“Boost Team Performance: Exploring the Finnish Concept of Työyhteisö”

2023-05-25 21:07:03

The idea is to turn his team into a small community… (Photo: Randy Fath for Unsplash)

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Q. – “To be quite frank, the performance of the team that I manage disappoints me. I feel like there is no chemistry between its members, nothing that makes the magic 1+1=3. Is it due to our operation in hybrid mode? To the fact that two of the members live abroad? Thank you for enlightening me and showing me a way to explore to solve our problem…” – Alexis

A. – Dear Alexis, when I read your message, I immediately thought that you would surely benefit from discovering the Finnish concept of “työyhteisö”, which can be translated as “working community”. Because it can help you to unite the members of your team more, and better, to make richer and more dynamic the connections that each of them has with the others in their daily work. Explanation.

Le work community [prononcer «teu-hus-teille-zeu»] is not the concept of work team, any more than it is that of team spirit. It goes further than these. He considers each member of a team as a point connected to the other members, and therefore the team corresponds to the network of connections existing between all the points.

– When a team works well, the network is balanced. Each point is connected to almost all the other points, and each link allows information to flow in both directions.

– When a team is dysfunctional, the network is unbalanced. For example, all the links converge towards a single point (that of the leader), so that different points are not connected to each other (the leader imposes that all the information passes through him alone). Another example: two points are almost completely isolated from the others, for a thousand and one reasons (they work 100% of the time from home and there is only one virtual team meeting per week; they are so introverted that they always work in their corner, without ever calling on others; etc.).

The idea is therefore to harmonize the existing network of connections within the team. And to do this, it is necessary to aim for a goal: to create a “community”, that is to say a group united by links of interest, common habits, specific values.

“The challenges of a working community are universal, explains Christian Lindholm, director, HR and well-being at work, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, on the sidelines of a study on job satisfaction within his administration. . They are most of the time linked to the way in which information circulates within it, to the way in which people meet and interact together. Hence the importance of cultivating the key skills of a working community, the “työyhteisötaidot”: cultural sensitivity and situational sensitivity.”

What are these two sensitivities?

– Cultural sensitivity means showing respect for difference (gender, age, ethnic group, etc.), and better still, cherishing it and cultivating it to make it a collective strength. This is what makes it possible to achieve, as you mentioned Alexis, the famous 1+1=3. It comes down to opening up to others, and therefore offering to establish a bond without expecting anything in return.

– Situational sensitivity is “accepting to be surprised” by an unprecedented situation, according to the expression of the American pedagogue Donald Schön. It’s being ready to take a step outside your comfort zone, it’s showing a perpetual curiosity. It comes down to sharing information with others and appreciating the fact that they communicate it to us in return, even if this information surprises us, even destabilizes us. Because it is at this price that information flows can become rich and dynamic.

“A good way to manage information flows is to ensure that everyone is treated equally, feels heard and feels valued as a full member of the work community,” says Christian Lindholm.

And to add: “A good trick in this regard is to highlight each small success: the resolution of a daily problem, the improvement of the working atmosphere, etc. The important thing is that as a community we feel proud of what we accomplish together,” he says.

Marko Antilla, captain of the Finnish hockey team that won the 2019 World Championship, agrees: “Every time I’ve felt good in a hockey team, it’s because that it worked in community, he confides to the Telma website. We train together, we win together and we also lose together. Everyone can be there himself, accepted as such and better, encouraged to express what differentiates him from others, his own strengths, what.

The role of the leader in all this? “He must meet each player individually, identify the personality of each of them and bend over backwards to allow all of them to express themselves best on the ice, believes number 12 of Kärpät in Oulu. It must focus on diversity and complementarity to create a real community, taking care to value the contribution of each to the collective.

Anu Järvensivu is a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. She noted that since the pandemic and the advent of telecommuting and hybrid mode, the concept of työyhteisö has evolved. More precisely, it widened.

– In Finland, some now consider that customers, or even business partners, are part of their working community. They therefore attach great importance to the links forged with them, and make sure to feed them with a regular and relevant flow of information. It seems that this contributes greatly to the success of these teams today.

– Furthermore, workers are less and less part of a single work community, but of several at the same time. This is particularly the case for those who have several employers, and who therefore evolve in several teams at the same time. The key to success lies, for them, in the ability to remain themselves in each case, by expressing their own skills in each community. Conversely, for the leader of a community made up in part of part-time workers, it is necessary to redouble efforts with regard to these members, so that they feel truly integrated within the team.

“Employment relationships tend to get shorter while careers tend to get longer,” says Anu Järvensivu to the Telma website. Because young people today change jobs more often than previous generations. And because pre-retirees are encouraged to work longer. This is why the strength of a community now lies above all in the flexibility of its network of connections: the latter must be able to adapt fluidly to the slightest alteration, without bumps or breaks.

In short, Alexis, I invite you to take inspiration without delay from the Finnish concept of työyhteisö. Turn your team into a small community. Cultivate your own työyhteisötaidot, or cultural sensitivity and situational sensitivity, before encouraging others to do the same. And you will undoubtedly see big and beautiful changes happening within your team.

By the way, the Roman philosopher Seneca said in his Letters to Lucilius: “It’s the soul that needs to be changed, not the climate”.

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