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7 simple tips for rebuilding your team

by Sarah-Jane Dale & Michael West

6th October 2020


We are working in collaboration with NHS England & NHS Improvement on different ways for team leaders to support and reinvigorate their teams as they reconnect. Here are seven tips to get you started.

1. Reunite around shared purpose and a new direction

Social psychologists have demonstrated the importance of shared purpose for preventing fractures or fault lines in relationships within teams, especially when divisions occur, such as those between redeployed staff, furloughed staff or those working on the frontline.

2. Take time out to reflect

All the evidence around team working suggests that creating space for teams to reflect on their goals, strategies and processes (such as decision making and quality improvement) has a big impact on productivity, effectiveness, innovation and team members’ wellbeing. The more difficult the environment and the experiences within the team, the more important it is to take time out.

3. Value different experiences and manage conflict positively

Managed well, the variation of experience and the multiple perspectives arising from the pandemic can be harnessed by teams to improve services or ways of working. The challenge is to develop wider understanding and tolerance within the team about their differences. It requires team members to manage conflict and resentment quickly, transparently, ethically and courageously in the long term interests of patients and service users.

4. Accept that the future is uncertain

Covid-19 will be with us for some time and for health and care teams the future is unpredictable. Some of the changes brought about by Covid-19 will be permanent and some not, but we don’t yet know which. Teams that practise the other six elements described here are well-placed to manage uncertainty. Such uncertainty offers great opportunities for innovation and quality improvement – opportunities that must be valued rather than treated as threats.

5. Promote belonging

The need for belonging reflects our desire to feel and be connected to others – to feel valued, respected and supported in teams and organisations and to care and be cared for in those contexts. Research suggests that frequent contact, compassionate support, serving as a fair-minded ally, treating all respectfully and inclusively and offering support all promote belonging.

6. Celebrate success

The team’s sense of pride and identity is reinforced through ritual, celebration, humour and narrative. This includes directing attention to how their work has made and now makes a positive difference to patients and society. Notice and celebrate the positives, however small.

7. Embrace new ways of working

Before the pandemic, most teams already worked virtually to some extent, but many now face the prospect of long-term remote working with little or no face-to-face contact. Team members working virtually must therefore make considerable extra effort to communicate both formally and informally.

For the full text of this article, please contact the AOD helpdesk.

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