Preparing for 2021

By Barnaby Wynter

Guest Blogger

Barnaby Wynter is an award-winning public speaker, mentor and Brand Consultant with over 570 launches to his name, we asked him to put pen to paper on the ramifications of lockdown, and perhaps offer some insight into what comes next.

We’ll all be asking this question at some point in the future and hopefully it will be from a place of everything feeling normal again. It may not be the same but it will be a routine that we can all start to rely on.

Getting there and most of all getting there quickly will be a big challenge. Knowing that a virus spreads from person to person – it is no surprise that the idea of staying in our own homes makes sense.

But our way of life is not designed for that.

Our success as a species relies on socialisation, on forming groups and communities – on being with other people. Indeed, for many of us, work provides for this and gives us that all important sense of purpose that goes well beyond home life. Being with your friends and family is completely different to being with your work colleagues.

Being with your friends and family is completely different to being with your work colleagues.

For a start you are there to do a job. Tasks set by others which you are obliged to complete in return for a wage. You are very lucky if you love these tasks that you are set. The fact is that, according to Gallup, in 2019, 66% of the workforce were disengaged and within that 13% were actively disengaged with their employment.

With only 34% of your workforce actively engaged, there are clearly major implications for absenteeism, safety instances, product defects, productivity and, ultimately, profitability.

Now these figures applied prior to the global pandemic. For many weeks and months throughout 2020 we have all been prevented from going to work. Many companies are having to adopt skeleton staff strategies where teams are split by day in teams A, B, C and D with some working from home, others in the office. Collaboration between team members will become very transactional. If you have Zoomed, Skyped, Microsoft teamed, Google met or used any other platform for video calling, then you will know it is not the same as being in the room together.

Firstly, you have to concentrate harder as the only cues you have are a head and shoulders, all too often pixelating over some very dodgy backgrounds. You have to watch your language; tone of voice is critical and because the context is business there is little room for frivolity as there is little ‘group permission’ not to be getting on with it.

It is exhausting and, for most, a not especially pleasant experience. It may be more efficient; productivity might even be enhanced but at a team bonding level it runs the risk of being far less effective and potentially quite damaging.

There is much value in the socialising and banter as you leave a room after a meeting for the team as there is in having the meeting in the first place.

If this new way of working should prevail as COVID eases, there is a real risk that teams will become dysfunctional, disconnected and diluted.

There will be a need to build in team bonding into the workplace more than ever before. The trouble is a lunch at the local pub, an evening meal at a local restaurant, a pizza in the office or a trip to the bowling alley are not going to cut it. These had an impact when people were working together but companies will have to look to new ways to generate the level of team bonding that was taken for granted pre COVID-19. Interestingly the Army deal with this scenario on a daily basis. The first casualty of war is the plan, as no plan survives engagement with the enemy.

As situations change so does the team involved as different skills are required as the situation changes. And that team has to be able to place total trust in each other at a very human level.

As such, the Army has a deep understanding of how you create working scenarios that blend challenge both physical and intellectual with external pressure.

Under the circumstances different people perform differently, reverting to their core personality types. A good team recognises these differences and places those individuals against the task at hand where they can be most effective. The survival of their teammates depends on it.

By combining a deep understanding of individual behavioural characteristics with a team-based problem-solving challenge leaders are provided with everything they need to know to get the job done fast, effectively and to meet the set objectives.

Thankfully we are not at war but we do have battles ahead to recover our economy. It is an imperative that we find new ways to bring our teams together to learn about each other, sharing challenging experiences and gaining a deeper insight as to what makes each of us tick.