The supreme test


I have always been curious why some teams perform better than others. Is it the strategy? The Gantt Chart? The money? The partners and sponsors? The members’ skills and knowledge? Of course, all these have a saying in the outcome of any team and project. And nowadays, you can add working remotely and social distancing as influencing factors. All things considered, though, this pandemic is not a productivity test. It’s a passion and an organizational culture one.

The real business world is ten times harder than I could have imagined. The talk is in millions and billions, not in thousands, as I was used to. There are 1,000 players, not 100. And people’s lives really depend on that salary.

Indeed, it’s a higher level and the stakes are bigger than in a student NGO, an environment in which I spent the last eight years. But especially because of this - money being the ultimate goal of any business - some things are lost from sight. Many leaders forget that they must first build their organization to last and they have to have their own Martin Luther King Jr., who should remind others once in a while the dream that they are contributing to. Corporate life is different in terms of money, but it doesn’t have to be (and nor it should be) in terms of organizational culture from any non-profit organization.

Performance has a lot to do with culture. The culture influences how the team experiences successes and, more importantly, how it experiences failures. How easily or hard a team adapted to this new way of working and how quickly they rose up to the challenge is in direct proportion with how strong its culture is.

Especially because of working remotely, I got curious why some projects advanced and moved along with their timeline and achieved their initial milestones and why some remained still or even did worse. So, what creates high-performing teams during (but not limited to) this pandemic?

Passion, routine and bonding are some of the pilons of a team’s performance. Motivation will come along if team members know that they (as human beings) and their contribution are valued. If everyone knows the big goal - and it better be not regarding money -, every member knows what other members are doing and how each one can contribute, things go smoothly. The most important aspect is that everyone should feel that they are being cared for. Make people understand that any small or big task they are doing is helping to achieve the higher purpose. Leaders and managers who invest in their teams will grow an organization that will outlast generations, not only this pandemic.

According to Daniel Coyle, you only need three skills to build a successful group: build safety, share vulnerability, establish purpose. He discusses them all in his book, The Culture Code, which I recommend as a long-term strategy for any organization. This, and the the infinite game concept, will help many teams thrive especially during this period. Use practices such as a buddy pair-program, discover each member’s behavioral style, have weekly hangouts in which the team can share knowledge and show constant appreciation. Grow the people. They will provide the highest ROI for your organization.

Hard times reveal strong culture and great leaders. Will your team pass the test?

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