There will be an end to this – that’s for sure. It may be a month from now or six months from now– but at some point in the future, we’ll all emerge from our hibernation, back into the office. We’re all adapting to new ways of working– and hopefully we’ve all become faster runners, advanced amateur chefs and masters of Zoom by the time we’re back into the office. But how will your team emerge from this? What should we be doing now to ensure company culture and the teams that drive it survive the current isolation stronger.
“Teamwork” is an incredibly overused word in corporate values, bad posters in break rooms and stuffy emails from the HR department. But how many of us have truly integrated the concept of effective team engagement into our normal ways of working? And as leaders, how do we pivot to protect that team engagement with our normal ways of working upside down?
At Tough Mudder, teamwork isn’t just a bullet point in a slide deck or a ranking in the annual performance review. It’s woven into the ethos of who we are, how we operate– and fundamental to the experience that our community brings to every event course around the world. We design our obstacle courses so that they can’t be done alone– you need the support of others, those you know and complete strangers, to overcome the challenges in front of you. Some of these on-course lessons are good reminders for our new, temporary quarantine work life.
Trust is more important now that ever– and harder to build while we’re all remote. Leaders are going to have to make hard decisions during this crisis– and its important that your team understand the values and priorities you’re using to make those decisions. When we first sent our team fully remote in early March– one of the first all-company messages we shared was a reaffirmation of our values and a clear outline of the priorities we’d use to make decisions: take care of the team, deliver for our customers, and protect our financial sustainability. Every decision we’ve made since then– we’ve tied that back to our priorities, and the team is clear on the actions we’re taking to transform and protect our business during the pandemic.
“Tough” is in the name of our business, and the logo on every shirt we hand out– but Tough doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be compassionate. Employees with kids at home, those that live with housemates or take care of older parents, and team members who previously relied heavily on team interaction are all trying to cope with their new circumstances. Be flexible, be caring, be present for them– and realise that flexibility now will end up resulting in better productivity in the long run.
We’re radically transparent with our team– sometimes maybe a bit too much. Our full team, from junior associate to senior management has a full understanding of our sales performance, cash flow, customer satisfaction and other key indicators. Economic factors are changing rapidly in many industries– and you need your team fully bought in to responding with agility. Over communication and oversharing may feel uncomfortable for you in the short term– but will go a long way in building a stronger team.
4. Trying New Things
As our businesses change rapidly from the impacts of COVID, we must quickly change the way we resource them. As event postponements came quickly and moved our whole calendar back by three months, we quickly pulled course designers and operations managers to support content creation, community outreach and partnership development. Have they done it before? No– but they’re passionate about our brand, keen to get stuck in, and will be better, well-rounded team members with a greater appreciation for the work their colleagues do when they return back to their normal roles.
Plenty of armchair philosophers are hypothesizing on what the working world will look like post-COVID, and the reality at this point: no one knows for sure. What we do know is that our people will continue to be the greatest asset to any business, and our focus on cultivating tough, resilient, effective teams is more important now than ever.