You know what they say: You’re only as good as the company you keep. And that’s never more apparent than when you’ve achieved exalted, top-of-the-post, managerial status. If your team succeeds, you succeed. Period. The key? Fostering an environment of camaraderie, communication, and collaboration. And even if you’re starting with a group of overly ambitious and opportunistic go-getters—the type of people who are more likely to stab someone in the back than pat them on it—you can still create unbreakable bonds. Whether it’s something as simple as regular catered lunches, or something deeper, administering personality tests and steering teams based on the results, here are 20 surefire steps that will ensure your team is a dream team. And for more great leadership advice, here are some game-changing strategies every boss should know.
Technology makes communication easy, but it can make team members feel distant from one another. Relying on remote communication can lead to a lack of enthusiasm and energy within the group, so a smart manager puts a premium on facetime.
“In order to effectively drive engagement, facetime is required,” says Dan Schawbel, bestselling author of Promote Yourself and Me 2.0. “You can’t have a strong team by texting and instant messaging every day—you need real human interactions. Managers should encourage team relationships by having more in-person meetings, social events and off-sites with team building activities.” If you’re ready to make this change, be sure to incorporate these 5 secrets to running the perfect business meeting into your repertoire.
Your workers will feel more connected to each other if they feel like your door is always open. You shouldn’t just wait for something to go wrong, suddenly appear from behind the curtains, criticize, and then vanish. Set time aside to genuinely take interest in your team’s day-to-day concerns, both one-on-one and in open sessions.
According to Anita Bruzzese, an award-winning journalist focused on careers and the workplace, and the author of two career-advice books, “The most effective teams have leaders who communicate openly with employees about what is happening and encourage team members to do the same. There needs to be ongoing communication, feedback, and a real willingness to listen.”
Modeling the communication behavior you’d like to see from the members of your team will create a culture of openness and your team will follow in your footsteps: “that’s a recipe for strengthening camaraderie.” But be careful with the language you use when you try to connect, especially with a younger generation—keep in mind these 40 things men over 40 should never say.
Letting your team members make their own decisions promotes independence and eases friction between the different members. Individuals want to succeed and perform at their best to show their team that they can be an MVP. Giving them room for that pays back.
As Brent Butler, CEO of Masterplans.com says: “I think courtesy and generosity are the cornerstones of camaraderie, and as a leader, you should always be willing to be the first to initiate. The first thing a CEO should be generous with is trust.” So trust your team to succeed by trusting them to do their jobs. Butler adds that “this concept also means that you trust them to fail.”
Micromanaging creates unnecessary tensions, brings down morale, and hurts discipline. The opposite is true if you instill your trust in people—they feel liberated and have more room for creativity and innovation.
People like when their ideas are taken into consideration, even if they are not eventually implemented. If you let ideas flow freely without fear of ridicule, you will have your pick of the good ones and your team members will appreciate that their thoughts were heard.
“Shutting down one idea can very easily lead to a culture of closed-mindedness, and being prickly to a bad idea will likely ensure you don’t have an open line to the next winning one,” says Butler. “Camaraderie comes from being inclusive of people’s points of view.”
An open and kind culture of inclusiveness promotes creativity and innovation. Make people “feel safe and free,” and “ideas will flow,” Butler emphasizes. That is why you should avoid publicly shutting down an idea. This practice creates a culture of tensions and stifles open communication. For more clear and straightforward advice, here’s one leading CEO’s insight into how to build a healthy work environment.
Giving praise, both publicly and privately, promotes a healthy drive in group members to over-deliver while simultaneously demonstrating to others what it is you are looking to get from the team. Use successes—for example, an individual who turned a customer into a return client by making them exceptionally happy—to raise the morale of your team and emphasize where they should be setting their sights.
“Point out the team members who contributed to this success. Make it known company-wide. Nothing promotes a team more than a shared victory,” says Butler.
Your team will bond and be motivated to overachieve on their next project. Other teams will look up to them and work harder to get the glory the next time around.
Incorporate Employee Values
It is important to always improve your model by trying new approaches to boosting your team’s morale and productivity. Chris Madden, the founder of digital marketing agency Matchnode, shares the example of his company, which works to incorporate employees’ values and goals to the overall company goals.
“We incorporate a ‘work from anywhere week’ where employees are free to enjoy location and schedule flexibility,” he explains. This approach helps to invigorate the working week by promoting employee satisfaction and incorporating individual team members’ values in devising alternatives for company practices. It can also be beneficial to employees’ work-life balance and overall health. “After the week is over, we come together as a team to reflect on our experience and share any new ideas we may have.”
