Blog – Remote Working Doesn’t Change the Principles of Team Effectiveness

When I think about a team, I visualise a group of people sitting around a table discussing options, listening to ideas, challenging assumptions and having a laugh with each other. But even during “normal” (pre-COVID) times, that’s not how many teams function. What we often see in team meetings is some people physically in the room, but mentally somewhere else. There are a few vocal and a few very quiet, and sometimes there is a wall of silence where discussion is intended to go, but for some reason it doesn’t.

Teams are more than just what happens in the meeting room. But the meeting interaction gives great insight into the teams functioning. For example, we may look at how effectively they use their time, whether they land a decision, if people disagree in the room or only behind closed doors, how clear they are on the purpose for why they are meeting in the first place.

Teams rarely reach a high level of functioning overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen by throwing a group of clever people in a group together. It needs active work.

Teams go through growth stages

What we know is that teams go through stages of development as they form and they create norms and habits, some helpful and some not so helpful. It is these patterns (or norms) that influence the way the team makes decisions, how they communicate with one another, prioritise, and it will ultimately determine how effective they are. For this reason, looking at how teams do things not just what teams do, is critical.

We also know that teams can feel messy. It’s understandable why people say “it’s easier to just do it myself”. It sure is simpler to have a crowd of one to consult with.  But it is also very limiting. One perspective, and only one set of arms and legs to get things done. When teams operate at high levels of effectiveness, magic can happen.

Whilst team effectiveness is not like turning on a light switch, there are a handful of practises and disciplines that help remove the messiness and maximise the teams returns.

The principles of team effectiveness have not changed.

Whilst the context we are operating in is vastly different, the principles that underpin effective teaming remains the same. The opportunity is how we apply the principles in a virtual and frequently changing world. There are four key areas that we have identified to support the virtual team of today, including:

  • Prioritisation/Goal setting: How to focus effort and deliver outcomes
  • Effective meetings: Ensure fit for purpose and productivity
  • Communication: Keeping it timely and accessible
  • Wellbeing: Supporting people to maintaining good health

When change is forced upon us, it’s an opportunity to review.

In the last few weeks, everything has been flipped and we have had no choice other than to drastically change the way we operate. Whilst there is a lot in flux, there is also a lot that remains the same. Grocery shelves still need to be stocked, roads are still being built, and IT is more essential than ever! We are physically apart but we still need to achieve together. We just need to find new ways of doing it.

If there was ever a time to maximise your team’s effectiveness it’s now. To help you learn more about supporting your virtual teams, sign up for one of our IN-Sights Series programs. This series of webinars is designed to help maximise your virtual experiences and develop skills and insights to help with the new world.

This blog was written by Liana Sangster, Consultant at Human Synergistics. We would love your thoughts and ideas for topics, so please contact us via


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