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Should businesses be more honeybee in the face of adversity?

Bee - finding solutions through team performance

Posted by: sabine-robinson

Change Management

I was listening to a news programme on the radio. One of the stories piqued my interest. Why indeed would honeybees resort to using animal dung to protect their hives? I was reminded of all the businesses that had to pivot their strategies in recent times. How could they ensure that their teams continued to perform at their best throughout periods of profound change? Please bear with me on this one!

The news story

Beekeepers in Vietnam had noticed unusual spotting around some beehives. Researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada worked with other beekeeping experts in Asia to discover that this was not an isolated incidence.

At the same time, heavily armoured hornets had arrived in Asia. Their attacks could lead to the mass slaughter of thousands of bees. They also seized the bee larvae to feed their own offspring. Until then, a hive’s defence mechanisms against hornets included hissing or attempted mobbing. They were not very successful, and many hives were decimated.

Following extensive studies and experiments, researchers found that the belligerent hornets spend less time at nest entrances that contained spots of dung compared with clean hives. Only 6% of hornets would try to chew their way into the hives. A successful pivot of the bees’ survival strategy!

To protect the hive against disease, bees naturally are meticulously clean. However, in the face of the monumental threat posed by killer hornets, these Asian bees resorted to some very unnatural behaviour. They trialled a new strategy and deployed existing team members to protect the hive.

‘Fascinating! But, so what?’, I hear you say?

Isn’t it amazing how resourceful and resilient these creatures are in the face of adversity? They’ve just had to be in order to survive. Sound familiar?

This is true of many of our clients. Most businesses continue to face existential challenges and threats due to the ongoing global Coronavirus-pandemic.

In recent months, many businesses – and individuals – had to dig deep to find new ways of working. Some might not have come naturally. Almost overnight, strategic realignment was necessary to try to weather the worst detrimental economic effects. Many teams had to move to remote working, new processes were put in place and companies had to make difficult staffing decisions. 2020 has certainly been a challenging year!

It made me think. Perhaps, there is something that we can take away from the bees’ example of resilience and resourcefulness.

Resilience became somewhat of a buzzword in 2020. It encapsulates the ability to be agile and recover quickly from difficult situations. Like the Asian bees, some individuals seem to be able to positively respond to whatever life throws at them. They can pivot easily and change direction while others will struggle in the face of adversity.

But why?

Simply put, some personalities are naturally better equipped to cope with sudden change, insecurities and challenges than others. These core behaviours translate into corporate life.

In our recent online people management workshops, clients have consistently voiced one particular concern. Leaders at all levels are looking for ways to successfully manage a team when the work that needs to be done has changed, and most interaction happens remotely.

People – and ultimately teams – are the key to the successful conversion of your business strategies.

Knowing your people

We may never know how exactly the insects chose the fellow-insects that would be best-placed to side-step from their usual task of collecting nectar and support their novel defence strategy.

Throughout the last year, many organisations also experienced a period of profound change. To start with, each team member had their assigned tasks, and the team mostly worked efficiently and effectively. Then the global crisis made it necessary for some teams to adapt and change their objectives.

So, how can Managers really know which of their existing team members will be able to flex and stretch to execute on the new goals? Can you just expect them to adapt and still remain successful?

Like the bees, you could base your decision on intuition and instinct. Your gut feeling may serve you well, but it may not! Wouldn’t it be best to be sure?

Managers always need to know what naturally drives and motivates each individual team member to set them up for success, but never more so than in times of adverse change. Behavioral Assessment can help to map out each employee’s natural workplace behaviour. With the help of these objective insights, you can determine which of your team members will relish frequent change, and who needs time to adapt.

This knowledge is particularly important when teams work remotely, or when a team’s strategy has suddenly changed. In order to build a Dream Team that is resourceful in the face of adversity, Managers need to have an understanding of where each team member sits in terms of their behavioural drives and the strategic goals.

Imagine that the collective behavioural pattern of your team currently makes it a stabilizing team. The team is structured and cautious with risk. Then the strategic change asks the team to move away from the familiar framework.

They might be expected to focus on quickly acquiring new customers and to cope with an increased level of competition and intensity. The profound and rapid change will undoubtedly be a step too far for some team members and could send them into a blind panic, which in turn might affect their performance.

You now need to find a way to establish quickly which of your team members naturally prefer to work under pressure. Who can take risks without detrimental effects on either their performance or their wellbeing? On the other hand, which of your team members needs the continued safety of an operational framework? Who will need time to adapt and to reflect quietly?

PI Team DiscoveryTM

Wouldn’t it be immensely valuable if we could not only gain objective insights into the behavioural make-up of each individual but also into the team collectively? The Predictive Index’s new Team Discovery tool makes this possible. It takes each individual’s behavioural pattern into account. You can then create the team’s collective behavioural type and overlay their strategic goals. This allows you to visualise any strengths, challenges and blindspots, and address them quickly and confidently.

This level of behavioural self- and team-awareness fuelled by science is paramount for any team to be successful, but even more so in times of change.

So, should businesses be more honeybee in the face of adversity? Their resilience, resourcefulness and adaptability are truly inspiring. Go Team Bee! The likelihood is that the bees arrived at their new strategy through trial and error. The decision on which team member should adapt their behaviour to execute on the new goals was probably based on intuition.

The good news is that with the advent of PI Team Discovery, Managers no longer have to rely on intuition to build a cohesive team of high-performers that is perfectly aligned to the work that needs to be done.

Why not try our free 1:1 Talent Strategy Session? This virtual 90-minute session is led by one of our friendly and experienced Talent Optimization Consultants. You will learn how to leverage data from PI Team Discovery to gain valuable insights and an action plan to lead your team to success in all weathers. Click here to sign up. There is absolutely no obligation!