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. And you can do something about it.
When we experience constant change - in terms of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, or ambiguity (VUCA) - we often experience a sense of overwhelm. We 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 we experience overwhelm, we fall into “auto-pilot” mode: established habits of thinking, feeling, and working that drive reactivity, rather than responsiveness. So what can team members do to raise team 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 we shift to auto-pilot and react rather than respond to what’s unfolding in front of us.
So let’s come back to the question posed earlier. What can team members do to raise their level of awareness, and overall team effectiveness, under the conditions of constant change?
Where attention goes, awareness flows. To develop greater awareness of self, peers, or aspects of team functioning, practice targeting your attention on one or more of the following:
To foster self awareness: focus your attention on thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and emotions that are present in you right now. What do you notice?
To foster peer awareness: focus your attention on what key influencers in the meeting are expressing - both verbally and non-verbally. Pay attention to expressiveness, emotion, gestures, body language, tone, and any aggressive behaviors present. What do you notice in them? What matters most to them and what perspective are they articulating?
To foster 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 can you do to shift team attention?
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