“Teamwork makes the dream work” – harnessing attention in the context of team collaboration

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: Driving Adoption Blog articles.

Co-authored by Claudia van der Velden, Emma Stephen, and Tony Crabbe


The workweek starts, your agenda looks tidy, you feel on top of your to do’s – you feel a sense of control. At the end of the day you look again and see tons of double bookings, meetings without an agenda, and no clarity on what is expected of you in that engagement. Do you find yourself wondering if colleagues make best use of your attention? Do you look at your diary with a sense that you own your time, or the reverse?

Our shift to teamwork, often on multiple teams, has driven some bad organizational habits¹. As our teams face multiple deadlines, working across multiple contexts, it can feel like a scramble for calendar space, focus time, and even a break.

As we often find ourselves in the above situation, instinctively we consider teamwork to be at the expense of our attention. But to become a high performing, innovative, and flourishing team, every team member’s attention is needed. So how can we harness attention at the team level?

It starts with our engagement in reaching a shared goal, learning from a diverse team, and building positive team relationships. To achieve great outcomes, team processes need to build on that engagement with a focus on trust, learning, team confidence, optimism, supportive leadership, and social support². Each section focuses on an aspect of teamwork from the foundation of purpose and connection through to collaboration and meetings. Tips and tricks throughout, following the MOCA framework, then outline how technology can support.

Team purpose and connection
Team engagement is the hook for attention in the team context. When the teams we work in have clarity on the team goals and we feel a sense of belonging, it’s easier to engage our attention.
The hybrid workplace has created an extra layer of complexity for creating clarity and belonging and employees report maintaining team cohesion as one of the top issues in the hybrid workplace³. To maintain this sense of purpose and connection, communication, open-mindedness, and clarity on who does what in contribution to which team goal are key. We need new ways of connecting.



Tips & Tricks:

  • Create a recurring Microsoft Teams call for three (3) hours which serves as an open ‘virtual co-working space’. This makes space for spontaneous conversations, while you are doing individual work and gives a sense that your work has purpose.
  • Schedule virtual coffee breaks, walking meetings, or ‘Happy Hours’ with your team. Check in on each other sometimes, even if nothing is scheduled.
  • Increase the internal network in your organization by enabling the Ice-breaker bot to connect random employees to have a virtual coffee together.
  • Be clear on intent, use Emoji’s, GIF’s and stickers to convey meaning and avoid misunderstandings which can lead to unnecessary worry.
  • Use Planner to organize team tasks that are meaningful chunks and can be completed by one person. Attach any documents, comments, or ideas to the task.

Collaboration rituals
Microsoft Teams have become the foundation of how most work gets done in today’s organizations with a 50% increase in collaboration in the last decade. What we can know, knowledge itself, is increasing and in organizations this is resulting in specialization. But the world is going in the other direction, becoming more networked and demanding more interconnected products and services. To develop these requires cross-domain expertise, placing the emphasis increasingly on teams and their performance as a crucial differentiator rather than the individual.

81% of us are multi-teaming – collaborating on more than one project, but how much of that time do we spend on discussing ‘How’ we collaborate? Are there collaboration rituals – clear rules of engagement – that create clarity on where we collaborate, working out loud, and when and about what we meet.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Set up a governance model for your Microsoft Teams environment, with a content architecture upfront to discuss which topics are discussed where.
  • Discuss where updates are posted, for instance in the General channel, and what the goal is of each channel in Microsoft Teams.
  • Use Group chat for quick questions and fun discussions.
  • Have a 5-minute learning review at the end of each meeting: What did we do well as a team? What could we do better?
  • Discuss people’s work rhythms, no-go times, and respect focus time. Why not try a hybrid work kick-off to get the discussion going and agree how you will work and connect?
  • Collaborate asynchronously using comments in documents and chat so people can contribute when they are at their best and have time. Meet to resolve the comments and discuss ideas.


Meeting effectiveness
We’ve seen an increase in meetings especially now in the hybrid workplace and as we craft this new virtual reality, it creates a great momentum to redefine the meeting culture in your organization.

At Microsoft, we took this the new hybrid reality as a chance to better understand how we meet. Workplace Analytics showed that weekly meetings increased 10%, which most likely replaced the ‘catch up meetings’ in the hallway, however the individual meetings shrank in duration. The 30 minute or less meeting increased with 22 percent and 11 percent fewer meetings of more than one hour.

