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Team Effectiveness

Teamwork Skills For The Virtual Age


What Are The Critical Skills That Make Virtual Teamwork More Effective?

Organizations that were previously inching closer to remote and flexible work arrangements recently found they had to quickly shift to virtual work. Now, we see a new emerging trend for organizations to embrace hybrid, flexible workspaces alongside remote work. As we step back and settle into the "new normal," what effect has all this had on teamwork?

Every leader or manager is now challenged to help create a culture of teamwork in their organizationbut often they do not feel they have the skills to do this effectively.

Wiley Workplace learning recently surveyed over 4000 individuals between December 2020 and January 2021 to take a pulse on the key challenges individuals on remote teams face. Their findings, and what we also observe among our clients, show a virtual "skills gap" between the teamwork skills employees have, and the skills they need to be effective.

Employees are Struggling with Connecting and Communicating With Colleagues

Working remotely is taking its toll on feelings of team cohesion and connection. Nearly 7 in 10 survey respondents (69%) reported they are struggling to maintain a sense of comradery with their team, and 62% say that doing so has become more challenging since the pandemic began.

Feeling disconnected or isolated from colleagues not only affects a sense of team togetherness, but it also impacts how well and how easily they communicate with each other. Email, text, and chat are standing in for what previously might have been micro-moments of togetherness. A shared coffee break, small talk, hearing about weekend plans, or family adventures are now more scriptedor not happening as much as we'd like.

Not feeling fully included makes other aspects of communicating more strenuous. Productive debates or feedback discussions are more difficultwhether that’s holding someone else accountable or sharing that you don’t feel heard.

Communication Struggles Don't Just Effect Employees and Teams, They Impact Organizations

Effective teamwork skills are important to both individuals and organizations because there’s a multiplier effect of any one person’s ineffective teamwork skills. Many employees work on cross-functional or multiple teams. Not just the "sales team" or "marketing team," for example, but they may be interacting with teams across the enterprise. Poor skills as a teammate do not just affect your immediate colleagues but can have far-reaching implicationsa multiplier effecton organizations.

Closing the Gap: Strategies for Upping Teamwork Skills in Your Organization

Help Employees Develop Their Self-Awareness Around Their Personalities and Behaviors. Everyone approaches teamwork in a unique way, and everyone has their own "style." Those differences in perspective and personality are part of what helps teams discover, debate, and discuss concepts and ideas, as well as help uncover one another’s blind spots—if trust, vulnerability, and productive (not disruptive) conflict is cultivated.

Give Employees Opportunity to Practice—A Common Language or Actionable Framework Helps. Team communication is fostered when it is tied to a simple, memorable, and actionable framework and through a common language. When employees at all levels are equipped with a model of effective teamwork, they can move seamlessly from team to team—knowing what it takes to build an effective one—and immediately begin contributing, feeling communicated with, and listened to.

To Build up Teams, Start With Trust. In his best-selling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni introduces a model for effective teamwork and collaboration with five key behaviors a team must practice: Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and a focus on Results. Each behavior builds upon the other, but trust— specifically vulnerability-based trust—is the cornerstone. When individual team members can acknowledge their human challenges and foibles and are willing to share those with and learn from their colleagues, the groundwork is laid for the behaviors that lead to successful teams.

For more insights into this model, or for more findings from Wiley's Workplace Study, you can download the whitepaper, "Closing the Virtual Teamwork Skills Gap."

Photo by Pacific Office Interiors on Unsplash

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Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill leads the marketing team in creating creative content that helps organizations develop their leaders and teams.