Between Business Strategy and Business Results are your people. People are what ultimately drives the success of your business. Hiring the right people, giving managers the tools to effectively lead and build successful teams and decreasing turnover are the keys to long term success. Knowing the job behavioral targets and then matching hires to these targets is the key to great hires. Arming your leaders with data on how best to motivate and lead your people is the secret to high levels of engagement with greater ROI!
Josh Bersin, the founder of an HR research firm, says that “you have to run your company as if every employee has one foot out the door.” And he is right because employees today demand fast, positive change from their employers.
Let the data talk:
8 out of 10 employees feel ‘more empowered’ to hold leaders accountable for workplace changes in 2022.
And 56% of workers said they will only wait 30 to 60 days for employers to make needed changes before they consider leaving. (Human Workplace Index)
So what can companies do?
Well, every company is different and has its unique challenges. But one thing is for sure: now is not the time to let up on the gas (despite today’s prices, har har).
A universal principle is companies must deeply understand what their employees want and then take action to deliver. By collecting employee feedback, companies will unlock a treasure trove of opportunities to improve retention, productivity, and workplace happiness.
How can they take it a step further? Companies must double down on improving the employee experience end-to-end. To start, that means:
purging any signs of toxic culture (one way is to create a set of strong company values and reward the right behavior)
hiring the right people for the right roles
giving employees a meaningful mission and purpose to work toward
training managers to listen and support employees (versus telling)
creating and communicating legitimate career paths (only 11% of companies offer formal career pathing programs).
The MIT study also revealed four short-term strategies companies can use to increase retention.
In my last article written on January 16th, 2020 I wrote about the importance of Human Connection both to our work and all other parts of our lives and the science behind it. This week I am following up with an article on the importance of Social Emotional Development in teams.
Human connections are critical to business results and employee engagement and workplace contentment. Daily I speak with leaders about the joys and challenges of the workplace. All of the joys and challenges boil down to successes or failures that at the root have a human component. You would be hard pressed to find a success or failure that was not at some level due to connection between people.
Working with teams over the last 30 years I have accumulated hundreds of experiences assessing and creating developmental opportunities for teams. One constant is that the human connection factor has been at the root of all of those experiences and the strength of those connections has been the key to current success or frustrations.
In my experience both as a consultant and as a Senior Organizational Development Practitioner inside of organizations, Emotional Intelligence is a standard Learning opportunity/course offered, BUT I usually see it offered only to leaders of the organizations. If it is a fundamental skill for all employees we should not just offer it to leaders but should instead offer Social Emotional Development to all employees. Most people have their main interactions throughout their day with teammates and other people they work with to complete the organizations work, not their leader.
Self Awareness, Self Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making Skills are skills we all need in order to maximize our connections with others. Studies on human development would say that we should be learning and honing these skills from an very early age and should be part of our early education curriculum in the classroom. School Bullying is rampant and Teen suicides are up 47 percent in the past two decades. This is getting schools and parents attention that SEL must be integrated into our youth experience. Based on the research, these skills are fundamental to successful Teams as well. Instead of only training leaders in one day intensive EQI principles, healthy organizations of the future will make Social Emotional Learning part of an ongoing developmental strategy for teams and not just a 3-6 hour course. Ongoing Social Emotional Learning as a team is a great way to build trust and develop strength and understanding of team connections.
This attached article by Marc Brackett& Diana Divecha addresses the need for SEL as they celebrate the “30th anniversary of the first scholarly publication on emotional intelligence. In it, Peter Salovey of Yale University and John D. Mayer of the University of New Hampshire challenged the proposition that emotions mostly cloud judgment and get in the way of rational thought. Instead, Salovey and Mayer said, when we use emotions wisely, we make better decisions and have improved mental health and relationships.” https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/01/22/sorry-theres-no-easy-toolkit-for-social-emotional.html?cmp=eml-contshr-shr
Ask yourself, “What groups of people do I know that could benefit from being better connected”? Whether your thoughts went to work, community or family, we can easily identify connections that are strong as well as connections that are weak.
Why are human to human connections so important?
We are genetically and socially programmed to be connected to others. Evolutionary theory developed by Charles Darwin and widely accepted as having some scientific validity theorized that in order for a species to survive it must be driven to behave in ways that promote Survival and Reproduction. Because of these two basic “Survival of the Fittest” drives humans have continued to evolve specific adaptive behaviors to stay connected and Thrive. Believe it or not, even though the news of current events catches our focus, we are actually living in the most peaceful time in history according to historians looking at 100 plus year periods. Survival is actually getting easier to do. Reproductive adaptive behaviors drive what we are attracted to and can unconsciously effect our interpersonal behaviors, not just as mates but how agreeable or valued we see each other, how accepted we feel, how much automatic trust we place in each other and many other unconscious psychological dynamics.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; Physical, safety, security, love and Belonging, Self-esteem, and Self Actualization; all depend on solid close social connections. One failure to Maslow’s model is that we have examples both in the animal and human world where social connection is chosen over food, water and shelter. A study by Lunstad, Smith, and Layton at Brigham Young University and published in the Journal of Medicine https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316 showed that a lack of social connection has a greater detriment to your health than obesity and smoking. On the positive side strong human connections have been proven to lead to a %50 higher chance of life longevity, strengthened immune system, lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self esteem and greater empathy towards others. Social connectedness creates reciprocal connections that affect our physical and emotional well-being. We live in a time where a lot of people do not feel connected and technology seems to be pushing us even further from the authentic human connections we all need in order to thrive.
