We look back at the blog post themes that drove our blog this year, and reflect on some of the ideas about teams and team building that really caught our attention.
This year we touched on a lot of different blog post themes.. From trust and leadership, to decision-making and ways of thinking, our blog covered a lot of the most salient aspects of team-building.
As we started doing last year, we want to look back at some of the biggest blog post topics that we wrote about. In keeping with the spirit of the end of the year, we want to reflect on what we’ve done, and maybe get some clarity about where to go from here.
By reviewing these themes, we hope that you will gain some new insights about them, or get inspired to go back and read about some that you missed the first time.
So let’s dive into our list of biggest blog post themes from 2022…
1. Trust and Reliance
One of the first big blog post themes from this year, and one that we returned to towards the end as well, was trust on teams. Trust is a major building block of successful teams, determining in many ways how teams interact and work effectively together. So it’s no wonder that we engaged with this theme a lot.
There’s another reason why trust was an important theme this year as well–in a post-pandemic world, teams need to trust and rely on each other more than ever. In a world with more uncertainty, and one in which hybrid and more flexible work styles have become the norm, trust is the main way that teams can maintain cohesiveness and remain resilient.
Trust, as we wrote, can be broken down into five determining factors:
- Psychological safety
- Clear purpose and goals
Each of these building blocks works in different ways to build trust. Put together, team members are fully able to acknowledge their vulnerability and therefore reach out to the rest of the team for help.
Which brings us to reliance. While trust is the feeling of security and stability that you get from being able to rely on them, reliance is the action of actually reaching out for help or support.
Leadership was another big theme that occupied a lot of our attention in the early part of the year. We discussed a number of different theories of leadership (behavioral, contingency, relational, etc.) and leadership styles (such as autocratic, democratic, and laissez- faire).
However, the main thrust of our philosophy concerning leadership was that teams need to create environments where leadership can foster among multiple members, regardless of position or role. Anyone can be a leader, not just managers or individuals imbued with authority from above.
Becoming a leader, furthermore, means unlocking what’s unique to your own personality and set of skills that will allow other team members to follow you, respect you, and rally to your cause or project.
Part of instilling this general sense of leadership and responsibility is inculcating self-leadership in your team. Self-leadership means, basically, that you can “lead yourself”–you understand yourself and your abilities, you can set goals and achieve them, and you can continually learn from your mistakes and failures.
Teams should therefore want to try to create an environment that encourages self-leadership, and that allows different leaders to easily mentor younger/newer team members. This is not only a good strategy for ensuring that there are always new leaders to fill in roles, but also for increasing team members’ sense of responsibility for the team as a whole.
Read more: Changing the Way We Think About Leadership to Unlock the Full Potential of Teams ; The Qualities That Make Great Leaders and The Role of Leadership on Teams ; How to Build Leadership On Teams: Ways to Cultivate Leaders and Create a Healthier, Stronger Team in the Process ; 4 Leadership Theories and What They Can Teach Your Team ; The Future of Leadership: 5 Ideas to Help Guide Your Team
3. Emotional Intelligence
Connected to leadership on teams is the theme of emotional intelligence, or EI. Good leaders need to be emotionally intelligent in order to connect with other team members and gain their respect.
This doesn’t mean that all leaders need to be outgoing or aggressively extroverted. Extrovertedness is in fact not connected to emotional intelligence, and is often an overlooked and undervalued skill when compared to other forms of intelligence.
Emotions, rather than being something that should be absent from the work, are often a big part of it. Emotions allow us to feel motivated and excited about work, and to feel a sense of belonging on our teams that can encourage us to do better.
So understanding emotions and how they operate, both in ourselves and in others, is the key to creating teams that can work together effectively and harmoniously. Asa result, the four steps of emotional intelligence that we distilled are:
- Understanding your emotions
- Being able to manage or deal with your emotions
- Understanding the emotions of others
- Being able to manage or deal with the emotions of others
The way to achieve emotional intelligence is first by practicing listening to ourselves and others, and to acknowledge emotions as valid. After that, try to influence these emotions positively, by directing them towards positive ends such as achieving goals or becoming better individuals/teams.
In this way, emotional intelligence can lead to both personal,a s well as team growth.
4. Ways of thinking/problem-solving
One big blog post theme that we were really interested in was different ways of thinking or solving problems. There’s actually quite a lot! There’s holistic and sequential thinking, which are more about how you approach problems (looking at the whole problem and all its parts, or moving step-by-step), creative thinking, lateral thinking, analytical thinking, and more.
We don’t have time to get into all the details of these different methods here ( we highly recommend giving our series on this a read-through). Overall, what we wanted to emphasize was that people think in vastly different ways. In fact, a lot of frustration on teams can come from simply not understanding the ways that other people think, which influence how they approach problems and work towards solutions.
But having different perspectives and people who think in different ways is also a benefit, since it can help your team has more access to different solutions, and can combine different methods of problem-solving to create better and more adaptive solutions.
