Prioritizing psychological safety in times of stark organizational change is imperative to the wellbeing of dynamic teams. Team coaching allows neutral spaces to be created for teams going through change to work toward solving problems instead of making one another the problem.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred on change in ways that we don’t have tried and tested solutions for. We have been navigating unchartered territories in the past year as the digital and physical have become merged in new organizational structures, work flows and work-place dynamics. During such changing times maintaining clear, honest and inclusive communication is crucial to the health of teams and the wellbeing of employees.
With so much change to adapt to, however, the nuances of communication can easily fall to the wayside as focus is placed on the bigger task-related priorities instead of relational priorities. As a team coach, I recently worked with a senior leadership team to address tense relational dynamics that risked splitting into unhealthy factions as organizational change took place in response to the pandemic.
After having already had to adjust to challenging circumstances, some team members were openly doubtful that working on improving team communication would yield positive results. The reality that many of the team members were ‘checked-out’ from the communication process showed that many of the members felt unheard or unconsidered. As a neutral mediator in the situation, I was able to recognize the need for all team members to ‘check-in’ again with themselves and one another in order to move forward.
The first session of the workshop brought the team together and asked them to consider open-ended questions on how they would like to be treated by others and what outcomes they would like to see from the sessions. Giving the individual team members the responsibility to consider their own needs in a space facilitated by a neutral party enabled greater empathy and integration to be communicated. By the second half of the session the real cause of the tensions started to emerge and the team had a chance to address them with each other. Initiating the team coaching sessions with open-ended questions allowed a collectively created space that asked for pause, reflection and the participation of all team members. Attention was shifted away from contentious points and toward revised expectations that were clearly defined, understood and agreed upon among the senior leadership team. The team became reunited around a common purpose of getting the organization through difficult times.
In times of organizational change, maintaining psychological safety is key to ensuring smooth transition. By establishing a safe space for individuals to express themselves and communicate honestly and clearly about their experiences, intention and meaning, the psychological safety of team members was placed at the forefront again. In response, the team started to work together more effectively and were able to address the issues that needed to be solved in order for everyone to feel more comfortable with each other and provide the solutions their clients expected from them. More sustainable ways of working together were also discussed to allow for boundaries to be reestablished that would allow for better work-life balance.
With the changes that have been ushered in as a result of the pandemic, teams have had to go through transitions that have been challenging. The visibility with which we can communicate has altered and left many feeling unheard or unseen. In times of such change it is just as important to focus on closing the confidence and assurance gaps through communication as it is to close skill gaps.