In my recent article; National Tea Day and the Art of Fika, I wrote of the importance of maintaining a sense of being part of a team and belonging during these times of social distancing and working from home. As we know, it is the responsibility of each and every member of the team to create a culture of belonging in the way they behave and interact with each other.
A significant influence on the team dynamic is the shadow cast by the leader. This is where the culture of the team or organisation reflects the style of the leader. As a simple example; if the leader tends to have their lunch at the desk, it is likely that the rest of the team will follow suit. Consequently, nobody gets to have a proper break away from their desk or the opportunity to recharge their batteries.
Often leaders underestimate the power of their influence, whether that be positively or negatively.
Climbing your way up the promotional leadership ladder, or in this case, a tree can be an exciting and exhilarating experience. It can also be accompanied by a sense of isolation and loneliness.
But why a tree?
Let me explain.
In a former life as a Learning and Development Manager, I was asked to put a team-building event together for a newly formed team within the Rail Industry, 12 Station Managers and the Head of Stations. It was crucial that they bonded quickly as they had a huge task ahead of them.
One of the team-building tasks they had to undertake was to work together to climb a tree, quite a big tree actually. Under the guidance of their leader, the team supported each other and successfully navigated their way to the top of the tree. Good work, well done!
The reward; a break for coffee and cake. Everyone quickly descended the tree and headed on their merry way for a well-earned rest.
But hang on, where is our leader, our Head of Stations?
Still up the tree! How the heck did that happen?
There is often an assumption that the leader will always have a solution.
Back to today, and our new way of working. Is there an assumption that a strong, experienced and competent leader will make an equally capable virtual leader? We already know that leadership has the potential to be a lonely and isolating place. Now with us, all working at a distance, is there a danger that this sense of isolation and loneliness could be further compounded for everyone in the team, not just the leader? And what part do our psychological preferences play in all this? Those inclined to introversion are likely to value the time of being alone and being able to focus. On the other hand, those with a leaning towards extroversion may find working at home genuinely challenging, as they miss the daily contact and workplace banter.
What’s the collective impact on the team’s mental health and wellbeing, and as a consequence, their productivity?