In today’s world most leaders work on a team. The teams can be large or small, but rarely is there an organization that doesn’t rely on some type of team to support the leader’s greater vision for the company. In our lesson, we learned that a team is a specialized type of group that relies on each other for success, as “team members cannot function without interacting with each other while working on the task.” (PSUWC, 2020, L9) In 2020, we find ourselves in unprecedented times as we face the global pandemic, COVID-19. This health crisis has forced teams into their homes and necessitated working remotely in order to ensure everyones safety. I am interested in exploring how working remotely affects the Hill Model for Team Leadership and where leaders need too think differently when applying this model to how they are leading teams that are remote during a time of great uncertainty in the world.
In order to further explore this topic, we must first understand what The Hill Model for Team Leadership is. This model “is based on the functional leadership claim that the leader’s job is to monitor the team and then take whatever action necessary to ensure team effectiveness.” (Northouse, 2016 p.366) The model itself can be used as a tool to not only understand the complexities of team leadership, but also to understand the options on how to move forward with specific types of problems. The basis of the tool is the leaders “mental model”. The mental model is the leader’s “conception of what the team problem is and what solutions are possible in this context, given the environmental and organizational constraints and resources.” (Northouse, 2016 p. 366)
The Hill Model for Team Leadership
(Northouse, 2016 p. 367)
As the model shows, it is the leaders job to constantly monitor team performance and determine whether issues require action. As leaders assess the work of the team, they must determine whether the issue is task related, relational in nature, or an environment problem. Task and relational issues are considered internal issues, while environment is considered an external issue. An example of a task related problem may be lack of training. It would be up to the leader to determine what training would support the team, when to deploy it, and who needs it. An example of a relational issue would be conflict between two members of the team. The leader would have to exercise their skills in conflict management and help the team members work through their issues and find a way forward. An example of an environmental issue would be a lack of connection to others in the industry. It would be up to the leader to provide networking opportunities to the team, in order to extend their reach.
When in the role of the leader in this model, there is a substantial amount of communication necessary in order to understand the dynamic of the team and support accordingly. When we introduce the idea of working with a “geographically dispersed team”, things become more complex. As we learned in our lesson “Communication becomes especially important in virtual teams, as team leadership becomes even more complex in this environment.” (PSUWC, 2020, L9) In a situations where we know that communication and connection are key to the success of virtual work teams, the ability to connect is sometime diminished due to lack of face-to-face collaboration. As we consider the “geographically dispersed team” during the time of COVID-19, we can recognize that the ability to work remotely has allowed many people to retain their jobs, businesses to continue to function, and aspects of society to continue to operate. We also must realize that a number of the team members who are working from home are ill-equipped, unprepared, and lack practice in how to participate in a virtual team effectively.
This situation would call for the leader to action with in the Hill Model. A helpful tool for leaders to consider in this moment would be the Comparison of Theory and Research Criteria of Team Effectiveness:
(Northouse, 2016 p.369)
In this moment of high ambiguity with team members who may not be competent in the work of being a part of a virtual team, it will be important for leaders to focus on 3 of the characteristics of team excellence: first, a clear, elevating goal. “Team goals must be very clear so that one can tell whether the performance objective has been realized.” (Northouse, 2016 p.368) When working remotely and as part of a new team, it will be very important for leaders to clearly state what the object for the day, week, and month are. If this is done well, the team should be able to understand the progress the has been made towards the goal and what their specific contribution has been towards that progress. Second, leaders leading virtual teams will need to work hard to create a collaborative climate. In order to do this “we need to develop trusting relationships based on honesty, openness, consistency, and respect.” (Northouse, 2016) Creating a deep relationship in a remote environment can be tough, so leaders will need to rely on technology like video conferencing, Slack, and group chat to create conversation. They will need to build in touch points with all members of their team and create projects that force collaboration amongst all group members. Last, in this moment external support and recognition will be key. For team members newly working from home, it may look like ensuring that they have an ergonomic work station set up. It could look like providing IS&T support if the team needs help navigating new technology, or simply an end of day text saying thank you for all of the hard work.
As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, all leaders will need to have great self-awareness around how they are showing up for their teams. Leaders can benefit from using the Hill Model to understand how to approach new problems as they arise and lead their teams through a time of crisis. Leaders will need to communicate more and help the team collaborate in new and innovative ways, as the teams are unable to come together in person. I found great value in this list from KornFerry about what traits leaders can show in times of high uncertainty and what they should do for their teams in these times. The changing landscape of work in this moment, presents a challenge, but by applying principles from our learning this week, we can find the best ways to support our teams.
(2020, March 19). Retrieved March 23, 2020, from https://infokf.kornferry.com/REG_WBR-2020-03-17-Coronavirus-Webinar-Series-1_CHALL_GBL_GL_Other_MoFu_Leading-in-a-time-of-crisis-on-demand.html?utm_source=website&utm_medium=banner&utm_term=&utm_content=&utm_campaign=20-03-covid&_ga=2.129658063.250521219.1584885888-1235934690.1584885888
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc. pp.366-370
Pennsylvania State University Work Campus (2020). PSYCH 485. Lesson 6: Contingency & Path-Goal Theories. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2045005/modules/items/28166610