Team Synergy Challenged by Work-from-Home Programs

This is my forty-third weekly Blog regarding leadership in America. The basic unit and building block in the workplace is the team, which is typically composed of a team leader and team members who are physically located together and possess the requisite skills to be able to accomplish assigned tasks. As any team leader with innate leadership talent knows, creating and maintaining a team requires a leader to be able to shape and forge a group of people with diverse backgrounds and goals into a productive and dynamic team. This process starts with leaders’ selecting the right people as team members, investing in their training and development, providing them with regular feedback, acting as their role model, and explaining the interrelationship among the team members and the need for cooperation and mutual support to ensure that the team is successful. Good leaders understand that these activities will build a synergy within their teams, where each person is seen as vital to the team’s overall expertise and capability. As the team works together, it will evolve its own unique identity; its own team chemistry. Good team leaders will build on this synergy to create a sense of team esprit de corps. And leaders will instill in the team that taking care of its customers with superb service, is the reason for the team’s existence. Once operating, a team’s performance can be impacted if there are changes in the team’s composition, especially if the change is the team leader. These changes will affect the team’s synergy and chemistry as it works to find a new identity. The recent push to implement “work-from-home” programs will be a huge challenge for leaders to deal with and manage the impact on the synergy and chemistry of their teams. It is significantly more difficult to forge a strong team when the team is not physically together. A common workplace brings people together and fosters a connection and commitment to each other and the organization which is lost when working at home. The interaction of the team members is hard to ensure when they can’t be seen, heard or felt as a group. Good leaders know that the team’s focus must always remain on their customers and any changes must be aimed at improving customer service and not just on implementing the program of the month. What’s more, employees view working from home as a benefit or “perk” that should be available to all employees. However, the kind of work that many organizations are engaged in cannot be accomplished from home and consequently, working from home is often restricted to certain job functions. These restrictions create a feeling of being a second-class employee among those employees who are restricted from participating. If a leader cannot offer a perceived benefit to all employees, then it should not be offered at all.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Army, and Defense in leadership positions, including being a US Army Officer and a human resources director. Mr. Okum has written “Leadership DNA,” a provocative and useful guide book about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. This book explains the art of leadership including how to deal with poor managers that can cripple an organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and Leadership DNA, visit

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