We all know it has been a tough few years, and we are only just feeling the real long term affects on the economy, physical and mental health.
But if like me, you are left with a feeling like when you awake from a really deep sleep and your head feels like it has not been put back on your shoulders quite correctly, sort of post-pandemic whiplash, you are not alone. Life is largely back to normal…but not quite as we knew it. It looks the same as before; we can travel, see our friends and family, go to the pub, without masks, make plans and mostly stick to them now.
But dig deeper and I feel we are all a little bruised...uncertain…wary that this return to some stability might be short lived.The truth is, change has always been a part of life, but in recent years, we have all experienced a hyper concentration of it.
I find it interesting that depending on whom I speak to, lockdown feels like quite a different memory. With many, remembering it positively (and in my opinion maybe with slight rose tinted glasses); sitting in the garden in the sunshine, spending precious time with family, a slower pace. I wonder how much we have blocked out the sense of helplessness as we saw the world we knew implode with uncertainty…the images of NHS doctors and nurses with PPE marks on their face, the pressure of home schooling, the feeling of freedom being taken from us.
Despite this, I do remember that as human beings, we then turned to the one thing we prioritised and craved most, the feeling of togetherness. Once we had felt the sense of mourning at not being able to physically ‘get together’, we quickly adapted to find ways of filling this void – demonstrated by the phenomenon of the weekly Zoom quiz, where people saw more of each other on screen, during the lockdown, than probably in the past year!
This togetherness got me thinking that when the chips are down, all that really matters in the world are our relationships and coming together to share experiences as one. Even the most introverted of us have the basic need to have time with significant others.
You only have to look at the 14 hour queues to see the Queen lying in state to reaffirm this. That when big change happens and in life-changing tough times, we see the power of people coming together no matter what their differences, to create a spirit that is a force to be reckoned with. A pure act of humanity. To stand together and unite in a shared experience.
But here is where the paradox of our changed lives come in. While once we mourned not being about to meet up face to face, for some, we now fear going back out in the wide world and re-joining social settings. We are out of practice. Socialising is a muscle that needs to be flexed. We now have a profound new feeling of what personal space is. This is why flexible and hybrid working rules need to be set with careful consideration as, we are now reminded that we are all different. As with all environments that seek to allow people to flourish and create a culture of high performance – general rules and boundaries for the masses, just don’t work.
On one hand, we need to encourage those who are reticent to get back out, to stretch those comfort zones and be brave, because once you are out with your team, great things happen, ideas form and energy is created that you hadn’t realised you were missing. But equally, assuming everyone wants to work at home where you can feel isolated and solitary and it’s easy to hide and disappear, is all too easy. Building a vibrant working culture remotely, as we all know, takes careful thought and hard work.
Sounds like hard work right?
Correct! But it isn’t all for just ‘feeling’ better. Recent Gallup statistics show after the pandemic only 9% of employees are engaged in their business (down from 33% a few years ago and that seemed bad at the time!). And there is the more disturbing ‘Quiet Quitting’ trend being reported. Engaged employees are those who go above and beyond for your business to make it successful, they are your greatest asset. And not only that, an engaged team can help make your business 4 x more financially successful! But it doesn’t have to all rest on your shoulders. By involving your team, you will collectively create something wonderful and long lasting.
As we enter a new ‘term’ in September, we at FizzPopBANG have our busiest time of year, with people coming to us for team building sessions, business planning events and creative sessions. This is because we all still feel those ‘back to school’ seasonal vibes, it is the perfect time to truly rebuild and re-engage your team to create a sense of unity and belonging. So here are some top tips to help you get a head start:
No one-size solutions or rules: get to know individuals first and foremost, what do they need to do their best work? Let them come to you with ideas to make this happen. Then, if you haven’t already, ask your team what situations they need to be together to collaborate and then collectively agree new ways of working, to ensure people get the best from each other. Think about ‘Activity based working’ instead of ‘hybrid’. Don’t be afraid as a leader to share back what you need as well – after all your way of working suits you, so it’s important to share this, so others can develop ideas to get the best from you. Try not to fall into old habits like thinking everyone should work the same as you because it suits you. Measure by outcome, not by the way of working. Remember the fundamentals of intrinsic motivation that drives us above salary – Purpose (do you have a shared ambition everyone believes in?), Mastery (what learning and growth plans do individuals have?) & Autonomy (how much freedom to perform do you give?). It is ok to have different ways of working for different people, so avoid sweeping rules that don’t work for anyone.
Stretch comfort Zones: help people flex their social muscles. It takes practice. Don’t assume it will organically happen. Actively plan and create moments to come together & communicate openness. The England Football Lioness team built an indoor ‘campfire’ in their training club so they could come together off the pitch to sit around, chat and share what was going on for them over a hot chocolate.A collective ‘Street Wisdom’ session can also be a great way to help people find space away from their working environment and realise the power of getting out (https://www.streetwisdom.org/)
Create Purpose & belonging: a shared ambition for us all to come together, to believe and aim for. Using your team meeting to create a team mantra and consider what you are all passionate about can be a real game changer. Then you could follow this up with action planning and ideas to creatively bring it to life in behaviours and ways of working.
Collective strengths, not just individual merits: the realisation that our differences are what make us super powered is a wonderful moment. Strengths create such a positive common language, to help people celebrate each other’s differences. High performing teams are super aware of what their individual talents are and how they fit together, so start this conversation as soon as you can.
Have fun together: good old team building without a work agenda is firmly back on the agenda. It breaks down boundaries and creates connection. It should be something that brings out the play in everyone (and don’t be afraid to push comfort zones a little). It could be; paddle-boarding, a walk in the park, an escape room, bread making, a team retreat, or a trip to a cool art gallery. Whatever it is, make sure it isn’t forced fun (no one loved the ‘pretend ball of trust’ throwing the first time around)…and remember not everyone likes an open tab in the bar. A great way to pick an idea is to charge everyone in the team to buddy up with someone and take a turn to plan something for the rest of the team. You will be surprised by how creative people can get and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Ideally try to get away from your usual workspace if you can and banish any hidden agendas.
As Darwin discovered, there is a reason humankind has survived for so long: our ability to evolve and work together to solve problems. A collective belonging and ability to work together to adapt to change is the very definition of Culture. Never before has the power of the people been so strong…and getting the gang truly back together been so powerful in your business success….
By Imogen Pudduck
Getting your gang back together? We have loads of tools to offer to help make sure your team meetings really fly. Here at FizzPopBANG we offer a selection of Discovery sessions, face to face, virtually across different time zones or self led with our new FizzPopSPARK pocket guides. Come and chat with us or visit our website for more info.
The Learning Collective is also back for a new term with Stargazers and Playmakers on 28th September. Check out this link for more info and to buy a ticket.