Adrian Baillargeon (lead image), author of Teams That Swear: By each other, is a global speaker and leadership team performance expert. In this guest post, Baillargeon offers his four best tips for building better and more connective teams at work…
“I’m not here to make friends” is a phrase I often hear when people share their experiences about their workplace. Whilst different personalities can clash in the modern workforce, today’s senior leaders must understand that solid connections can propel teams forward and create incredible momentum.
Studies show that strong social connectivity increases engagement and productivity, and those with a best friend at work are seven time more likely to “exhibit better engagement, customer relations, work quality, well-being and having a lower risk of injury.” Whilst it might be a stretch to be best friends with everyone, creating better connections among team members can help your team shine and win the games that matter most, just like the Buffalo Bills.
Connection amongst the mammoths and the corporates
After a 17-year playoff drought, the Buffalo Bills new GM and head coach, Sean McDermott, was tasked with bringing the franchise to their previous glory. The Bills had 30 new players, and his priority throughout the season was to foster a more profound connection among the group.
McDermott organised for players to share their childhood and motivations during each team meeting. The team heard about poverty, losing loved ones, and the importance of faith. The emphasis on human connection profoundly impacted the Buffalo Bills, transcending the boundaries of the football field. For the first time in three seasons, the Bills had a winning season, and they finally made the finals.
Connection. Engagement. Getting through a challenging time. This is what all teams should be striving for to truly shine. From C-suite to the front line, from the office to the trenches, these approaches will help bring your team closer together, resulting in better outcomes for everyone.
Shared experiences create stronger bonds
MIT’s Sandy Pentland’s research into team performance demonstrated that a large portion of a team’s success could be predicted by how much time they spent together outside of just doing the job. It’s easy to say, “Let’s go for a beer mate”; however, other ways exist to create experiences that matter. Executive members can team up to visit customers. Mystery shop together. Visit a distribution centre or a supplier. Get off of zoom or out of the office – go for a walk together. Have lunch together. Attend a networking event together. Think of the work you do – and think – how could we do this as a team?
Swear by each other and not about each other
Researchers have suggested we tend to swear more around people “we trust, and swearing can help to create trust.” But it’s how you swear that makes a difference. When you swear by someone, it draws people together. Dr Emma Byrne, author of Swearing is Good For You, points out that when colleagues swear around each other, they are essentially saying, “I trust that you trust me enough to know that I’m not really being an a——e right now”. However, when senior leaders swear about someone, trust erodes, and clashes become a barriers to progress, in their teams and the team below them. Acknowledging someone when they do something good can go a long way to strengthening ties within groups, even executive teams where discussions tend to focus on what’s going wrong instead of what’s going right. Talking about issues in front of each other can do the same thing when there is a clash. Say things sooner and see the difference.
Pass on your passion
Joe Maddon, a Major League Baseball manager who guided the Chicago Cubs to their first championship in 108 years, loves wine. He would often teach his players about it, to the point that his players started bringing bottles of wine to him to share their thoughts. Allocating 10 minutes of a monthly leadership team meeting for someone to share something important to them is a great way to help people drop their guard, welcome people into their world and develop a strong bond and sense of trust.
In 2017, when the Richmond Tigers won the Australian Football League premiership, throughout the year, during team meetings, players shared their hero, hardship, and highlight of their life. Corporate Challenge Events and the Buffalo Bills shared personal stories. A director at a global health fund had his people bring a photo and share the background. There are many ways to learn about each other in a way that truly matters.
Connections among teams help build trust and a sense of belonging. When that trust exists, it leads to deeper discussions and the ability to work through issues quicker. The great thing about connection is that senior leaders can do something to foster this environment; intentional focus fast tracks success, and with connection, it’s a matter of being deliberate. Who knows, leadership teams may even make new friends in the process.
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