How Virtual Team Coaching Can Help Your Organization to Thrive in the Covid-19 Era

By Elisabeth Muller

With the arrival of the pandemic Covid-19, the world around us changed almost overnight. How we work and do business is one of the biggest changes now affecting many of us.  

Social distancing and lockdown measures have not only impacted business operations and processes but also the relationship dynamics within organizations. All too often, little cracks form in the way teams work and perform, simply because team members are operating in completely different settings; each in their own emotional space and each coping with the situation in their own way. 

In uncertain times, little cracks can easily become big cracks. When silo thinking or ineffective and toxic communication have been already weighing down a team or organization system; fear, uncertainty and rapid changes can easily deepen these existing issues.  

For this reason, it is vital for leaders and organizations to focus on team relationships in a skillful way.  This is even more important during a period of crisis when people need greater communciaiton and transparency on what steps the organization is taking to deal with the situation at hand.  

Virtual team interventions facilitated by skilled team coaches can help to limit the cracks, ensuring teams stay aligned and engaged.  These kind of interventions are focused on developing new insights and skills in a safe space to enable team members to become more aligned and more confident.  By doing so they develop new ways of working and interacting that will serve them well both now and post-crisis. 

In a recent HBR article, authors Annie Peshkam and Gianpiero Petriglieri tell us about the conditions we are in right now.  ‘Organizations and leaders might be forgiven for going into survival mode and putting learning aside…In times of upheaval, anxiety runs high and the instinct to preserve the world as we know it takes over.  Leaders put aside their intent to include and develop and revert to command and control. “Forget learning!” the thinking goes. “We can’t afford it when we need to secure operations and get the basics done.” 

The word ‘intent’ is very important here. Teams are the backbone of every company. If teams fall apart, the organization fall apart. More than ever, it is critical for organizations and leaders to intentionally ‘include and develop’ and become aware of their huge responsibility to keep teams alive, motivated, connected and resilient for now and the post-Covid era. 

An interesting analogy is a spiderweb: delicate but strong, complex but resilient, with all its strings attached to each other. Each string representing the relationship between team members. If these relationships are healthy, if there is clarity and trust, we talk about a resilient, whole and united system (or web). In these times of extreme uncertainty, the connections or ‘the invisible strings’ between team members are more vulnerable.  When one or more strings snap, the entire system become weaker if not snaps completely.  

The process to prevent this happening is a delicate one.  It starts with making sure each team member feels valued, heard and appreciated. It means investing in the team’s emotional state and relationship dynamics. Working towards alignment and intentionally making a collective shift from ‘I’ to ‘We’. 

As mentioned in the HBR article, this is extremely difficult as people tend to revert to command and control or fight or flight mode when anxiety, stress and pressure hits them.  In other words, when these emotions take over, we do not have access to the part of our brain that enables us to reflect, to understand others and to built trust. Teaching teams how to influence this process with brain-based scientific tools, especially in times of great uncertainty, is of great value. When teams know how they can move away from being highly reactive to being more engaged and creative, it gives them a huge advantage over teams and organizations that stay in their reactive modes, preserving the old ways of doing things.

This period is a great opportunity for leaders and teams to engage in virtual team coaching, to connect, re-invent themselves and develop the foundation to become and maintain resilience for now and the future.

If you think your team or organization would benefit from virtual team coaching, please connect with us via [email protected]

About the Author

Elisabeth Muller is a consultant and certified Relationship Systems Coach.  In these difficult times, she offers support to leaders and organizations through virtual coaching sessions where she shares impactful and practical tools and tips to ensure teams can work towards cultivating agile and healthy working relationships.