Leveraging Technology for More Effective Teams

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Adam Jensen
  • 436th Communications Squadron

In March of 2020 a public health emergency was declared on Dover AFB due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea that we have been operating with constraints of various forms for over a year at this point is absolutely astonishing to me. I’m sure most can relate when I say some days it seems like this all started a couple months ago, while other days it is difficult to remember how we did some things before this all began. What is certain is the fact technology played a critical role in getting leaders and their organizations through the toughest of times.

Communications are a critical component to effective leadership and team performance. The pandemic severed us from the traditional communications means, which some of us have been relying on for decades, and forced us all to grow. Leaders at all levels were forced to quickly adapt to the changing environment in order to keep the mission going while simultaneously taking care of their teams. Some were able to make the shift more easily than others but undoubtedly technology allowed us all to persevere.

Looking back, it’s really incredible how much we have able to accomplish electronically. Text messaging has been king!  I’m fairly confident that I sent more work-related text messages in the last year than I have over my entire career prior to the pandemic. Additionally, software applications like GroupMe, Slack and WhatsApp, which many of our young Airmen have been using for years, became essential tools for leaders to stay connected. Finally, virtual meetings took a giant leap forward as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and the Department of Defense’s Commercial Virtual Remote environment became the new standard. There is one common factor across all of these technologies: people. Our teams are the reason each of these communications modes exist and have become so commonly used.

The pandemic forced us to rethink how we utilize technology to take care of our teams. Units were able to get creative with how they build camaraderie. For example, the communications squadron started virtually introducing new members of the unit to the masses via email upon arrival. In execution, this is as simple as a quick personal biography summary with a photo. But it has largely been a success because it has helped our team members relate to one another and build synergies faster than before. This just proves that making an impact on a team doesn’t always require moving a mountain and doesn’t have to be downward directed. Little things here and there can go a long way toward improving personal relationships.

It is undeniable that technology was a contributing factor in Team Dover’s successful push through the COVID-19 crisis. Things are now steadily trending in a positive direction. Some states are beginning to fully reopen while others are taking a more gradual approach as vaccine doses roll out at a rapid pace across the nation. As “the new normal” approaches “true normal,” it is important for us all to remember the lessons we learned as we dealt with the difficulties of the last year. Effective team communication is just as important as ever so we must not forget the value of the new technologies that our teams incorporated into daily processes. When we eventually return to the way things were, all of our pandemic communications methods will surely still have an important place in our leadership toolkits.