THE 5 ELEMENTS OF BUILDING FLEXIBLE TEAMS

1. Character-building

It all starts with the people or rather, the personalities. The saying “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’” is hackneyed for a reason. This is especially true with the changing nature of flexible teams. Provide a clear guideline and requirements familiar to everyone in the company — but the rules stop there.

2. Lead by example

As we’ve hinted at, however agile and able your team members, someone’s got to steer the ship. Even the most hands-off, democratic captain needs to set goals that inspire — the most effective for team-building being ones that require all hands on deck.

3. Open all hours?

Whether it’s preferable or not, physical proximity just isn’t a given — or even possible — in today’s workplace. And there’s certainly a case to be made for letting talent take the lead rather than geography.

  • Invest in software that includes video functionality. Whether that’s Slack, Zoom or WhatsApp, get comfortable with video calls — they’re the closest thing we have to in-person communication. Most freelancers under the age of 30 have zero hangups about video calls; it’s an essential soft skill for leaders.
  • Maximise the ‘golden hours’ when working hours overlap across time zones.
  • Blogs and newsletters strictly for team (not wider business or industry) updates.
  • Schedule catch-ups that go ahead without fail, even if it’s just to chat.
  • Never underestimate how many times you need to communicate a message.
  • A space for casual chat that isn’t about business. Nurture a digital watercooler culture so your team can have a bit of fun, inspire or share experiences with fellow nomads.

4. Skill and be skilled

Teams will always have specialists and generalists; mechanics and mappers on the journey. And that needn’t change. However, the level-up for flexible teams is to make everyone a bit of both. By sharing skills and mentoring, teams bond and find new routes more effectively.

5. Time to grow

Patience is perhaps the hardest pill to swallow on the agile, business-first race to the top of the mountain. Much like individuals, teams need to put in the hard yards over time — which might also seem incompatible with flexibility.

  • Forming: a lot of input and direction from the leader; roles are unclear
  • Storming: movement and shake-ups as blurry relationships settle
  • Norming: beginning to understand, commit and optimise
  • Performing: flowing between creativity and strategy with little supervision

Taking the road less travelled

Whether you’re at a fork or just setting off, the path to success can be unpredictable. Before you make tracks, seek out the right travel companions.

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