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Category Archives: Teamwork

As your workplace begins to reopen its doors, you’ll probably be met with a variety of emotions and perspectives. Some people (the extroverted, yellow-energy-leading folks) may be thrilled at the prospect of working with others face-to-face. Others may dread returning to the office and are able to be much more productive at home. Still others fall somewhere in between—they enjoy the flexibility of having a choice to work from home or come into the office, and they want to maintain control over their schedule.

With such a wide range of opinions and points of view, it might seem like an impossible feat to make everyone happy. You can, however, take steps to achieve the best possible setup for the majority of your team members.

Start with these 7 tips:

1. Get Employee Feedback

Involve as many people as you can in the planning process. That doesn’t mean putting together a 100-person Zoom meeting where everyone shouts their opinions! What it DOES mean is surveying or talking with people on a one-on-one basis and gathering information. Ask open-ended questions and encourage candid responses. Some questions might include:

  • What would be an ideal work setup for you?
  • What excites you about returning to the office? What are you dreading?
  • What steps can we take in the office to make sure you feel safe?
  • How can we support you and the rest of the team to make this transition as smooth as possible?

2. Review Your Communication Tools

This past year, we’ve had to get creative and adapt to new forms of communication. As we begin to return to the office, some people may continue to embrace these new communication methods, while others will be eager to return to the old methods. It’s a good idea to see if people are burnt out on virtual chats, or if they don’t mind them. For some, virtual communication is more welcoming and accessible (some services provide captioning options, for instance), while others might be better able to read body language and mood in a face-to-face setting. It’s possible that your communication methods will be somewhat of a hybrid, with occasional virtual meetings interspersed between in-person ones.

3. Maintain Team-Building Efforts

Many teams have gotten creative over quarantine time with virtual happy hours, check-ins, or online team games. It would be a shame to lose those team-building activities once you’ve all returned to the office. Make an effort to stay connected as a team, and keep engagement high, even as we return to the physical workplace.

4. Stock up on Patience and Flexibility

Protocols and practices may change over time. New information and changing conditions will require additional shifts and plenty of patience. It’s important that you practice flexibility and be a role model for others. Convey that things are bound to continuing changing and evolving. This doesn’t reflect incompetence, but a willingness to learn and improve as circumstances change or new developments are brought to light.

5. Be a Source of Joy

One of the best ways to make the transition smoother is by finding ways to make it better for others.  Create a sense of lightheartedness—the unexpected delights of working from home, the mishaps that took place that cracked you up. Show sensitivity to those still working from home and do whatever you can to help them feel included. When you make an effort to be cheerful and buoyant, others will follow suit. Even when things are tough, this type of attitude will help get you into problem-solving mode instead of “woe is me” mode.

6. Stay Focused on the Bigger Story

There will be bumps in the road. There will be difficult stretches of days (or weeks!). That’s inevitable. Instead of getting hung up on small setbacks or difficult events, it pays to focus on the big picture. How can you move forward? What can you do to best serve your team and keep them safe? What are the main goals for this year? By taking a step back and examining the bigger story, you can gain a better perspective when it comes to dealing with everyday annoyances or snags.

7. Manage Expectations

Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t know what lies ahead. Make sure you convey to your team that you’ll all need to be flexible and roll with the punches for the foreseeable future. Procedures and operations may change (possibly multiple times), and it will take a good amount of teamwork and positive attitudes to move forward. Even though we can’t always manage situations, we CAN manage our response to them.

The transition back to the workplace will inevitably be laden with bumps and obstacles…but it will also present possibilities. This is an opportunity to reinvent the workplace so it is better and more inclusive than before. Keep that in mind as you go forward, and remember to be as open and honest with your team as possible. You’ve got this!


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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It’s easy to let a few things slide. It’s easy to ignore a few missed deadlines, a few late meetings. But little mistakes can easily snowball into major issues, and soon you might find yourself having some tough conversations to straighten things out.

That’s why it’s best to draw a line in the sand right away and hold your team members accountable for their actions.

As a leader, enforcing accountability is part of your role. Not only does it help projects and tasks run smoothly, it also improves relationships among team members. Those who always complete their assignments and meet their deadlines might begin to feel bitter toward those who do not. It is up to you to convey that everyone is on the same level and will be held to the same standards.

To hold your team accountable, follow these Do’s and Do Not’s:

DO make your expectations clear. Set clear deadlines and make sure everyone understands their task or role.

DO act swiftly and fairly if someone falls short. Call that person into your office, ask them why they failed to meet expectations, and discuss disciplinary actions which fit the violation (failing to complete an assignment for a client is much different than showing up two minutes late for a meeting).

DO make reasonable exceptions. If someone spaces on a Zoom meeting because their child had a medical emergency, that’s understandable. If, however, this becomes a repeated pattern, it’s a good idea to have a frank and honest conversation with this person.

DO NOT play favorites. Everyone should adhere to the same set of expectations.

DO make consequences clear. Failure to deliver might directly affect a person’s bonus, lead to a restructuring of their responsibilities, or (in worse-case scenarios) lead to a dismissal.

DO NOT hold yourself to different standards. You are also part of the team.

DO hold one-on-one meetings to convey the seriousness of the matter.

DO convey that accountability is an important part of teamwork, and set your expectations right away.

Accountability is a crucial component of any effective team. Team members should not only feel accountable to their team leader and clients, but also to each other. The best teams are like a rowing crew—they’re all in the same boat, and need to work together to make it move forward.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Light bulb with thought bubble around it
Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

Albert Einstein

If you’re like me, you enjoy brainstorming sessions. I’m energized by the creative process—tossing ideas onto a white board and seeing which ones stick. This is typical “yellow energy” behavior (see my post on the four Insights Discovery color energies to learn more). People like me enjoy spontaneous problem-solving, talking through difficulties, and offering off-the-cuff solutions. We also tend to adopt whichever solution seems like the best option, without overthinking it or plunging too deeply into the analytics.

People on the other end of the spectrum (those who tend to lead with more blue energy) are not terribly fond of this method. They like a more analytical approach…and if a solution is offered, they will examine it closely to determine whether or not it might be a viable option.

Neither method is wrong, but both are lacking something in their approach. Some experts argue that focusing too much on solutions is the wrong way to go about problem-solving in the first place. They claim that you (or your team) will ultimately arrive at a better solution if you live in the problem for a while.

The thinking behind this claim goes like this: You can’t really come up with a good solution until you understand the problem inside and out. So, instead either of tossing ideas up on a whiteboard OR getting analytical with potential solutions, this method calls for all parties to take a step back and examine the problem in front of them.

Author and Stanford professor, Tina Selig, calls this approach “frame storming.” She believes that if you want to unlock innovative solutions, you have to “fall in love with the problem.” By spending more time considering the problem, you are more likely to take into account all the factors that are at play. Who is affected? How? Does this particular problem create other problems? Would one type of solution only partially solve the problem or, perhaps, solve it for a short period of time?

Considering the problem might be a way to bring people like me (yellow energy!) together with more analytical types. This approach forces everyone to slow down and consider the dilemma in front of them, before moving to take action.

So, next time you and your team are faced with a sticky problem that requires an answer, try “frame storming.” Agree to spend more time immersed in the issue at hand before even considering moving to a solution.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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