The pandemic has affected nearly every part of our lives, and we’re still learning to adjust to the change that has occurred over the last two years. But as the pandemic turns to endemic, many businesses are going back to the office—the physical office— in 2022. The return to the office is more than just traveling to a shared space. After two years in semi-isolation, team synergy has suffered, and in some cases, disappeared. In essence, you’ll need to rebuild a synergistic team from the ground up and set a new, new normal for your team and your company. Here’s how to do it.
Look to the Great Sports Teams
It’s well documented throughout the sports world how important teamwork is to success, and how detrimental a lack of it can be. Look no further than the most recent NBA Champions, The Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks weren’t the favorite, having been written off after a few years of flameouts in the playoffs. But the team played a successful brand of team-centric basketball, with everyone playing a part, rather than relying solely on their superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo. With every player sticking to their role and executing, they ended up on the top of the mountain. Conversely, look at a team like the New York Jets. Little teamwork, poor coaching, and a general dissatisfaction among team members led to (another) losing season, and the sacking of the head coach.
What can business leaders learn from this? Quite a bit, starting from the importance of creating synergy, the interaction of multiple elements to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of individuals’ efforts. As a leader, even if you consider yourself to be a superlative problem-solver (the best at your organization), a collaborating team is likely to outperform you. Bottom line, be the Bucks, not the Jets.
Find the Right People—And Foster Collaboration
A Harvard Business Review Management Update points to two key implications for leaders with respect to creating synergy when it comes to problem solving:
- You must collaborate with your team to find solutions, or you’ll lose the advantage of diversity of knowledge and perspective that results from group interactions.
- If you don’t involve your team, you inadvertently encourage passivity from your team members.
Thinking about teamwork in a more general sense, how you build your team and encourage members’ growth are two other things that will either lead to synergy…or not. You must choose the right people, encouraging them to collaborate and utilize their strengths to the fullest extent. You can achieve this by creating an environment that fosters their development. Getting the right people on your team is imperative. Find those who not only have the technical skill the job calls for, but those are most likely to add to team synergy by being a culture fit for your organization. Consider the following five “people” factors, which I’ve found differentiate great teams:
- Trust—team members must know they can count on each other to get the job done correctly, and know that if challenges crop up, they’ll have each other’s’ backs.
- Respect—team members must have self-respect, as well as mutual respect for colleagues’ abilities.
- Communication—team members must have both the skills and format to communicate openly and honestly with each other.
- Passion—each team member must be driven to accomplish the team’s mutual goals.
- Commitment—all team members must have the same values, values that dictate doing what it takes to complete projects at the highest level of execution.
Make it Fun
Returning to the office after nearly two years will be challenging for a lot of people. Some team members may not prefer to come back in at all. Give them a reason to love the office again. Put an emphasis on time together and collaboration. Your team will likely rediscover the benefits of being near others. And do some fun team activities—a day trip, a fun teamwork exercise—anything to elevate the benefits of being around each other again. Going back to the office won’t be easy, but if you play your cards right, everyone will enjoy the new, new normal—and your business will thrive as a result.