Without a doubt, April 2020 has been a month of massive, disruptive change – to say the least. With the nation-wide lockdown and stay-at-home orders transforming every aspect of our lives – including our working ones – the COVID-19 pandemic will likely forever transform our society. In light of the current circumstances, here are five recently-published articles in the world of team and leadership development that we especially want to highlight this month.
1. Discomfort of Change Identified as Grief “Strikes a Chord”
That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief by Scott Berinato of HBR
We’ve been sharing this article within our team over the past few weeks, and we thought that it was important for us to share it with you as well. This article captures what we’ve been feeling on our end so accurately, and contains some important kernels of truth about how to navigate this season. In an email we got on March 23, HBR shares that this article has “struck a chord” with readers in the workforce and is “becoming one of the most read articles on HBR ever”.
There seems to be a lot of similarity between change and grief, and the basic, non-linear process in which we recognize where we and the teams we lead are. This article is full of tips of how we can compassionately lead ourselves and our teams through change. Our favourite quote from the article is that “emotion needs motion”. In other words, we need to recognize and allow space for varying emotions that we all experience in change. These emotions are normal and felt across humanity and they need space and permission to be present in and throughout change. Leading ourselves and others through change does not deny the emotions but feels the varying emotions (like grief) and keeps going.
Also, it’s important that we lean on each other if we’re struggling in this season. That’s the essence of teamwork, and it’s why we believe having positive and trusting team relationships are so important. Team relationships matter now more than ever, and we’ll make it through this…but we have to do it together.
“Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.”
– David Kessler
2. Change Can Signal Grief…Even in the Workplace
On Grief and Finding Meaning with David Kessler, from the Brene Brown Podcast
This month, we listened to this podcast by shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown interviewing David Kessler on “Grief and Finding Meaning”. In the interview, Brown and Kessler agree that collectively as a society, what we are feeling is grief. As so much of our world, including our work worlds has changed, Kessler’s (and his predecessor, co-author and past colleague Kübler-Ross) theory on the 5 (and now 6) stages of grief provides a “scaffolding” or “structure” to a completely non-linear process of what happens to us during change that they identify as grief.
Change, regardless if it is the death of a loved one or the loss of the way we did work or connected with friends, family, and colleagues, is still loss. This “structure”, whether it is Kübler-Ross’ and Kessler’s work on grief or any change model, provides relief and normalizes and humanizes how we as humans experience and process change and loss. Take a listen to this podcast to be mindful of the change you are experiencing and the general scaffolding that can help to humanize the changes and possible grief you and those on your team might be feeling.
3. Learning from Change
This is How Coronavirus Could Change the World for Good by Adam Grant
In this article written by Wharton’s Management and Psychology professor Adam Grant, he states, “as human beings, we don’t like uncertainty and unpredictability” in the workplace and in our lives in general. We are averse to change, some of us more than others.
Grant’s article focuses on the ways in which change (albeit sometimes forced change as in how we work during the Covid-19 crisis) has given us the opportunity to experiment, re-evaluate, shift mindsets, and learn from what we are currently forced to change and is beyond our control in our approach to work. Change has a way of opening the door to examine, reflect, and provide opportunities for “post-traumatic growth” instead of the better known “post-traumatic stress”.
During change, Grant asserts that leaders need to step up their “compassion and flexibility” and not over-manage the way in which employees handle the changes and instead take the unique opportunity to lean into learning about employees’ values, motivations, and strengths.
“On an individual level, unfortunately, there are some people who are going to face post-traumatic stress. The encouraging news psychologically is over half of people report a different response to trauma, which is post-traumatic growth. Post-traumatic growth is the sense that, I wish this didn’t happen but, given that it happened, I feel like I am better in some way. It might be a heightened sense of personal strength; it could be a deeper sense of gratitude; it could be finding new meaning, or investing more in relationships.”
– Adam Grant
4. Leading Change: The Problem with “Over-Managed and Under-Led”
Are You Leading Through the Crisis … or Managing the Response? by Eric J. McNulty and Leonard Marcus of HBR
Although change and crisis are not predictable or stable, there is some predictability to the disruption and chaos that change creates in individuals and teams and in the way we lead. This Harvard Business Review article asserts that during crisis and change, management should focus on the “urgent needs of the present” but leading through change and crisis is about “guiding people to the best possible outcome over this arc of time”.
The article goes on to suggest four areas of leadership through change and crisis that can easily entrap us to “over-manage and under-lead”. The authors paint the picture of a Venn diagram in which the two circles of managing and leading overlap each other. We still need management during a change crisis, but there is less overlap between managing and leading during change and we need our leaders to be focusing more on “leading beyond the crisis towards a more promising future”.
“Leading, by contrast, involves guiding people to the best possible eventual outcome over this arc of time. Your focus needs to be on what is likely to come next and readying to meet it. That means seeing beyond the immediate to anticipate the next three, four, or five obstacles.”
– Eric McNulty and Leonard Marcus
5. Maintaining Team Connectedness Amidst Disruption: Practical Steps
9 Team Building Games for Remote Workers by Rea Reagan
Amidst all of the change and disruption, it’s especially important that teams stay connected. This article is a great practical first step towards beginning to consider how you can maintain a sense of connectedness within your team despite being physically distanced.
At Summit Team Building, we have always been in favour of team connectivity and during times of remote work this is even more critical. A study by Buffer asked participants what their biggest struggle with working remotely was and found that loneliness and collaborating/communicating were the number 2 and 3 biggest challenges that people are facing in a remote working environment.
The article outlines many fun and engaging team connectivity and interaction options. At Summit, we would suggest using some form of a team ice breaker or energizer at the start of every virtual meeting and to host at least one team meeting a month that is solely focused on team building, connectivity, and team development.
Regardless of what you do, do not forget to focus on your team culture and promote connectivity, trust, communication, collaboration, and support when teams are working remotely. If you found this article to be useful, make sure you check out Summit’s very own list of useful and creative team building icebreakers that you can use in your next Zoom meeting!