Long Read - The Subtle Art Of “Colourful” Teams In A Hybrid World

Aug 3 / Team People Perform
In the last 18 months, it is fair to say that it has been a challenging time to advocate effective teamwork. 

That may be a statement you may choose to challenge, but the objective point here is that working in a team is not what it used to be.


It’s also fair to say that, as a direct consequence of the action taken by organisations since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020; how we have been able to run team meetings has changed.  

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Let’s keep things simple and focus first on what a team meeting now looks like, according to the latest research and statistics.  

In July 2019, there were 13 million daily active users of Microsoft Teams and virtual meeting tools (source statista). Fast forward to April 2021 there is now 145 million daily active users on the same platform plus many millions more on similar virtual meeting platforms (source statista). 

That’s basically a 1000% percent increase in conducting a potential team meeting, virtually, online, call it what you will, every single day. 

Team meetings have shifted online on an unprecedented scale and even with the incoming changes to social distancing and the relaxing of restrictions across the UK, US and Europe; according to the CIPD some 63% of organisations are actively moving towards or planning to move towards a hybrid working model by April 2022.
Let’s take a quick side step and remind ourselves of what a hybrid team is.  

As a summary example a team of 10-12 will have some team members working in the office each day, some operating on a 1-2 day a week or month protocol and others working remotely full-time with a potential office/hot desk visit on a quarterly basis. It may even be the team leader is remote full-time too.  

A team meeting may well be a combination of people physically in the office location near other employees of the same company, a team member on the road at a garage café and the rest dialling in from their homes on a potential range of devices and from different geo-locations.  

That’s a lot of moving parts from both a technical resource and personnel viewpoint. 
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So how do you make it work effectively, for everyone? 

This is where we now delve in to the language of colour and hybrid teams or “colourful teams” for short. 

Take a look at the colour model below. 
The model is something that People Perform use in conjunction with psychometric tools and our learning models, to help improve effective communication in hybrid teams.  

The colour model blends the ancient Greek elements of Water, Fire, Air and Earth with the psychological preferences first identified by Carl Jung as Introversion/Extraversion – Thinking and Feeling and finally Sensing and Intuition.  

Here is a very quick synopsis: ·      

Earth Green/Water Blue – Hidden Energies or “beneath the surface”.
Fire Red/Air Yellow – Visible Energies or “above the surface”.
Introversion & Extroversion – Gaining energy from our internal or the external world. Reflecting inwardly or stepping immediately into a situation. ·      Sensing & Intuition – How we gather information – what we can see, feel and touch or a sixth sense aka ‘leap into the future/big picture”. 
Thinking & Feeling – How we make decisions  - objective facts and data or subjective gut feel/your opinion/my opinion. 

It may be that you are familiar with this type of model.  

My question here is how effectively are you using it to improve communication?  

Each of us as an individual AND as a hybrid team member, has attitudinal behaviours or preferences and also colour energies. In all cases, each of us is a blend of all 4 colour energies but in most cases, you will “lead” with a given colour energy which sees you operating at your best or “in your element”.  

It’s looking at colour energy or colourful teams where we can create ways to mitigate the challenges of working in a hybrid team.  

This is our “subtle” art form. 
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Do you immediately recognise yourself? 

Take a moment to look (again) at the model. Do you immediately recognise yourself?  

Are you direct and goal-focused (Red energy) with a preference for making decisions using objective data (Sensing)?  

Or perhaps you relaxed, informal style is focused on being concerned about others (Green energy) often taking a subjective “your opinion/my opinion” approach (Intuition)? 

Individuals who lead with Yellow energy often take a more enthusiastic/social approach whilst people who lead with Blue Energy are quiet and yet analytical, preferring to reflect on a meeting, often returning for more information before making a final decision.  

Now take a moment and think about your team members.

Where do you think they land in terms of lead colour energy?  

Now let’s apply this to firstly a completely virtual and secondly, a hybrid team environment. Often, teams working together ineffectively is a result of poor communication or lack of understanding within that team. 
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Let’s explore that with a scenario and look at Team Alpha:

Team Alpha are running a meeting to determine a project start date and its main objective. 

A faction of the team wishes to step immediately into the situation, zoom cameras on and full audio, looking to make immediate decisions.

That’s not the case for everyone.

Others team member are using clues (more on that) such as “give me a moment to think”, preferring the chat box to offer suggestions or even finding the enthusiasm and excitement from others, well, just overwhelming. 

Team Alpha finish their meeting with little agreed, no actions and some tension amongst its members. 

In a hybrid scenario you could break it down as concisely as this:

  • Individuals leading with yellow energy working in a remote role will seek to be involved in team activities given their enjoyment of interacting socially with others.
  • Team members leading with green energy may be focused on inclusivity to ensure that everyone can participate equally or even suggest that everyone dials in to a call regardless.
  • If a team member leads with blue energy, a primary requirement will be a logical plan and the opportunity to reflect and pose questions. 
  • Individuals who lead with red energy will look to make decisions have clear timescales identified in their mind that they will vocalise. 

All of these pose different challenges to you as a leader or as a team member and the purpose of this article is to illustrate that this is an important consideration to factor in when moving to a virtual or hybrid team format.
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So, what can you do, to make a team more effective?

As A Team Member – Look For Communication Clues

In a hybrid or virtual environment, it is harder to look for communication clues outside of the number 1 choice: body language.

However, email tone and style, dress code and use of language or tone of voice each carry communication clues you can use to gain an understanding of how your teammates be showing up.  

The graphic below is a brief guide to be able to help spot those clues.  

As A Leader – Map Your Team & Spot Signs Of Stress

One exercise we get team leaders and managers to try in our own programmes is to create a basic map of their team by “lead colour”. 4 boxes, by colour, names go in. Simple and instinctive. (*Note – this is only in a programme where we have not run individual psychometric profiles for all team member and is purely an activity.) 

Another exercise we get leaders to think about is looking for signs of stress or stress triggers.  A survey/report by CIPD stated that just 23% of those surveyed found that remote working had a positive impact on their wellbeing and mental health, with a lack of social connection being a key reason (source CIPD). 

In fact, the same report highlighted that “employers should take steps to ensure they facilitate good communication and encourage social connections.” This was particularly relevant in remote working teams.  

The below graphic indicates some scenarios which could induce stress in team members and you could see how this plays out in any team format, but none more so than in hybrid team where in-person social interaction needs to be carefully balanced with a remote or virtual environment.
Treat this graphic as visual guide and look for signs of stress and what that could trigger in the teams you are leading. 

Another way of looking at this in a “colourful” team is simpler. 

Yes, you can have a goal. 

But you will also need: 

a plan

to be inclusive/supportive
to ensure that people have fun/are engaged to meet the goal in question. 

It’s this balance or blend of all 4 colour energies is why here at People Perform, we actively encourage teams and leaders to consider themselves as “colourful” and bring the colour model and preferences into the work we do. 

Our team development workshops include effective communication and how you make decisions as a team, through to colourful ice breaker sessions for new teams who, due to the pandemic, may not have been able to connect properly as a team.  
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Interested in learning more?

People Perform also have a blended learning programme that features virtual workshops for both teams and leaders, eLearning modules and wider resources and 1-1 coaching using some of the psychometric tools we have in our portfolio. 

If you are interested in knowing more, we are running a webinar on Hybrid Teams on Wednesday September 22nd. 

You find out more about that HERE
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