Most people’s primary social group is their work. This is where a lot of us spend 40 – 60 plus hours a week for the majority if not all of our lives. This is not including the time spent ruminating about work issues. Like it or not this is where we get most of our social connections. For those teams where the connections are strong, you are enjoying higher levels of endorphins, strengthened immune systems, overall sense of wellbeing, higher productivity, lower costs and very possibly a longer life.
For those teams that are struggling to connect, unfortunately the opposite is true. You will experience higher levels of fear and stress hormones (adrenalin, cortisol, and nonadrenalin) resulting over time in exhaustion, maladaption, burnout and dysfunction decreasing results at higher costs, and very possibly affecting the quality and quantity of life. (effects of chronic fear)
So… since developing strong connections is so important, how can we improve connections in and between our teams, groups, and families? Whenever I am asked the question “How can our team or organization improve its peoples sense of belonging”? I first ask “How do people in your life know that they belong”? I think too often at work we try to make human connection way to scientific and technical. True bonding and connecting with others is first emotional and second practical.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Use Greetings and manners, smile and acknowledge others, use people’s names, give compliments, apologize and forgive, offer help.
Be the teammate you would like to have, be reliable, thoughtful, timely, authentic, and sensitive. Intentionally include others and acknowledge their importance.
listen to others attentively, show genuine interest in what others think and feel.
Share things about your past, present, and future with each other. Trust only comes from practicing vulnerability.
Structure team building time, do a community service project together, plan informal social gatherings, include family at some of them.
Establish a strong purpose at the individual and team level that gives teams a reason to want to connect and stay connected. Keep that purpose front and center.
Ground the team with clearly shared goals that drive connection, make sure division of roles and responsibilities and accountability are mutually understood and the connections are regularly discussed.
Assure that everyone is getting to use their talents and strengths in contribution to the teams objectives.
Create a culture of true psychological safety where teams feel free to exchange passionate ideas, disagreements and dreams leading to synergistic solutions. A place where teams can feel free to be themselves without fear. A place where they can connect safely on an emotional level building Trust and creating a strong group identity.
Define and establish measures of success, regularly discuss progress. Strong teams are interested in their scorecard.
Support each other when the occasional hard work does not yield intended results.
Celebrate, have Fun, show love and caring for each other.
The Christmas season is the perfect time to think about Forgiveness. Forgiveness is the true meaning of Christmas and whether you celebrate the religious meaning behind Christmas and Hanukkah, or you celebrate the holiday as a family and work tradition, this is the perfect time as a team to reflect on forgiveness.
In my 30 years of working with teams I often spend time observing the interactions and dynamics of people working together. One of the least prevalent interactions I have witnessed is people on teams saying “I’m sorry” or “thanks for acknowledging that your interaction was hurtful. I forgive you”.
Interactive conflict at work is linked to absenteeism, lowered productivity, stress, physical and mental health issues. I have asked thousands of teams over the years these three questions “How often do you hear your team mates apologize?” “how often do youhear words of forgiveness?”and “are there missed opportunities?”. Almost always the three answers are “hardly ever”, “rarely” and “multiple times a day”.
The problem is that too many people are afraid to have these conversations, Their Ego won’t allow it or it is seen as a philosophical, psychological or religious principle that is “inappropriate” to discuss at work. Many organizations make it worse by using “safe” information against team members even though they preach open, safe, dialogue and even teach it!
In his book “Trusting You are Loved”, Epstein 1999 wrote: “We are by forgiving, in essence granting complete absolution and redemption. We relinquish the right to punish, cling to resentments, and hold grudges. We give ourselves and each other permission to move on, free of baggage and history, able to progress without the burdens of the past. Forgiveness fosters our wellbeing when we know that no matter what happens, we will forgive and be forgiven. In an environment of love and forgiveness, we thrive”.
If we fail to realize that by not openly forgiving our teammates for minor and major transgressions we pay a profound price. We lose, as a team, our ability to appreciate the strengths and awesome qualities of each other. Our discretionary effort is reduced, our health and wellness becomes threatened and we lose our ability to be fully present and focused on work issues. We then take this stress home with us and negatively inject this stress into those relationships and conversations. Many times people feel safer to vent their frustrations with people outside the team. This leads to distrust by others and questions about the teams ability to manage itself and its affairs.
