I must admit that during my most recent years being a leader, one of my main objectives has been to build the necessary foundations to create a high-performance team. I want to go far as a group and exceed our goals in the most efficient way. I also want to have excellent relationships within the team and with other areas of the business. Because, ultimately, I want us to be the best we can be. It sounds ambitious, yes, but the reality is that the higher you set your goals, the higher the chances you have of achieving them.
I forgot to mention that I have been leading a team of recruiters while Thoughtworks has been in a period of hyper-growth for the last three years. Anyone who knows recruitment will understand the effort and sacrifice it takes for a team to achieve their objectives in such a context. Working with the pressure of achieving recruitment goals in a saturated market like tech requires taking your skills to the limit and putting your resilience to the test every day. Especially if you want to make a difference in the market and be disruptive in the way you do things.
After three years of comings and goings, of good and challenging moments, I can say that we managed to become a high-performance team. We have been delivering as never before and the feedback we have received from our stakeholders has been great.
But life always tests you. And then, the unpredictable came: a global pandemic that has shaken our most basic securities such as work, health, and social life. How much fear we have experienced in so few weeks. How many new emotions have surfaced. Now we need to be more of a team than ever. When your targets have changed, when uncertainty takes over pipelines and annual business plans...in that moment, when you feel that you are in a dark room without seeing the light, you begin to understand that you have yet to discover the best of your people. Because only as a team, only from the most human side of every person can you face adverse situations. Only as a team can you reinvent yourself and reimagine new horizons.
Humanity should be a basic skill for teams that want to go far. Not only in the sense of achieving objectives, but in the impact that we can have in society and on our own lives. Our team should be the source from which we take energy to grow; it should not be the cause of our problems. Our team should be our lifesaver when we feel like we've lost our way.
In normal situations, achieving results can be a matter of effort, but in extreme situations such as COVID-19, you can only survive if you have extraordinary people. People who are able to embrace each other even from a distance. People who cry and laugh together; people who are flexible; who have fears and dreams, and who are compassionate. Teams that have faith that after this we will certainly be better because we have the intention to do so together.
To see the most human side of your team, you first have to lay yourself bare as a leader and show your vulnerability, fears, uncertainty, and acceptance of not knowing how things will be. Evolving after this crisis should be an obligation for every person and for every company. Understand that our biggest differentiator in the market will always be our people, the lives behind each of them, and the humanity that each of them brings to the company. Understand that we must move towards emotional management models where the leader aims to get the best of an individual while taking into account their circumstances and feelings. Feelings should never be a sign of weakness but of being alive. Leaders have the obligation to connect extraordinary people, not only for what they know, but for who they are because then, and only then, will you be able to reach the highest objectives and make the impossible possible.
As a company, we always ask ourselves what legacy we want to leave in our employees, how we want to make them feel. Often we think that when we face such a tough situation we will learn something new by default, but that isn’t necessarily true. Don't simply trust the situation: the biggest transformation requires a lot of self-work, intention, and pain. A lot of people and companies will continue to be the same after this crisis. It’s up to you to seize this moment, review your leadership style, and ask yourself, “what do the best versions of myself and my team look like once this is over?”
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.