Experiments like this one make employees happy—and nothing boosts productivity more than happiness. Working from home is also a holy grail of productivity in its own right, so there’s really no reason not to try this out.
Don’t Force It
But while camaraderie is key, devising elaborate schemes to bring the team together can seem forced and unnatural. “When it’s forced, everyone feels it,” says Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster, as well as an author, speaker, and columnist.
She urges managers to let their teams connect organically using natural devices like team lunches, catered-in pizza parties, or warm bagel breakfasts. Food brings people together in a casual way and encourages them to share and engage in more personal conversations. Choosing the right vehicle to bond your team makes you a better leader: “strengthening camaraderie begins with you,” Salemi says, adding that you have to “be present, transparent, and approachable” to take full advantage of this.
Recognition boosts morale and productivity. Infusing it into your company culture sets up your team to self-motivate and ignites creativity and innovation.
Salemi urges managers to use your weekly team meeting to “create an environment of inclusion. Shine a spotlight on someone who did a particularly excellent job on something,” and invite your team members to carry on this policy, too. There’s even more of this simple and effective advice on leadership here.
Start Meetings on a Personal Note
A great way to break the tension in the beginning of a meeting is by starting with a casual inquiry on everyone’s week or plans for the weekend. Connecting with each individual on a personal level eases their mind and creates familiarity.
“Familiarity breeds comfort, familiarity and comfort breed trust, and trust breeds cohesion,” says Halelly Azulay, founder and CEO of TalentGrow LLC. “Therefore, managers should seek opportunities to frequently nurture familiarity and comfort.”
Promoting a warm and friendly environment eases the flow of ideas and creativity, and makes people more prone to offer solutions.
Celebrate Life Events
Along the same lines, encouraging your team to celebrate birthdays and other important life events naturally enriches their work relationships.
“Create a way for folks to come together and genuinely celebrate a person’s milestone and spend time socializing,” says Azulay.
Bursts of fanfare, fortified with cake and laughter, create meaningful social experiences that bring your team together. It gives team members happy memories and fosters casual interactions, boosting camaraderie. Also, we have more ways for you to be a better boss here.
Use Personality Typing
Letting different personalities shine through teaches your team how to interact with each other. Openly sharing what moves them and motivates them builds a community of understanding and appreciation. But take another step back and explore and celebrate the different personality types of your team—legitimate personality tests (not the ones Buzzfeed publishes) can reveal each person’s particular strengths and working style, based on what their personality type is. This can create an added appreciation of these aspects between team members. Get the members of your team to take one of any number of personality tests and use the results as a team-building experience.
“We use the Enneagram, which captures our motivations and fears in our sessions,” says Dr. Josh Kuehler an analytics manager for FMG Leading. “People learn how their teammates think, what motivates them, what causes stress, and how to interact with them when stressed. The conversations and sharing of people’s true selves are powerful to see in action.”
You can teach skills, but you can’t change a personality, which is why it is important to study and embrace these aspects of your team members in the most productive way possible.
Treat People Like Adults—Not Family
Business culture and the interactivity between members of a team is often compared to creating a family. But ultimately you are not in the business of taking care of each other—you want to get things done. You don’t have to sacrifice camaraderie for the ultimate level of productivity, just be careful with the dynamic you create.
“Treating people like family sets up a parent-child dynamic and with that comes internal competition that can look like sibling rivalry,” says Lynn Carnes of Creative Spirits Unleashed, as well as an executive coach and TEDx speaker. Carnes argues you should “Treat people like adults, not family members. Focus on performance. Ask everyone to contribute towards that goal and point out the victories when they do.”
Drawing the line closer to achieving, promotes more results-driven culture and leads to a more productive—and connected—team.
Assume Positive Intent
Carnes urges internalizing another concept when encouraging employee interaction: assume positive intent. This means basically that you give others the benefit of the doubt in the case of a misunderstanding or something that could otherwise be perceived negatively. This is a valuable approach for you to take in your own management efforts, and to instill in your team members.
“Instead of rushing to judgment, ask questions to find out the real story about what is behind any action,” says Carnes. This practice reassures your team of smooth workflow and solution-driven directions. “When you touch the positive, you will get more positive. People will trust each other more and be willing to yield to each other toward the common goal.”
Your team will communicate and work better when you approach objectives methodically with constructive and positive intent. Your blood pressure will also thank you for this habit calm and positivity—hone this skill and check out 10 ways successful men cut stress.
Create Meeting Rituals
One of the best ways to start a meeting is with a joke. Laughter boosts creativity, innovation, and eliminates stress. Small rituals of that sort lighten the mood and open people’s mind to productive team efforts.
