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Building Great Teams During a Pandemic

Building great teams under normal circumstances can be challenging.  Building great teams during a pandemic can feel down right impossible. Many of us are struggling to find a work/life balance while operating with remote workforces, a myriad of distractions, added pressures and uncharted waters.

How can we use these (often uncomfortable) circumstances to make our teams better?

Let’s go back to the basics.

In cheerleading, I learned that “practice makes perfect.” We constantly honed in on the number of reps we could physically do over and over and over again. The simple thought was that by pushing the number of reps we completed, we could create muscle memory that would pull every team member through any difficult scenario we faced.  

On Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker proved that methodology applies to more than cheerleading.

Cliff Notes:

  • With four seconds remaining in the game, the Chiefs tied it up to take the game in to overtime.
  • During overtime, the Chiefs were forced to a fourth down, and Butker was thrust into a pressure cooker situation: a two-minute warning, a false-start penalty and a timeout from the Chargers, undoubtedly used as an additional means of distraction.
  • Butker was forced to kick THREE times in less than three minutes. Because of a penalty against his team, his third kick was from 58 yards out, the second longest field goal ever kicked, to win a game in overtime since 1974.

During a time of additional distractions and pressures, Butker went back to the basics. He relied on the long kicks he repeated over and over this summer. 

While few of us are professional athletes, we can use Butker’s “back to basics” approach to help build a better team.

  • Figure out the assignment, then do the homework. What does every team member need to do in order to be successful?
  • Push the reps. Does your team need more leadership drills? Communication exercises? Marketing knowledge?
  • Lead and support.  Lead with confidence that your team has the skills necessary to succeed. And don’t ask your team to do anything you aren’t willing to do yourself;  strong teams begin with strong leaders who are willing to walk alongside!

When your back is against the wall, the stakes are high and the team is counting on you – instill in your team that they have the skills to succeed.  Remind them of their past wins and acknowledge the work they’ve put in.  Encourage and reinforce the behavior that has helped them get this far. Be willing to call in reinforcements, perhaps in the form of extra training, to help your team succeed and to show that you’re willing to contribute to help them achieve progress over perfection.

Looking for your next Keynote Motivational Speaker? Let’s chat!

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Shannon is a motivational speaker and business consultant based in Dallas, TX. She has worked in almost all 50 states with audiences ranging from corporate executives to student leaders.

What does Patrick Mahomes have to do with Emotional Intelligence?

I’ve been studying emotional intelligence for nearly two decades and the more I research, the more I realize no matter how “emotional” one is, we all have an opportunity to grow more “emotionally intelligent.”

Specifically, a key factor to the EQ formula includes managing our emotions. It’s not enough to simply have awareness of our emotions. Being able to be in control emotionally is huge but can also be challenging. We are wired to feel emotion through the limbic system in our brain. The degree to which we experience emotions differs from person to person, but we all feel anger, stress, fear, and happiness. It’s how we respond to those emotions that are so important – critical, really – in affecting our interactions with others in the workplace.

Take Kansas City Chiefs 2nd year Quarterback Patrick Mahomes II; who is just 23 years old!  In the spotlight of Monday Night Football’s national stage, Mahomes performed on a level rarely seen in Kansas City let alone in the NFL.  Not only did he display exemplary skill, he also managed his emotions in a way, I believe, helped him lead the Chiefs to their fourth consecutive win!

There were several variables that a person lacking emotional intelligence would have allowed to affect their performance.  Flags disrupting the Chiefs offensive rhythm, the pressure of needing to overcome a ten point 4th quarter deficit, the deafening roar of the opposing fans at Denver’s Mile High Stadium and relentless pressure from the Bronco’s defense. But during all of it, I barely saw Mahomes get worked up. Instead, he was calm and collected for almost the entire game. That is a huge part of what emotional intelligence is – managing your emotions especially in challenging moments to still achieve your desired outcome.

During my years in corporate America, I found the same principle to ring true. It was much easier to become energized and remain positive about my job when working for someone who exhibited servant leadership and stayed calm, even when faced with difficult business decisions. These people made me want to work harder and do better, because my efforts were valued. Likewise, I’ve experienced projects that left me feeling emotionally drained and pessimistic when I worked for someone who couldn’t control his or her emotions and expressed extreme verbal frustration when I didn’t meet my goals. That’s a tough and toxic environment in which to work and ultimately caused me to change my circumstances (i.e. get a new job!).

The next time you are watching a sporting event, observe the leadership of the team or the coaching staff. How are they responding in the heat of the moment? How does that behavior affect the players and supporting coaches? One of my favorite recent articles about emotional intelligence in the sports world discusses the Philadelphia Eagles decision to hire an “emotionally intelligent” coach and the team’s success as a result of that hire.

Not a sports fan? That’s ok! You can make these same observations at work or school. Identify someone in a leadership position and take note of the way they respond to critical issues. Then, look at those around them. Are employees eager to please, because they respect the leader? Or, do they seem bent and broken from years of working under autocratic leadership?

With a few simple steps, we can all learn to manage our EQ and take our game to the next level.

  1. Take a day and focus on what triggers your emotions both positively and negatively. Use your senses. What smells, sounds, sight and the environment around you triggers you to react. Having awareness is the first key step.
  2. Knowing what those triggers are, identify 1-2 ways that will help you stay calm and collected before you react. Do you need to walk away from the situation? Do you need to write down your thoughts first?
  3. Think about these three key areas of managing your emotions: Control, Accountability and Adaptability.

Just like Patrick Mahomes II, we all have the ability to strengthen our EQ especially in intense moments. It’s the practice and education that makes us ready for them.

One of my most popular speaking topics is, “Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: What’s your EIQ?” wherein I work with groups to discuss ways to identify, assess and control their own personalities and to work with the variety of personalities they encounter in the workplace. My Four Square approach will help everyone increase his or her social and emotional I.Q. Sound like this might be a good fit for your organization? Let’s talk!