Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Being a part of an amazing team is a pretty incredible feeling right? You are excited to start your morning and feel energized and inspired throughout your day. If you’re lucky enough to experience this, consider yourself blessed. If not, you are not alone. The fact of the matter is that many teams suffer; there is a lack of communication and low overall engagement leading to this reality. What is more interesting is that individuals desire teamwork. Human beings have an inherent desire to belong, to feel valued and to operate in a way that moves them closer to their goals.
Hmmm…so, we have a desire for teamwork, yet also have teams who are suffering because the lack thereof. So, what is the problem? Where is the disconnect?
The disconnect centers around the environment. Teams require an environment that enables their growth and development. Think about it. If you have children, you don’t just command them to grow into exceptional individuals (boy, wouldn’t that be nice); rather, you foster an environment right from birth that enables that to happen. Or perhaps you want to start a garden. You don’t just sprinkle seeds and get beautiful vegetables. You need to ensure there is sunlight, water, etc. The same goes for teams; certain conditions are important. To foster the necessary environment, there are a few things that are pretty important:
Team Building - There is incredible value in team building exercises as they build trust, mitigate conflict, encourage communication, and increase collaboration. I am not talking about long drawn out activities or company retreats, but rather, quick exercises that enable you to understand more about one another (e.g. learning styles, communication preferences, motivators, etc.). If you understand through team building that less information is better when communicating with Bob, while Sue would prefer a novel, you are better able to communicate appropriately, leading to a more effective team. And remember the more frequent, these exercises happen the better. You can’t train for a marathon by running twice a year. It’s takes time and dedication to be successful, and building a cohesive, strong team is no different. It doesn’t have to become “yet another thing to do” but simply a part of your everyday environment.
Recognition – Individuals want to feel valued. Being recognized gives you that wonderful warm fuzzy feeling regardless of whether it’s a public announcement heard by hundreds or a simple ‘thank you’ for a job well done. Research shows that recognition leads to higher job satisfaction and as a result boosts individual engagement and increases productivity. When this happens, teams are happy, and effective as a result. Regardless of your role, share your appreciation for those around you and recognize them for their efforts. Ensure you are consistent in your approach (e.g. thanking someone for letting you borrow their pen but not thanking a team member for helping out with a project over the weekend…no bueno), but that your approach is customized based on the person. Some individuals prefer a pat on the back while others believe a parade in their honor is most appropriate. The bottom line here is that recognition is important, and it helps to enable unity, respect and team cohesion.
Purpose – If you don’t understand why you are doing something do you really have any desire to do it? I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t. Everything I do for me serves a distinct purpose that I understand (e.g. exercise to be fit, do laundry to have clean clothes, etc.) The “why” behind what you are doing is key to having the motivation to actually do it, therefore I expect the purpose of anything that is expected of me to be clear within my team environments. Understanding the purpose helps enable alignment and motivation to move forward. Help others understand the “why” and if you are unsure yourself, ask.
Rules – Hear me out here. Rules are everywhere, and they exist for a reason. They aren’t intended to act as a hindrance or to stifle creativity; rather, they are in place to enable order. They are important as they keep individuals aligned and headed in the right direction. Rules can be simple and specific 1) return emails within 2 business days 2) no cell phones in meetings 3) no interrupting when another individual has the floor, or they can be positioned more like guidelines like 1) be open to compromise, 2) have respect for each other, etc. Really whatever is important to your team works here. Determining these rules together is important as it allows everyone to have a say, which increases investment in the rules that are established and further enables commitment and trust among all.
Communication – We all know how important this one is. Not only do you need to communicate regularly through various methods (e.g. formal team meetings, informal group discussions, one-on-one time, etc.) but you need to make each communication meaningful. Not meaningful in the sense that it always needs to be about work, but rather, that it clear, focused, honest, and that the parties involved actively listen and respect one another’s ideas and opinions. Switching up communication styles can also be useful. If you always instant message with someone who isn’t in your office, try picking up the phone or setting up a virtual meeting; this has the opportunity to spice things up a bit and gets everyone working on these very important skills.
And finally, all of this starts at the top, therefore leaders need to lead by example. Just as children watch their parents communicate and interact, individuals do the same with their leader. It’s contagious and as a result can lead to an energizing healthy environment or a rather toxic one.
Motivated and engaged individuals are a pretty big deal; without them, success is rather unlikely. Sorry, but it’s true. The good news is that incorporating the conditions described above within your environment will help set your team up for the success it deserves.