Constant change isn’t just a hallmark of innovation and disruption - it is becoming a common occurrence across industries, geographies, and even company sizes. When change accelerates to the point of being ever-present, it creates unique challenges to leaders and their teams. So how can you support them under these conditions?
When leaders experience constant change - in terms of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, or ambiguity (VUCA) - they often experience a sense of overwhelm. They feel frustrated, disengaged, confused, mistrustful of senior leadership, distant from others, and mired in unsolved problems.
Teams experience constant change similarly - but there is a unique symptom that often appears: churn. This may manifest as lack of alignment or agreement, rework, conflicting directives, and even pointless heroics among team members. What’s going on? As change accelerates and leaders experience overwhelm, they fall into “auto-pilot” mode: established habits of thinking, feeling, and working that drive reactivity, rather than responsiveness. So what can you do to support teams in raising their overall effectiveness under these conditions?
First, let’s clarify what we mean by team effectiveness in the conditions of constant change.
For teams to be optimally effective in working together, multiple levels of awareness are required:
Self awareness: each team member needs, at a minimum, some level of awareness of their internal state (their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs) as well as their external state (how others experience them).
Peer awareness: each team member needs some understanding of the internal state of colleagues (their emotional state and needs), as well as their external context (their goals, objectives, and perspective).
Team awareness: each team member needs to maintain awareness of internal team state (the team’s vision, culture, process in working together, and structure), as well as the team’s external conditions (the context they are operating within, the results they are getting, and the commitments they have made).
In the chaotic conditions of constant change, these layers of awareness are what is needed - because awareness is precisely what gets lost when leaders shift to auto-pilot and react rather than respond to what’s unfolding in front of them.
So let’s come back to the question posed earlier. What can you do to support teams in raising their level of awareness, and overall team effectiveness, under the conditions of constant change?
Where attention goes, awareness flows. To support leaders in developing greater awareness of self, peers, or aspects of team functioning, practice targeting your attention on one or more of the following. Then make careful observations you can provide as feedback to key influencers.
To support development of self awareness: focus your attention on the emotions and expressiveness projected by particular leaders. Emotions and energy are contagious on teams. What are leaders spreading, and is it helping or hindering them?
To support development of peer awareness: focus your attention on what reactions you witness in response to proposals, statements, questions, or observations made by a particular leader. How are colleagues acknowledging, exploring, and accepting differences in perspective?
To support development of team awareness: observe where the team is focusing its attention and where it is not. What does the team see and what is it oblivious to? For example, are they focused only on solutions or on problems? What is most needed right now and what observations could you share to help the team shift its attention?
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