Read more: Ways of Thinking: The 7 Types of Thinking, and Why Paying Attention to How We Think Is Important–Both for Our Own Development and Our Team’s ; Puzzle Thinking: A Brand New Way For Teams to Work Together and Solve Problems Using the Power of Puzzle-Solving ; Styles of Thinking on Teams: A Framework to Discover How Your Team Members Think and What That Means for Building an Effective Team ; Team Building Lessons from Design Thinking: 8 Helpful Ideas to Level-Up Your Team
5. Conflict on teams
Another fascinating theme that we explored this year was conflict on teams. Conflict is something that all teams must deal with, from interpersonal conflicts to conflicts of the team’s goals and visions. Dealing with this conflict while ensuring that everyone feels valued and heard is therefore an important aspect of successful teams.
The three main methods of dealing with conflict, as we said, are conflict resolution, conflict management, and conflict transformation. Conflict resolution is the method most people are familiar with, and it involves ending the conflict as quickly and peaceably as possible, usually with a contract or agreement.
Conflict management, however, sees conflict as a positive thing, especially when it comes to conflicts about ideas. It keeps teams from suppressing emotions and opinions, and allows teams to deal with issues openly and directly. The goal of conflict management is to keep the disagreement contained, and harness it towards creating a solution that will benefit all sides.
Finally, conflict transformation looks at how to use the conflict to bring change to the team as a whole. Rather than focusing exclusively on the “motivating event” of the conflict, conflict transformations seek to link the conflict to other issues that need to be addressed, in an effort to find holistic solutions.
All three of these methods have pluses and minuses, and should be used in different situations. For example, conflict resolution is better for handling conflict in the moment that is personality-based, while conflict transformation is better at dealing with long-term conflicts on the team that are intertwined with other issues.
The overall conclusion that we reached is that teams need to work on creating psychologically safe spaces – ones where members can feel free to share opinions and feelings. This helps keep conflicts from festering, and allows team members to feel heard. Conflict is, indeed, not always bad, as long as teams are willing to listen to each other, are proactive about facing issues, and work together to find positive solutions.
Read more: An Introduction to Conflict on Teams: What Is Conflict and What Can Teams Do to Better Deal With It ; 3 Critical Methods for Solving Conflicts on Teams: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Management and Conflict Transformation ; 8 Ways that Team Building Helps Teams Deal with Conflict: Finding Better, Healthier Ways to Solve Problems on Teams
6. Focus, attention, and time management
Perhaps because remote and hybrid work styles have continued to play a big role in contemporary society, focus and time management became a major theme this year. As many of us work from home now, or have new-found flexibility in our work schedules, we have all had to think more deeply about how we focus and manage our time independently.
What we found was most important when it comes to focusing well is process. When we have a process, we are able to pay attention better and create better work. This is because the process itself helps focus our attention on the task at hand as well as the one coming up, and reduces frictions that impede our work, like outside distractions and switching costs (the mental effort it takes to switch between tasks).
We all have our own processes for dealing with our individual tasks (and reinforcing these processes can therefore make us focus more), but teams also have a large part to play. Specifically, teams should look at their overall workflow, or how tasks get delegated and passed around, and determine together how to make it better. Communicating clear codes can also ensure that team members know what they should be focusing on.
One of the things that damages workflow the most? Multitasking. Multitasking requires a lot of switching costs, and can lead to burnout and workflow blockages. Teams therefore need to think very critically about how much work they are giving to each member, and ensuring that team members have the space to do the work that they are best at.
Another way to increase focus and improve time management skills is through collaboration. Contrary to popular opinion, working together with others is actually better for motivation and time management. When we work alone, we don7t feel as in-sync with everyone else, which can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, or a lack of self-confidence.
Collaborating with others, however, makes people less distracted and gives them a clearer sense of where the rest of the team is on each project, which can help sync-up team members’ internal schedules. While this is definitely harder for remote and hybrid teams to do in practice, these types of teams should explore and look for tools to provide more opportunities for collaboration to occur, whether in-person or online.
Read more: Focusing as a Team: Learning to Love the Process ; Why Multitasking Makes Teams Less Focused and Productive, and What Your Team Can Do About It ; Team Building and Time Management: How Team Building Activities Promote Better Focus, Attention, and Collaborative Skills
Our last big blog theme of the year was on decision-making. Obviously, teams need to make decisions all the time, and so learning how to do so in a way that is effective and that meets the needs of your team is an important aspect of team building.
Along with sharing different methods of decision making, we identified five main styles of reaching decisions on teams::
- Command (directing from above)
- Consult (giving directions with some consultation from other members)
- Democratic (counting votes)
While many of these styles are straight-forward, there is a crucial distinction between consensus and collaboration. While the goal of consensus is to form a decision that everyone can live with (but often one that no one likes completely), collaboration wants to reach a decision that the team as a whole can stand behind, and which motivates them in their work.
It does this by combining ideas and making sure that all team members are able to contribute to the process. This means that collaboration takes more time to achieve, but it is also the one that is most consistent with the goals of team building.
Teams that have a strong foundation of working together, trusting each other, and communicating well with each other will have an easier time reaching a decision that is based on collaboration. Collaboration also often leads to more creative and innovative decisions.
Read more: Decision-Making Biases: Cognitive Biases That Impact Decisions on Teams and How to Avoid Them ; 5 Team Decision-Making Styles and When Best To Use Them ; 10 Effective Team Decision-Making Techniques: How To Make Decisions More Smoothly as a Team ; Team Building and Decision Making: 7 Ways That Team Building Helps to Improve and Sharpen Decision-Making Skills on Teams