How can I support and reinvigorate my team as they reconnect?

Here are seven activities recommended by team-based working specialists:

1. Reunite around shared purpose and a new direction

Social psychologists have demonstrated the importance of shared purpose for preventing fractures or
fault lines in relationships within teams, especially when divisions occur, such as those between
redeployed staff, furloughed staff or those working on the frontline.

TIP: Revisit the team’s overall purpose and how the team wants to work together. Ask the team to agree five things ‘we must always do’ and five things ‘we must never do.’

2. Take time out to reflect

All the evidence around team working suggests that creating space for teams to reflect on their goals,
strategies and processes (such as decision making and quality improvement) has a big impact on
productivity, effectiveness, innovation and team members’ wellbeing. The more difficult the
environment and the experiences within the team, the more important it is to take time out.

TIP: Consider using a simple diagnostic tool to frame your discussion. The process of reviewing team goals, strategies and processes together as a team can help get things out into the open and identify areas for more discussion.

3. Value different experiences and manage conflict positively

Managed well, the variation of experience and the multiple perspectives arising from the pandemic
can be harnessed by teams to improve services or ways of working. The challenge is to develop a wider
understanding and tolerance within the team about their differences. It requires team members to manage conflict and resentment quickly, transparently, ethically and courageously in the long term interests of patients and service users.

TIP: Model careful listening to others’ contributions (‘listening with fascination’) and ensure everyone’s opinions are valued, not simply those who are in the majority.

4. Accept that the future is uncertain

Covid-19 will be with us for some time. Travel and commerce will enable its continuing transmission and vaccination is unlikely to offer permanent immunity. For health and care teams, the future is therefore unpredictable. Some of the changes brought about by Covid-19 will be permanent and some not, but we don’t yet know which. Teams that practise the other six elements described here are well placed to manage uncertainty. Such uncertainty offers great opportunities for innovation and quality improvement – opportunities that must be valued rather than treated as threats.

TIP: Discuss uncertainties and ambiguities openly within the team as a means of clarifying and preparing for change. Such discussions also create seedbeds for creativity and innovation.

5. Promote belonging

The need for belonging reflects our desire to feel and be connected to others – to feel valued, respected and supported in teams and organisations and to care and be cared for in those contexts. Research suggests that frequent contact, compassionate support, serving as a fair-minded ally, treating all respectfully and inclusively and offering support all promote belonging.

TIP: Give warm expressions of welcome when team members reconnect or new members join the team and give support to all team members, not just those with whom you feel personally compatible.

6. Celebrate success

The team’s sense of pride and identity is reinforced through ritual, celebration, humour and narrative. This includes directing attention to how their work has made and now makes a positive difference to patients and society. Notice and celebrate the positives, however small.

TIP: Model ‘sympathetic joy’ where team members take pleasure from the successes of others around them – rather than feeling envious or critical.

7. Embrace remote working

Before the pandemic, most teams already worked virtually to some extent, but many now face the prospect of long-term remote working with little or no face-to-face contact. Team members working virtually must therefore make considerable extra effort to communicate both formally and informally.

TIP: Take the time to have fun and share humour during online meetings – it is helpful, not timewasting (within limits of course).

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