While every family is different, if you have at least one person living under lockdown, you might want to think about teaming in some of the same ways that I ask my innovation teams to, or that military units do, or sports teams.
You are now a small group of people in a stressful situation, and there’s no point in surviving covid-19 only to die in a murder-suicide (I shouldn’t joke about this, so I’m totally going to edit that out later).
My family does better with lots of structure, so we took a page from the military’s playbook about how to deal with high-energy young men confined in close quarters and envisioned our house as a ship at sea. You can’t leave it easily and you all have to get along for the duration. We are fortunate in that we have a single-family house with a yard; my husband and I have both lived in higher-density situations and smaller apartments and I’d be going crazy. Our apartment before we moved to DC was 800 sq feet of cinder block walls and that would feel like prison about now. Also, whenever I read instructions about how to sanitize packages and keep things far from each other I roll my eyes at the McMansion the author must live in.
But back to the USS Winchester: We called a family meeting and set a daily schedule that includes mandatory group exercise first thing in the morning (and I mean first thing: 7:45 am we are out the door or on the treadmill), followed by 5 hours of manual labor. Then 3 hours of personal time before dinner. Dinner is followed by mandatory group fun. That’s usually playing a game but might be just watching TV if we are too exhausted. Dinner rotates – everyone takes their turn in order making it, even those who can only make box mac & cheese or bacon and scrambled eggs. We are teaching the teen boy to make actual meals.
There’s no “home schooling” time in this; we decided that the life skills learned in the manual labor part of the day, like painting, carpentry, auto repair, and electrics were good enough. However, the family conversation often tends to history, economics, philosophy, and we encourage critical thinking via the Socratic method. We also often pick movies or games that give us a chance to sneak in education – Romeo and Juliet is not taught in 9th grade now, so we watched Shakespeare in Love and talked about Shakespeare’s world and the play, for example. Role-playing games, like D&D, are a great problem-solving, cooperative structure for teaching everything from basic math (someone has to add up xp and count gp) to note-taking (for a complex mystery) to communication and interpersonal skills.
At that same family meeting, we also started filling out a Teaming Template (or Teamplate), which is a worksheet one of my colleagues developed. While professional sports teams spend millions of dollars figuring out what the right team composition is, and then recruiting and training it, most teams of humans are “whoever randomly happens to be together.” That’s why it’s even more important for that motley crew to think about who they are and WHY they are.
The first thing we did was have each member of the family write their Gives, Gets, and Notes. Gives: What do they feel they can contribute to the USS Winchester during lockdown? Gets: What are the things that they really want/need to get from this experience, or from the other family members?
Notes are those random things it’s important to know about someone. When we use this model at work, the people assigned to the team may never have met; hopefully the people you are going through lockdown with already know each other. This was our first moment of conflict, because people were pretty honest with each other about what notes the other person SHOULD have put down. For instance, my husband felt I should have put “literally cannot see dirt” and I felt he should have put “will never stop tidying.” We both felt our teenage son should commit to showering more often.
We were able to make that all funny, and used it to revise our Gives and Gets. By doing it up front the first night we realized we’d be locked down, we did it before tensions had built up, so that we’ve been able to refer back to it.
If this is as far as you get with the Teamplate, it’s still good. But there’s more you can do with it.
Since most of the teams I work with have come together temporarily to create a new capability (they are internal startups), we look at whether we’ve got all the roles covered for making the new thing. You need at least two people – one inventor and one entrepreneur – but a team of 4-7 comprising a Hipster, Hacker, Hustler, and Heckler (double up on everything but the Hipster) is better. This team can see the unmet need and the future with the new thing (Hipster), can actually make the new thing (Hacker), can get people engaged and on board with the new thing (Hustler), and can ensure that despite any pivots or compromises, the new thing is truly new, worthwhile, and valuable (Heckler).
For our purposes, we chunked the work of maintaining our house into some broad categories – yard, repairs, cleaning, shopping – and asked for volunteers to be the lead for each of those, based on Gives.
Maybe more importantly, we look at the roles that each person plays in keeping the team performing at a high level with good psychological safety and health. Psychological safety is the number one element in making a team great, and it is, I believe, the key to all of us getting through this crisis, so more on it later.
The model we use to make sense of how members of a team help the team work is MPCC: Matriarch, Patriarch, Craftsman, Clown. This is a classic character combo used in drama, but some of the world’s top creative teams embody it as well (like The Beatles). The Patriarch keeps the team disciplined and on task; the Matriarch checks in on and takes care of the emotional/other needs of the team; the Craftsman pretty much just wants to be left alone to work, and the Clown ensures that the status quo never becomes too status or too quotidian.
I’ll use Buffy the Vampire Slayer as an example (because of course I will): Buffy is the Patriarch, Giles is the Matriarch, Willow is the Craftman, and Xander is the Clown. I like to use this because it shows that Matriarch and Patriarch don’t have to align to genders.
In either model, you probably have a preferred mode but can be most of the types. I’m a Matriarch and a Clown, and sometimes a Craftsman. I’m all 4 Hs. This is good because you may need to embody that role depending on what your team needs. The key thing is to respect all the roles; the Patriarch may want to punch the Clown from time to time, but the Clown is doing important work.
Using these on the Teamplate
After your family does your Gives, Gets, and Notes, you might add in your MPCC type (or whatever other type works for you).
Then think about your guiding star, your main goal or objective. Is it to stay safe and healthy during this pandemic? Is it, like us, to take care of the big projects that we haven’t had time to do during the normal course of school and work? Is it to get healthier, to learn a new skill or language, to be politically active? Whatever it is, there should be only one and everyone should agree on it.
When anyone suggests things to do or changes to make, check in with your family goal. Does it get you closer to the goal? Is it related? Use this to help make decisions.
Next, figure out what Roles your family needs someone to take on. Do you need a designated person to get people up in the morning? Do you need someone to be the person who ensures that contagion precautions are observed? Who walks the dog? Who does the dishes?
Naming and agreeing is important
If your family names these things clearly and agrees on them up front, you’ll have far less conflict later on. That will help everyone feel safe and able to raise real issues when they arise.
If you are so motivated, you can do the rest of the Teamplate. We didn’t, because how we make decisions and adjudicate stuff hasn’t changed; the parents discuss it and come to a decision, and the kid is not the boss, despite his belief.
An army of one
Even if you are sheltering-in-place by yourself, you might want to do some of this. What do you want and need to get out of this? What are some things you know about yourself that are likely to come up? Are you inherently lazy? Do you get hangry? Do you need to talk to someone daily? Do you need a whole day without talking to people?
How might you shift roles to help yourself get through this?
And hey, if we ever go back to work and you want to use this at work, let me know.