“Setting rituals is a classic cohesion strategy that celebrates team milestones in a way that honors the whole team and the work that was accomplished together. Rituals are a great bonding tool,” says Ilene Marcus, founder of AlignedWorkplace, and author of Managing Annoying People: 7 ProvenTactics To Maximize Team Performance. “Relaxing your team with a ‘group LOL’ gets each person out of their own head and primes the pump for collaboration.”
Your team will feel good about the start and your meeting is likely to be more cohesive.
Use a Meeting Agenda
While flexibility is important in your team’s in-person gatherings, you will help build cohesion by having a blueprint to follow. Agendas prepare and keep your team on the same page about meetings.
“Done right, [agendas] promotes collaboration prior to the meeting as team members prepare and need to update each other,” says Marcus.
You should keep agendas brief, up to a page or five items, so everyone can grasp them at a glance. By creating a structured model for your meetings you promote independence and time budgeting.
“Knowing how their time will be used provides a feeling of appreciation, breeding empowerment for each team member,” adds Marcus. “Empowerment produces actions and cohesion.”
Allocating time to set the key points for the next meeting goes a long way. If you are unable to attend or are running late, you can let the agenda run the meeting and have your team report on solutions or actions. It is important to provide continuity between agendas to promote engagement. Also, leaving time for social interaction after each meeting invites your team to pick up on the discussed topics casually outside of team or project meetings.
Investing time and effort in a mentoring program also strengthens your team’s structure. It creates strong internal bonds that improve the workflow.
“Train team members on very basic coaching skills and have them coach one another on a monthly rotational basis,” says Karen Alber, former CIO of MillerCoors, and HJ Heinz, and managing partner of The Integreship Group, a professional coaching firm.
This practice helps you improve relationships on a personal level and invite them to share their professional challenges and aspirations. The method can also remove long-standing barriers and misconceptions among team members, even those at the executive level. Lead by example, and prove to your team that the same high standards apply to you—if you’re still having trouble beating bad procrastination habits, though, check out these 15 ways to triple your productivity.
Make Roles Clear
It is important to invest time in clarifying how each member of your team is contributing to the common goals. When people have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, that boosts their cooperation and their interactions become more coordinated, especially in times of stress.
“People work together best when everyone understands how their own work impacts everyone else’s,” says Lee Caraher, an author of The Boomerang Principle: Inspire Lifetime Loyalty From Your Employees and Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide To Making it Work at Work. “You’ll find that people will actually help each other achieve more when they know what everyone’s responsible for.”
Clear responsibilities reduce friction and boost results. Encouraging your team to manage their stress levels will also help with those goals—these are the 10 best non-exercise stress busters.
Training and development of social skills in your key positions make internal communication flow better and promotes spreading these skills to everyone in your team. Essential “people skills” will empower your leaders and make the rest of your team follow them and aspire to develop their own skill set.
“Train the team leader on vital people skills: coaching skills, emotional resiliency skills, and personal resiliency skills, which all trickles out to team members and sets an interpersonal culture of respect, compassion, honesty, fairness, and responsibility to the people they work with,” says Alber.
This way, essential skills will be infused into your culture and will lead to better results and success across the board. Ultimately, you are investing in the healthy growth of your company. And be sure every first-time leader knows how to thrive.
Appreciation goes a long way and creates stronger, more dependable teams. When there is an air of goodwill between you and the members of your team, commitment becomes the driving factor of individuals to deliver better results.
“Teams who feel appreciated outperform those that don’t by up to 30%, right down to the bottom line,” says Caraher. “Managers who create and maintain the behavior of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way in creating appreciated teams. Appreciated teams are more efficient than unappreciated teams.”
People love being appreciated and knowing that their hard work can bring them this nontangible benefit motivates them to over-deliver. Make sure your team knows how much you value them before they start asking for a pay raise—but if someone does bring that up, here are 7 ways to handle the dreaded raise question.
High Input, Low Democracy
Measure thrice and act once, as the saying goes. Making informed decisions involves gathering as much input as possible and sifting for the useful bits. It is important to show that you take everyone’s opinion into consideration—but the final decision is yours to make.
“Work is not a democracy. At the same time, the manager or leader who thinks he or she has all the right answers is delusional,” says Caraher. Good leaders consider as many perspectives as possible before taking action. Showing your team that they are your trusted advisers earns you their loyalty.
“Your team will thank you and be more invested in the work at hand,” adds Caraher.
Seeing that their input matters to your decision process makes them proud to be part of your team. And pride in work done well is the sign of a team that’s connected, productive, and happy.
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