Where is your creative combustion coming from right now? What about your team? It’s a critical question as we enter into the front end of what could be a long, masked-up winter season.
Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, has said that collaboration and creative combustion are essential to the work of the organization. But recently our collaboration and creative combustion – which I would define as the energy, debate, creative thinking, and side conversations that only happen when we’re in the same space – has gone online or missing altogether.
This new form of workforce isolation cuts against the grain of our intuitive social norms. It is impacting people’s well-being and, based on what I see, having a detrimental outcome on most companies.
I’ve written about the importance of meetings including the benefits of virtual huddles regarding work alignment and team progress as people work remotely. But it’s not an effective replacement for in-person collaboration and the many “shoots off the root” it naturally produces. Zoom fatigue is real, and we’ve all experienced the challenge of being fully present while remaining distanced and on screen.
But today leaders are smarter and more prepared this time around than they were in March. As a leader, you know what worked for your company and what didn’t. And you can make important pivots for the well-being of your company without jeopardizing the health and well-being of colleagues.
Case in point: A few months ago, I attended an off-site with a leadership team that hadn’t been together since March. The decision to meet was implemented responsibly and with social distancing. After the meeting, they agreed to meet more frequently because certain things could not get accomplished without an in-person dynamic.
That example sets a strong premise for rebooting collaboration among leadership teams. If you’re not already pursuing team collaboration, here’s guidance to help make it happen and validate its worth:
- Find common ground to allow collaboration to happen
Not everyone has the same comfort level about gathering and masks. To build trust and respect for differences among teammates, start small. Meet outside if possible. Shrink the size of the team if necessary. Shorten the time frame of meetings. You might have to meet without some members who are immune-compromised or have a loved one who is, but find ways to reignite the combustible engine of collaboration among your leaders.
- If possible, meet in-person – safely and regularly
Leaders can guide their individual teams on implementation and other issues from afar – for now. However, necessary discussions about the business strategy require robust input from your leadership team. Leaders and the business strategy will benefit from the give and take of meeting in person that we’ve previously taken for granted. This, of course, assumes following government mandates and that our collective and responsible efforts will help flatten this next curve like the one from last spring. Team huddles can and should still be done by virtually.
- Assess more than the meeting agenda outcomes
Rebooting an in-meeting cadence should bring a renewed dynamic back to meetings that have been missing online. Physical presence changes posture and body language, people engage differently, and undivided attention leads to greater focus. The outcome should be more robust and productive meetings. But beyond the business at hand, assess the benefits of this renewed human engagement – even as it’s six feet away or with a mask.
It’s hard to fathom that the issue of deciding to meet and how to pull it off would ever rise to the level of business strategy. But so much of what happens at work – from coordinated collaboration that strengthens relationships, to spur-of-the-moment conversations that fuel creative combustion – has been lost in the virtual world. Those missing elements, the colliding of ideas either formally or casually, has impacted how companies operate. The longer an all-distance, all-the-time approach is in place, the slips in productivity we’re already seeing from distance distractions will become even greater just to accomplish the current workload.
These are the clear and present challenges before all businesses. Ignoring them could prove costly. But leaning in, safely and responsibly, you can begin to get back some of that creative combustion your business – and the people who help make it run – have been craving.