Disrupting the idea that your team does not have enough time.
One of the most significant barriers experienced by teams is the experience of not having enough time. This was problematic pre-COVID, but seems to be what we was referred to as the ‘new norm’ since the world has resurfaced.
In this article, we will look at the reality and psychology of ‘not having enough time’ and touch on some counter concepts that teams can find very helpful.
Time at work
The idea of time in the workplace is an interesting one, psychologically.
Humans tend to be myopic – we tend to struggle to keep the big picture, the long-term view in our perspective. This is exaggerated when we are stressed, tired or experiencing sustained pressure.
Not only does time shrink, but so does our ability to think beyond our usual solutions and ways of working. We tend to isolate, work in a tunnel vision fashion and innovate less.
This is perhaps best summed up by the words, “fire fighting”. A phrase we hear often from teams and leaders under pressure with mounting work. The role becomes close quarters fighting against fires that pop up here and there, problems that are immediate and small – in a context where the embers seem to be carrying off and sparking new fires at a rate that ceases progress beyond this activity.
Fire fighting is exhausting and does not feel rewarding as a work function.
When teams and staff are tired or burnt out, we regularly see staff experience their role as fire-fighting. Typical tasks start to feel more like problems, other staff members feel like problems, the role feels like it is stagnating and the job can feel like survival more than progress. It is interesting to connect the works fire-fighting to burnt out, both making reference to fire and revealing that only so much of this can be sustained before we ourselves succumb to the flames.
In this space, working harder and more hours is counterproductive. Yet it is often the approach taken by team leads and teams. We are raised on the idea that working hard = more success. We transfer this over to the idea that problems can be solved in the same way. Teams chase targets, leaders chase teams and success is the experience of getting another fire put out.
At this point, we often meet teams. They ask us for help and we introduce our ideas and services. Almost always, and I do not exaggerate here, we hear back… “but we don’t have the time to do that”.
We don’t have time
The phrase “we don’t have enough time” is in fact the next pandemic. It is so common from teams we meet, that we title our programmes – for teams “without any time”.
The first step for team leaders is to realise that time is not the problem, it is what we use time on that is the issue. This is not meant to be patronising, bear with me.
When I meet a team, I ask… “in making the statement that you do not have enough time, can you also reassure me that your team feel valued, feel united in solving all of the problems, feel like they are each being utilised the best way they can be in terms of their own skills, feel in control of their part of the team mission and (perhaps most importantly) truly feel that what they are doing is needed by the team to feel successful?”
A long question.
What happens when you ask this of your own team?
When teams do feel valued, well, collectively problem solving, best utilised, on board with the mission and deeply connected to their part of the mission… they work smarter.
Working smarter simply means bringing the team mind to issues, rather than individuals and fractured thinking. Recognising that big things are made small when we break into manageable pieces. Also recognising that the whole is greater than the sum of its mass.. put another way… a united team is FAR more productive than the same collection of individuals working in the same space.
Pulling a team together – in terms of how they feel together – and what this creates in respect of behaviours, is the best way to create time.
It feels counterintuitive to tell team leaders to slow down and to ringfence time to get the team to like working together. To notice what they like. To want the mission to succeed. To want their role to shine.
Teams can achieve this in 2 hours a month! Not a made-up number, but a number we have researched and proven time and again with teams. We’ve delivered workshops that harness this team spirit almost immediately, with core components including:
- Using check-ins to create playfulness and team safety (read more here)
- Conversation audits (article link at the bottom of the page)
- Appreciative enquiry (article link at the bottom of the page)
- Coaching conversation training for the whole team.
- Culture design work
- Values identification
- Rapid mission statement creation
- And more…
Many of these approaches can be researched by teams and played with together.
Our advice to teams who want to try something new is simple:
Ringfence 2 hours a month minimum.
Add a check-in to state that the meeting is playtime for the team and not work time.
Spend time getting to know each other in this space through conversations and play – not about work.
Celebrate that you turned up to do this.
Seems small, but the connections are the glue that make the rest possible.
We are yet to meet a team who don't keep these spaces, once they have successfully created them!
Free resources to help you get started
If you haven’t before, please consider trying this.
If you want a free teams ebook to get you started, click here.
Or you might prefer a free course that expands more on these ideas and why complex change is difficult for any leader. Click here for more info.
Aim Your Team.
Good Luck !