How do you prepare for your meeting, how do you manage discussions, process ideas and take notes during the meetings and how do you follow up on meetings?



Before the meeting
To organize your team meetings, use the meeting chat window to publish the agenda, co-create the presentation, share the pre-reads, and include everyone to give input and feedback upfront. Appoint the meeting roles, note taker, parking guardian and the host (a role similar to a party host¹⁰), to ensure ideas are heard, learnings are captured, and actions can be followed up.



During the meeting

With a well-prepared agenda and pre-reads, use the white board functionality during the meeting for brainstorming to unlock creativity. Use a team OneNote to take digital notes in a pre-defined structure. Co-author in documents to create content in the Office Apps, which enables asynchronous work scenarios, making the best of use of everyone’s time and respecting everyone’s pace and schedule.



After the meeting
At the end of the meeting the tasks are divided within Planner, so everyone is aware of their follow up actions, and it is easy to track progress for the team activities. The meeting notes + Planner form the basis for the next meeting to make sure all topics are handled, and the decisions have been taken.



  1. Analyze your meeting rhythm in your team and in your project teams, evaluate which meetings are necessary and check if they have a clear agenda and expectation. If not, be the one to start the change!
  2. Apply the “Before, During & After” process to improve your meetings and to make them more effective and more structured.
  3. Look at your Microsoft Teams environment and see how you can make this richer by integrating Whiteboard, OneNote, Planner, Power apps, and all the great apps available to really create that one-stop shop workplace
  4. Explore roadmap items for Microsoft Teams that can make your virtual meetings more inclusive to increase engagement in the meeting.


  1. The Overcommitted Organisation, Mark Mortensen and Heidi K. Gardner, HBR Sept-Oct 2017
  2. Dream Teams: A Positive Psychology of Team Working, Joanne Richardson and Michael A. West. Chapter 19, The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology at Work, Oxford University Press 2013
  3. The journey to the new normal – Driving innovation and productivity in a hybrid world
  4. We Work Harder When We Know Someone is Watching, Janina Steinmetz and Ayelet Fishbach, HBR May 2020
  5. Avoiding Miscommunication in a Digital World, Nick Morgan for HBR IdeaCast, Episode 655
  6. Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Report (2019) Meeting the challenges of developing collaborative teams for future success.
  7. Stefan Wuchty, Benjamin Jones and Brian Uzzi (2007) The increasing dominance of teams in production of knowledge. Science, Vol. 316, Issue 5827, pp. 1036-1039
  8. The Overcommitted Organisation, Mark Mortensen and Heidi K. Gardner, HBR Sept-Oct 2017
  9. Adjusting to Remote Work During the Coronavirus Crisis,
  10. Why Meetings Go Wrong (And How to Fix Them), Steven Rogelberg for HBR IdeaCast, Episode 708


This blog post is a part of our series on the Modern Collaboration Architecture, developed by Nicolai, a Microsoft Digital Strategist with over 25 years of experience in leading organizations through change and improving employee productivity. Blogs one, two, and three can be found under these links.


About the authors:

Claudia van der Velden
Claudia a Customer Success Manager at Microsoft and enjoys exploring organizational cultures from an eco-system perspective. In a complex puzzle where all is interconnected, small changes can have a large impact. She believes in the importance of considering all elements for the eco-system to thrive, stay well balanced, and perhaps most importantly, letting go of control and trusting the natural course to find its way. Claudia is based in the Netherlands and studies for her Masters in Applied Psychology, Leadership Development.


Emma Stephen
Emma is a Customer Success Manager at Microsoft and is passionate about bringing the human element into the workplace. She believes technology both enables change and can catalyze wider change efforts if introduced in the right way. Emma is based in Zurich and currently studying for her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology with a hope to leverage this in the organizational context.


Tony Crabbe
Tony Crabbe is a Business Psychologist who supports Microsoft on global projects as well as a number of other multinationals. As a psychologist he focuses on how people think, feel and behave at work. Whether working with leaders, teams or organizations, at its core his work is all about harnessing attention to create behavioral change.

His first book, the international best-seller ’Busy’ was published around the world and translated to thirteen languages. In 2016 it was listed as being in the top 3 leadership books, globally. His new book, ‘Busy@Home’ explores how to thrive through the uncertainties and challenges of Covid; and move positively into the hybrid world.

Tony is a regular media commentator around the world, as well as appearances on RTL, the BBC and the Oprah Winfrey Network.


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