How a Covenant of Work Will Strengthen Your Hybrid Team

How a covenant of work will strengthen your hybrid team with Dr. Timothy Franz
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What if every leader in your company created a contract or a covenant that stated their obligations to their team? What if every team created a covenant where they shared their obligations as a team with their manager?

Certainly the employee working 1000s of miles from the home base would feel more taken care of since he or she would know exactly what to expect from the leader. They would also have the ability to share with their leader just how the leader is doing. 

On today’s podcast, you will learn how a workplace covenant will strengthen your hybrid team in a way that ensures mutual accountability and success between leaders and Team Anywhere.

What are Workplace Agreements?

Also known as a workplace covenant, workplace agreements are explicit agreements created between two people. They could be between a leader and their team, two people across departments, an employee to their customer, a CEO to their senior leadership team, etc. This covenant states clear obligations and expectations both parties have so that they can have a meaningful partnership. 

Why Create Workplace Agreements?

So many people are unsatisfied, disengaged, and they don’t want to be at work. They’re miserable when doing work and carry that frustration with them into their home life. As much as they try to not bring the stress they are experiencing from work to home, it happens. Work stress affects our home life.

When you invest the time into creating workplace agreements (laid out inside their book), you are able to develop “meaningful partnership” at work, which creates positive change and alleviates a lot of the work stress that people deal with on a typical day-to-day basis. 

When Workplace Agreements are used in an ongoing way, it verbalizes explicit expectations. Creating explicit expectations creates clarity for other people, especially when they are working on a remote or hybrid team. It shows the remote and hybrid workers that they won’t have to scan their environment for implicit expectations because those expectations have been laid out already by both parties, the remote or hybrid worker and the leader. 

Additionally, workplace agreements create a system for feedback that is psychologically safe. Creating workplace agreements establishes psychological safety from the beginning, because the team is working together to develop those agreements.

Obligation in a Relationship

People have more buy-in to things they develop themselves. When a Work Agreement is  created, it is first created by the team and the leader separately by answering the questions: What are my expectations of (the team/the leader)? What are my obligations to (the team/the leader)? After these two separate lists are created, the team unites with a facilitator to create the dialogue that merges these lists into what ultimately is the Work Agreement or Work Covenant.

Creating Workplace Expectations

Many organization development interventions are one shot deals. The first meeting to develop the covenant is a tough one and a team can have the desire to continue working on it even if there are no more planned meetings with the OD consultant. If companies work with an Organizational Development Consultant every three months, they can achieve incredible culture change. As the leader and the team develop their covenants with each other, sign them, and review the covenant on a formal and informal basis, major change can truly happen.

Reviewing Workplace Agreements

Reviewing your covenant as part of the agenda at periodic meetings is important to do on a regular basis. After the first meeting to develop the covenant, a team will notice positive change by the first covenant review. They will be demonstrating a different demeanor and various behavior changes. Though covenant development takes about an hour to accomplish, over time the team develops the skill and habit of reviewing covenants within five minutes at the beginning of a designated review meeting. The team develops the clarity and language to give rapid feedback on unmet expectations instead of the typical two-way street of frustration. 

Feedback is not a one shot deal; it’s an ongoing conversation. You constantly have to be building trust by giving ongoing positive feedback, because as soon as you have to give some developmental feedback, you’re going to make some withdrawals on that trust bank account.

Benefit of a Work Agreement/ Covenant for Remote and Hybrid Teams

When a Work Agreement/ Covenant is created, it allows your remote and hybrid employees to not feel as confused, alone or isolated. The agreements/ covenant create a promise. In the research outlined in the book, Tim has direct evidence that shows reduced team conflict, higher engagement and performance, increased alignment and stronger partnerships 

Meaningful Partnership

Creating the work covenant/work agreement means that both parties understand the value in their relationship. They understand that working together really is a bi-directional, two-way relationship between each other where you can create meaningful partnership and mutual support. 

Collaboration in Meaningful Partnership

Collaboration is part of meaningful partnerships. Meaningful partnership is an elevated sense of connection, cohesion, and collaboration. The goal of the Work Covenant/Agreement is that people are more connected and more cohesive at work and, as a result, they can collaborate more. With hybrid and virtual work, if you’re not creating connection, then you’re not going to establish the higher sense of collaboration that comes through partnership. Also, if your employees aren’t feeling connection or collaboration, they are going to go find it somewhere else.

Predicting the Great Resignation

Back in April, Tim had predicted this idea of many people in the workforce leaving; in particular, people leaving leaders who aren’t recognizing the isolation that people felt during COVID. COVID changed how people looked at their job, and made them really rethink this idea of employment. COVID exacerbated issues that already existed.

We had leaders who wanted and trusted their employees to work remotely for 18 months, and who then turned around and expected those same employees to come back into the office–actually removing the previous trust. The problem is that some leaders really don’t get the importance of connection at work. We are social beings; people want connection whether it’s remotely, in person, or somewhere in between. The concept and reality of work covenants provide trusting relationships, whether virtual or face-to-face.

About Timothy M. Franz, Ph.D.

Dr. Franz is an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist at St. John Fisher College. He is a Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Psychology and past graduate Program Director of the graduate Human Resource Development program.  He works as an organizational consultant through his consulting organization, Franz Consulting and GLi. Prior to his work as a professor, Dr. Franz worked full time as a human resources consultant. He earned his Ph.D. in Social/Organizational Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, his M.A. from the University of Buffalo, and his B.A. from SUNY Oneonta.

His areas of expertise include applied research in organizations, individual and team decision making, improving team performance, improving team leadership, and using teams to drive organizational change.  Many of his ideas about improving teams are published in his four books, titled Making Team Projects Work: A Resource for High School and College Educators, (2021, coauthored with Lauren Vicker), Meaningful Partnership at Work: How The Workplace Covenant Ensures Mutual Accountability and Success between Leaders and Teams (August, 2021, coauthored with Seth R. Silver), Making Team Projects Work: A Resource for High School and College Students (anticipated October, 2021, coauthored with Lauren Vicker) and Group Dynamics and Team Interventions: Understanding and Improving Team Performance (2nd edition anticipated in 2022). More information about his work can be found at TeamBuildingProcess.com.  

To learn more about a covenant or work, download this episode now.

Online Courses for Leaders Leading a Team From Anywhere:

Check out these online courses for remote leaders from the Team Anywhere Team.

How to Be an Effective Remote Manager | How to Build Virtual Accountability

Covenant of Work Quotes:


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