: “I would not be the person I am without all of these other people who I work with who are making it possible.” — Emiliana Simon-Thomas is the science director of the Greater Good Science Center