Shared success is a goal of most organization change. It is the magic that happens when individuals work together to benefit the whole—not just within teams, but across product lines, geographies and functions. Fueling shared success takes more than asking people to collaborate. It requires a well-designed and aligned system of organizational accountabilities, individual roles, business and individual priorities, decision rights, scorecards and rewards.

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In addition to these mechanisms, shared success is built on a foundation of organizational trust. Think of it as the “organizational software” that powers the company. Due to the pandemic, this software has become increasingly important as many companies have had to reboot – whether in response to changing consumer behavior or to proactively take advantage of new opportunities. However, the move to remote work has made building the organizational software of shared success harder in these reconfigured organizations. People are struggling to form new connections just as they are being overwhelmed by new demands.

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Every decision involves so many people, with everyone trying to be collaborative and add value. Everyone is leaning in, but few people are letting go and saying, ‘I trust you.’

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Common comments that we hear from our clients include:

  • “Every decision involves so many people, with everyone trying to be collaborative and add value. Everyone is leaning in, but few people are letting go and saying, ‘I trust you.’
  • “I now sit on multiple teams with competing priorities. And we aren’t able to have the kinds of meetings where we just work it through and get aligned.”
  • “We don’t travel, eat, walk, drink together…and won’t anytime soon. I miss the 1:1 chat that builds real relationships.”

Human connections are even more important during this time of remote work. By June 2020, 64% of workers already said they miss the social interaction they get from work. Past relationships may have gotten muddled during this time of transition, as roles shift. There is indication that with new dynamics (whether new faces or people we know who are in new roles), people are more reluctant to take risks or to make a mistake. The goal of leaders should be to accelerate the rebuilding of critical connections so that the organization can fully perform, at scale, as soon as possible.

So, what can we do as leaders to support our teams, given the reality of our current context? Here are three insights from our clients and our experience as we activate our own new growth model at Accenture.

1. Set clear priorities from the outset

Asking people to be active participants of multiple teams is not new. But we know that it often results in two classic frustrations. People feel that their various managers are giving them conflicting objectives. They also feel that not all managers have equal visibility into their performance.

The key is to focus on up-front alignment when priorities are set, rather than waiting to give joint performance feedback. For instance, first, have all managers that have an interest in the work review individual priorities, particularly for people who sit at critical nodes and interfaces where tension is likely to arise. Aligning on the actual work of shared resources – and updating as priorities shift – is just as important as aligning on high-level goals.

Second, have people share their priorities with collaboration partners – others in roles across organization that are needed to get the work done. A structured conversation around the work helps to connect people at a practical level: here are my measures of success, what keeps me up at night, how you can help my team and me, how we can work together effectively, and my understanding of what you expect of me.

These two steps ensure that the work is aligned and expectations are clear. Both are essential to building a foundation of organizational trust.

2. Create a network map and invest in relationships

People need to know the players they should proactively invest in who will help get the work done effectively. It’s not about building relationships for individual gain. It’s about building a network of people who have a variety of skills that may contribute to shared success. These are the “collaboration partners” mentioned above.

Encourage your team to create a map of the people they may need to work with in other units, geographies, service lines or functions. For instance, a marketing person may want to create a network that includes the finance manager who can release funding for a campaign, the web developer who can program the campaign pages and the product specialist who can explain the features and benefits of the solution. Investing early makes asking for assistance easier later on.

This investment in the network starts with sharing priorities – and really listening to what is important to and motivating for colleagues. It could also include proactively sharing interesting or useful information, making connections to other resources, and including people from other units in relevant meetings. The idea is to put some social capital in the bank before it needs to be withdrawn.

3. Make time to connect across organizational boundaries

Building organization trust takes time. Trust is built through a series of positive interactions. At the peak of the crisis, 64% of people were working from home. Many will continue to even after offices reopen. We are saving time by not having to commute or travel, yet many people spend more time on video calls than ever before. But meetings don’t always equal connection or trust building. Real connections are deliberate.

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64%

of people were working from home at the peak of the crisis.

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Leaders can help by encouraging team members to make time for one-on-one calls where the objective is to listen and learn and share, not just to get a transactional task done. Make time in your own team meetings for people to share insights about their connections and discuss how the team can build trust collectively with other groups. Invite people from other units to your team meetings—not as an expectation that creates the burden of yet another meeting, but as an occasional opportunity to hear relevant information or participate in early discussions of topics that may impact both groups.

Shared success requires a well-designed system of processes and practices. But it also is built on a tightly woven fabric of organizational trust. The extensive organization change brought by the pandemic has required new relationships and behaviors, just as remote work has made it harder to do so. A few deliberate and proactive steps can help you as a leader support your teams in weaving new relationships across organizational boundaries.

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Amy Kates

Managing Director – Kates Kesler Organization Design, Accenture

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