In this article I share six character traits that will give your teams the best chance to succeed in future. While attracting the right team members is important, you can further develop your people by giving them the physical space, training and coaching support they need to THRIVE.
The world of work is in a constant state of flux. Even just thinking about what you need to do in order to keep your teams in the game, let alone win, is probably enough to make your head spin.
The future of work is a popular topic of discussion, with experts, analysts and futurists generously sharing their wisdom about emerging opportunities and challenges. Concepts such as innovation, collaboration, disruption and customer-centricity are being thrown around left right and centre.
So instead of echoing well-known facts and buzzwords about workplace trends, I’d like to ask the next logical question.
How can we ensure that our teams are fit to deal with what lies ahead?
When assisting with workplace transformation projects as a strategist, the very first step I usually take – before offering any advice – is to look into industry trends. After getting a better sense of what the future holds, I sit down with my clients and their teams, and together we start to paint a compelling picture for the future. We discuss business strategy and positioning, and explore how their ideal team members may think, act and contribute.
Over recent years I’ve been working with a range of service and knowledge-based organisations, and noticed that my clients, across different sectors and industries, anticipate many similar challenges as well as opportunities. This means that the key character traits that make their teams future-fit are also largely universal.
Whether you’re in finance, legal services, engineering, construction, media or tech development, for example, you and your teams need the same fundamental skills and attributes to thrive. Regardless if you work in government, or in academia, or in a private business, large or small – you’re in the same game.
Developing the following six character traits in your people could give you a huge advantage in 2020 and beyond.
1. Team player
In our interconnected world, collaborating with others from different fields and backgrounds, cutting through geographical and cultural boundaries, is not only an opportunity but a necessity.
We see fruitful partnerships across different disciplines, organisations and industries – between businesses and universities, service providers and customers, young entrepreneurial companies and established organisations. By combining their skills and resources, these partners can help solve each other’s problems and reach new heights together.
However, being able to collaborate with people who think and work differently from you is in itself a skill. Dive into this kind of teamwork unprepared, and you’ll likely create more conflicts than solutions.
In order to bridge the gaps, your people need be flexible and empathic communicators, and true team players. They need to know how to engage others with different perspectives, work styles and communication styles, and be prepared to find common ground.
2. Honest and humane
With the growing presence of artificial intelligence, the qualities that make us human are more valuable than ever.
Clients and team members alike are seeking a sense of connection with the people they do business with, rather than just transactions. They naturally want to be understood and treated as individuals. And when you’re fully open, honest and real, you of course have a much better chance to develop and maintain trusting, connected relationships.
Team members who bring their whole selves to work also tend to excel on many other fronts. They find it easier, for example, to unleash their imagination, solve complex puzzles, and provide a positive client experience.
Your business therefore needs honest and humane members who don’t hide behind a mask, and are willing to be vulnerable. To thrive as a team, your people need to be eager to engage in authentic, deep conversations, tapping into their emotions and expressing their personalities.
New technologies, communication platforms and client demands are constantly calling us to alter the way we work. We engage new collaboration partners and launch into new work arrangements before getting the chance to settle into a routine.
With so much change and uncertainty, how is it possible to keep up with, and even stay ahead of trends? How can our teams innovate and move quickly while maintaining productivity and high standards?
When feeling resistant, adapting to change is slow and grinding. On the other hand, with the right skills and a fresh mindset, riding new waves can be truly enjoyable.
As a leader, you want to work with responsive members who deal well with ambiguity and uncertainty, and have the flexibility to tackle ever-changing challenges. Over the coming years, curious and adaptable people who are willing to learn and unlearn will have a massive advantage over those with traditional thinking, strong egos, and the desire for comfort.
Intelligence is the ability to make sense of complex situations, and to make well-informed, considered decisions in pursuit of our goals. And do we operate in complex environments, facing more choices than ever before in history? Most certainly!
Workplaces offer an increasing number of options for when, where and how we work. Progressive office spaces feature a large variety of settings, tailored to different activities and work styles. A growing range of tools and technologies are available to choose from. Flexible and remote work arrangements are on the rise.
However, even in the most future-ready workplaces, when people make poor choices about the way they work, productivity, collaboration and innovation inevitably suffer. Rather than organising themselves skillfully, in a nimble fashion, such teams tend to require a lot of close management.
To see your team thrive, you need intelligent members who know how to best approach different tasks and challenges. They need to be proactive, self-aware, and clear about how to work to their full potential while bringing out the best in others.
Today’s work often resembles a large jigsaw puzzle with many pieces – and the box with the picture on it – missing. Solving mind-bending problems, while dealing with conflicting priorities and moving goalposts, can sometimes seem like an impossible challenge. We often need to comply with numerous performance measures, and deliver results at an unprecedented pace.
