Creating a Shared Mindset on Distributed Teams
Significant research has shown that one of the biggest challenges facing remote teams is creating and maintaining a sense of shared identity and understanding - a shared mindset.
A shared mindset is a common set of beliefs or values around who we are and why we are doing what we are doing. As teams struggle to overcome new found distance, fault lines can begin to emerge. As leaders and managers of distributed teams we now need to put intentional thought and effort into how we foster common identities, understanding and develop shared mindsets.
The first thing we can do as leaders is focus attention on what we have in common. When under stress our instinct can be to revert to subgroups and escalate differences. Creating space for commonalities to be shared and understo
od is essential. Our shared experience of this pandemic can be a good place to start.
*Leadership Tip 1: Facilitate a conversation around what the challenges and opportunities of this pandemic have been for your team. Share your own experience and model a vulnerability that naturally engenders connection.
This pandemic has created a profound opportunity for teams to connect on challenges and experiences and to build empathy, shared understanding and connection with each other.
*Leadership Tip 2: Create a space or means for team members to acknowledge each other and the effort that people have displayed over the last number of weeks. Model this as a leader by actively appreciating efforts large and small.
The second thing we can do is clarify the shared purpose of the team. This is where real leadership is required. One of the most profound ways to create a shared mindset is create clear and agreed shared goals and objectives. Significant ambiguity and fear exists for many people now around what the future will look like. This fear induces stress and reduces our capacity to trust. As small cohorts return to the office while others remain remote, a risk of ‘us and them thinking' may emerge. Leadership is required now more than ever to alleviate this fear by creating a clear direction and structure around the coming few months.
*Leadership Tip 3: Remember that much research has shown us that we tend to communicate less than we actually think we do. Psychologists call this the amplification bias. Bear this in mind particularly when we are communicating remotely. Make sure that we clarify and reclarify priorities.
When I talk about mindset in workshops and training I am usually talking about fixed and growth mindset. This is the idea that we can perceive ourselves in one way, relatively fixed and unchangeable (fixed mindset) or that we can perceive ourselves as evolving and changing constantly (growth mindset). From a team perspective this is also interesting to consider.
Teams who tend towards a more fixed mindset may have really struggled with the past number of weeks (where the pre-existing norms, ways of working etc. have been challenged). Teams with a dominantly growth mindset are likely to have adapted much more easily to the changes. These teams may be naturally asking themselves what we all should be now; What have we learnt from this experience? What can ways can experiment with our ways of working during this time? How can our team grow from this?
Efforts put in to fostering shared mindset and building shared understanding now will pay significant dividends as we progress through the next few months