Water break!

What will happen to the water cooler moments?

This was the question on a lot of leaders minds at the beginning of the pandemic. I think we all crossed our fingers and hoped that through creativity, innovation, and technology, we’d figure it out. That somehow we’d re-create the micro collisions that can lead to such great rapport building and problem solving.

Sadly, I have to say that the common theme I’m seeing and hearing from clients is that our teams are struggling. We’re getting work out the door but “teaming” has gone way down. Teams are breaking down and communication is suffering.

When I was doing my undergrad at McGill, I met a classmate who was doing his masters in Building Cohesion on Varsity Hockey Teams. I remember this distinctly, because I thought, at the time, ‘Wow, this is something you have to purposefully cultivate? Wasn’t synergy and cohesion a bi-product of high performing athletes united around a common goal?’

The answer, I have learned, is no. Investing in your teams, building the trust and cohesion on winning teams takes purpose, time, and practice.

What are you noticing on your teams?

What we’ve been noticing is that teams are getting along but not leveraging their collective wisdom, creativity, and innovation. Trust is breaking down because we simply don’t spend time with each other. People are avoiding uncomfortable conversations because they haven’t built the rapport to have the hard conversation, or they just don’t know how to do it.

Trust is built through both small and big ways. Micro collisions, water cooler moments are a small to start. The late Tony Tsieh of Zappos used to build his offices around creating micro collisions, around getting people to run into each other. How do we create new water cooler micro collisions on hybrid teams?

Another small way is by only hosting meaningful meetings-meetings with a purpose, an agenda and accountability. Join us next week as we discuss Weekly Meetings for High Performing Teams. Meetings shouldn’t just be updates or brainstorming sessions. They should be carefully thought out to include meaningful ways for people to connect around both “being” and “doing” topics.

A big way is investing in your people. My clients on average invest $15,000.00 per executive per year on coaching, learning, or peer to peer forum groups.

Investing in your people shows that you’re investing in your business. According to this McKinsey surveyskill-building is more prevalent than it was prior to the pandemic, with 69% of organizations doing more skill-building now than they did before the COVID-19 crisis. Most of the skills that companies are increasingly focused on developing are social, emotional and advanced cognitive – such as leadership and managing others, critical thinking and decision making, and interpersonal skills and empathy.

Obviously it isn’t the amount of money or the training that builds the trust. It’s how your employees re-integrate their learning into the organization that helps yield stronger trust. It’s how you define success as a result of the training and how it re-emerges on your team. This is an important point because I think this is where a lot of companies fall short…but I’ll save that for another blog.

I recently completed a few days of in-person team training and coaching in Alberta. At the end of a three hour session in an engineering firm one of the most senior engineers wrapped up the session unprompted by saying “these are the conversations that matter most. We should have been having them 20 years ago.” Obviously, I cried a little… But I can guarantee you those employees who had worked with each other for years, walked away from that day learning a little more about themselves and one another.

As the pandemic slowly moves to an endemic I challenge you to find the small and the big ways to purposefully rebuild the trust and cohesion on your teams. But before you start reflecting, go drink a glass of water. 

Leave a comment