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In the 2015–16 soccer season, Australian Mark Schwarzer — aged in his mid-40s — was part of a sporting fairytale. Lacking the superstars and massive salaries of the big clubs, Leicester City Football Club won the English Premier League, despite starting the seasons with odds of 5,000 to one. Yet, what Leicester lacked in fame, it made up for in the magic that comes with great teamwork.
So, what took this bunch of misfits from rank outsiders to winners, and how can businesses learn from it? In his Eurosport article, soccer writer Tom Adams described manager Claudio Ranieri’s method as one of, “Trust, collaboration, and a light-touch approach to management.”
In other words, Ranieri gave the team the tools it needed to succeed, fostered a spirit of working together, and trusted in the players' will to achieve. Much like Ranieri, business managers must fight the desire to micromanage, and trust their workforce to perform at its best — even when they are working remotely.
In the last few years, collaboration tools have come a long way. As cloud technologies have matured, and the remote working trend has grown, some of the industry’s biggest hitters invested heavily in developing collaboration tools that foster strong teams.
Interest in collaboration tools was already growing by the time the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and we saw customers who prioritised adoption reap the rewards. Other organisations raced to find ways to somehow help their people work together from their makeshift work-from-home environments. They were met with mixed levels of success.
The different results were down, in part, to cultural and management factors, but the tools themselves also had a heavy influence on outcomes. The free options, perfectly adequate for the occasional catch-up with family overseas, were less suited to business demands. Schools from the United States to Singapore had lessons interrupted by Zoombombing (where uninvited individuals interrupt a Zoom call), raising security concerns.
Even without this extra risk, there was another, less obvious, drawback. While those in the know enjoyed an integrated experience that brought together meetings, calendars, documents, and a wealth of other apps, those without enterprise-level collaboration tools found themselves juggling a mismatched workspace. It was time-consuming, and productivity suffered.
When productivity is lost, morale is inevitably affected. People already stretched with the demands of a sudden change in working conditions, often balancing competing family priorities like homeschooling, felt isolated by the technologies instead of included. The extra work of yet another app was overwhelming.
In contrast, the designers at Google had placed a heavy emphasis on reducing workloads with intuitive tools designed to work in harmony. Its Google Workspace package includes a generous number of cloud-based productivity apps, all designed for sharing and collaboration within an organisation and with external parties securely. For example, a business leader could create a planning document in a chat room and share chosen elements with a supplier or an investor, as well as internal colleagues, with each contributing content in real time.
One of the most exciting things about such technologies is seeing the ways workforces find their own ways of working when they are given the right tools. When they escape the overwhelming nature of working with disparate apps that add to the time and energy burden of the day-to-day, creativity comes to the fore, and sharing becomes second nature.
While the integrated tools are highly intuitive, it is still important to consider training needs. Users have already faced a lot of change, and a little help goes a long way in driving adoption. Just as Ranieri harnessed the experience and the raw talent to make a skilled team, the same must be true in the workplace. When everyone feels equipped to get in the game and pool their unique talents and energy, the magic of the high-achieving team is unleashed.