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In Pursuit of Certainty

When a crisis hits, the deepest and most needful parts of our human nature kick in – we want security, warmth, food, absence of pain – the lower echelons of Maslow’s hierarchy. In addition, there is not a single person alive who is not in pursuit of certainty, every day of their lives. Currently certainty feels distant. Confusion feels permanent. Teams working from home weren’t prepared to be working as distributed teams, with all the new challenges that it brings. Without the basics, teams can cease to function. How can a team still function despite working from home? The magical ingredient is our values. Our values will unite us and serve as the glue to keep us together. In particular, the value is TRUST. In a time of crisis, the primary focus is more on the practical issues of our values that come from the disruption. Creating more certainty is therefore the issue at hand – the sensible thing to do. Here are three ways to do it.

  1. Stay Connected. A team is a living social system. It is an opportunity for the teamwork coordinator and team leader to deliberately enable people to stay connected. To setup a “member touch point” once a week. A phone call, email, WhatsApp video call or even Skype.  These are brief chats, short free flowing, to the point though on 4 issues:  a) What progress are we making or lack of it in achieving the deliverables everyone is involved with? b) What are the difficulties being experienced? c) What can be suggested to improve the team processes? d) What’s on your mind at this point in time? Many have come face-to-face with their fears and hopes. For people to unpack, share in a free flowing way is hugely important. To have a supportive listener on the other side, to share and understanding the feeling will make all the difference.  Empathy is what it’s all about.
  2. Communicate. The lifeblood of our relationships. Perhaps the most powerful way to address issues that requires more than one person to participate. The ‘Communication Centre’ part of our Internet system is a tool to facilitate interactive conversations. It prompts participation via cell phones and records the discussion in detail, who said what, when and suggestions that will help to facilitate solutions. Or lodge something on the ‘Notice Board’ for the attention of a team member or the team. A variety of relevant topics can be addressed like; “What is important to you right now about how we communicate as a team?” Topics might include collaboration, the current team climate, clarity around decision making, how team members want to be informed etc.
  1. Trust. Possibly the most important ingredient of certainty. Understanding it is the first step. Trust is a process of experience, the only certainty that exists. It implies instinctive, an unquestioning belief in and reliance upon something, a knowingness. It is more than confidence. Confidence implies conscious trust because of good reasons, definite evidence, or past experience. Trust is a catalytic process that enriches experience. Trust begets trust. It is my actions that build trust, not my feelings and intentions. There are four elements that collectively create trust.
  • ReliabilityThe first is Reliability, do what you say you will do. If you experience a problem, say so and negotiate a new agreement.
  • Acceptance The second is Acceptance. All people want to be accepted for who they are – with their strengths & weaknesses. Not judged, criticized or made to feel inferior. You could disagree with what they do but still accept them as a person.
  • OpennessThe third element is Openness. This is to tell the whole story, the good news as well as the bad news. Not hiding some part of the information.
  • StraightforwardnessThe fourth is Congruence / Straightforwardness. That is, you say what you mean and you mean what you say. Not the opposite, saying what you believe the other person would like to hear. What is important is to realise that all four elements must be executed. For some of us at least one of the four is more difficult and one easier to practice. It is directly linked to your personality. Knowing who you are (DISC) is therefore important.

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