Some people can be daunted by big, hairy, audacious goals when the path ahead is unclear. It takes courage, and an adventurous spirit, to embark on a journey that involves risk, or where the outcome is uncertain.
If you put people with the wrong mindset on ambitious projects, they will likely crumble under the pressure. Or they may resort to safe, tried-and-tested solutions instead of thinking creatively.
On the other hand, venturous members can get a real thrill from pursuing seemingly impossible goals. You need free-thinking visionaries in your teams who are wired to aim high, and are curious to find out-of-the-box solutions to tricky, complex challenges.
6. Eternal learners
Future-proof workplaces are also places of education. I’m sure you agree that in order to stay relevant and effective, learning needs to be embedded into team members’ everyday routines.
Some people find learning a chore, and show more interest in infotainment, or news that confirms their existing beliefs, than expanding their thinking. They rarely go beyond learning the bare minimum required for getting their job done. With such attitudes in a team, creating change can be hard work.
However, create a team of highly curious individuals with broad and flexible perspectives, and you’ll find that evolution happens organically. Information and ideas flow effortlessly, and innovation booms.
Eternal learners are avid seekers of truth – deep thinkers, with the desire for learning and questioning built into their DNA. They not only seek knowledge with an insatiable appetite, but also tend to share their insights generously, often bringing alternative ideas and viewpoints into conversations.
Creating a THRIVE-ing team
To sum up, in order to be competitive through the 2020’s, your team needs empathic and skilled communicators who value honest and genuine relationships, and have the agility to address the ever-changing challenges of work. They know how to bring out the best in themselves and others, feel inspired by big goals and bold visions, and look at the world with eyes wide open, constantly learning and evolving.
Attracting the right people is of course important, and a work environment and culture which embrace the qualities you want to see in your team will certainly help. If your workspace is designed to support borderless collaboration, authentic self-expression, or the development of disruptive ideas, for example, you’ll find it easier to recruit and partner with people a THRIVE-ing team needs. (Related article: Does your workspace embrace the true essence of your business?)
However, many of the skills and attributes you’d like to see in your team can also be developed – not just through effective management and leadership, but by creating (and co-creating) future-ready work environments along with advanced work practices.
Here are seven opportunities:
1. Embrace diversity
Discuss the business values and strategy with your team, and help them see everyone’s place in the big picture. Make sure members understand how different skills, perspectives and ways of working can complement each other and create value. (Related article: Why you need to discuss company values with your people)
2. Listen and observe
Refrain from making assumptions about how your teams work – and should work. Observe the way your team operates. Run surveys and group discussions. Listen to your people intently, and take their views into consideration when improving work practices and changing the physical environment. (Related article: 11 reasons to involve employees in the creation of their new workspace)
3. Offer quality choices
Create a workspace that provides quality choices for your people, tailored to different activities, work styles and communication styles. Every single setting should be carefully designed to help people excel at what they do, supporting the right skills, attitudes and mindsets.
4. Help people find their own answers
Encourage your people to learn about themselves and find their own ways of tapping into their inner genius. Offer them coaching and guidance to explore their individual work styles, including what work routines, tools and technologies, and environments help them produce the best results on various tasks, in different situations. (Related article: The best pressure point for wellbeing, performance and a successful workplace strategy – Part 1)
5. Align members’ work styles
Make sure your people also understand each other’s work styles – how different members are wired. As a team, experiment with new ways of working together, and notice any shifts in performance. With this knowledge, develop communication and collaboration practices that maximise your team’s collective intelligence.
6. Allow teams to change their space
Invite your teams to adapt some areas of the workspace to their needs. Allow them to move furniture and props around, bring in personal objects and artworks, and present their ideas in creative ways – whatever helps them to think, feel and work better. Let them challenge preconceptions around what a workspace should look like and how it should function.
7. Educate, and encourage critical thinking
Educate your teams about the science of effective work – how different environments and ways of working can influence performance. Explain the opportunities presented by their current or future workspace. But always encourage them to think critically, and to draw their own informed conclusions about what needs changing or improving.
The right time to start
When you’re planning a relocation or upgrade of an existing space, it’s a perfect time to re-evaluate where your organisation is at, where it should be heading, and how your people could help achieve this vision. The opportunity lends itself to reassess how your teams think and work, and what kind of environment could support advanced work practices, along with the desired skills and character traits.
However, even if it’s not the right time to embark on a disruptive workplace change project, you don’t need to wait. If you’re passionate about nurturing a culture of constant learning and improvement, you know very well that any time is a good time to make incremental changes.
Now is a better time than ‘some day’ to have meaningful conversations about the ways work gets done, to learn and experiment, and to start preparing your team for the future of work.