So what can we do? Here are 6 proven strategies
1.Be the first. If no one on your team is practicing forgiveness, be the first. as people witness the power of forgiveness it grows in their hearts as well.
2. Create a team environment that is safe. Not feels safe, but is actually safe. A place where teammates are free to share and ask for help. Just one negative action by the leader can throw safety out the door.
3.Use Forgiving language and eye contact as a team. Look at each other and say things like “Thanks for letting me know”, “I understand”, “I apologize” “Thanks for talking with me about your concerns” “You are forgiven, no worries”.
4.Acknowledge anger and resentment but own your perceptions of the situation. Be respectful and use “I” statements. Separate facts from perceptions. Listen..
5.Make owning and forgiving a part of your teams discussions. When it is structured and practiced it becomes part of the teams culture “I need to apologize to Sara for not letting her know my progress on the work she needed” “I need to let the team know that I have had some resentments over how we made a decision and I would like to clear the air and move past them”
6. Team Development interventions. Sometimes the problems within the team can get out of hand and the team members no longer trust the intent of each other. Even a sincere apology can be filtered by mistrust and not believed. In these cases outside expertise can be very helpful. A good expert can help the team by being a neutral party with no agenda other than helping the team get un-stuck.
What are the benefits of using teams as your primary structure for getting work done? Organizationally we know the highest performing teams with the highest quality results, do so while fulfilling many of the members basic as well as higher level human needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies to our whole lives including work. In my many years of learning, playing, working in and with teams, I have experienced the joys, the frustrations, and everything in between. We all know what teams can do when designed with the right members and right support. We also know what the costs are of our dysfunctional teams who are stuck with little hope of what magic might change the daily dredge on both the organization as well as the team members themselves.
Teams are worth the investment and there is science to prove it. We humans have worked in collaborative groups since the beginning of time. In a sense, teams are the reason we are all even still here on planet earth, credited as a key to the survival of our species. In this linked articlehttps://www.atlassian.com/blog/teamwork/the-importance-of-teamwork Tracy Middleton shares 11 benefits of working in teams and some of the science to support it.
Research has validated for us many realities of being human. How and why we respond to different stimulus in similar and categorically different ways can be predictably measured. Research on teams and collaboration has been a specific human dynamic that man has tried to understand since the beginning of time. The difficulty is that teams are constantly changing in membership, focus, process, motivation, reinforcement, qualities of relationships and so on. In the linked article written by Catarina Lino and Brad Desmond in Positive Psychology, the writers discuss 7 Habits that if practiced and made habits, consistently create highly effective teams. https://positivepsychology.com/psychology-teamwork/
Creating strong, high performing teams at all levels of your organization is critical to success. Organizations can’t make progress without a strong culture of teamwork. Fostering a great team culture throughout your organization must be a part of your overall Organizations Culture strategy.
A Team culture is the shared values, practices and beliefs that guide the team members interactions with one another, other teams, their managers and customers both internal and external. Team culture refers to the behaviors and patterns of a team from which members develop shared meaning. It is about both shared aspirations as well as the processes to get there, both practical and personal. Within an existing Organizational Culture teams are made up of different combinations of people and have different dynamics, manifesting their own culture.
Here are six ways you can create an extraordinary team culture:
1. Create a Team Charter
Teams must have a starting point, a compass by which the team gets its sense of meaning and community. The charter must answer : Why are we together, Mission and Objectives, Strategy and plans, Roles and Responsibilities, Accountability structure, Behavioral expectations and agreements.
2. Set Aside Informal Time For Your Team To Relate
Positive Relationships have a big impact on great team culture. It is ideal for team members to truly like and care about each other. This is difficult to achieve in a formal setting, but critical to collective goal accountability and true no fear open communication. The ability to be vulnerable with each other allows for more authentic conflict resolution which is critical to ongoing and long term team health.
3. Be a Trustworthy Leader
Positive relationship with the teams manager is always ranked tops by high performing teams. Emotional intelligence and the ability to be self-aware of how your behavior as a leader affects the dynamics of the team and your ability to manage those behaviors; both the utilization of positive behaviors as well as the reduction of team killing behaviors. Team members must not be afraid of approaching you and asking questions.
4. Promote A Culture of Learning and Development
Opportunities for learning and development contribute to team members job satisfaction. They feel valued as well as it strengthens the overall competence available to the team. Learning and development is also one of the most effective tools to help teams develop their effectiveness. This works best when teams develop and learn together using simulation, experience and review. Knowledge sharing between team members builds relationships as well as a sense of belonging and value.
5. Make Your Workplace Conducive To Teamwork
An important part of catalyzing a great team culture is having a physical environment where productive teamwork is possible. Teams need to have time together to plan, create, polish, and synergize. Research shows that while virtual teams can be successful, they do best when they have had face to face time and use technology to collaborate. Sitting together and creating collaborative work spaces facilitates relationships between team members .
6. Celebrate Accomplishments
Part of a great team culture is a culture where team members take the time to celebrate their work, each other, and the blessings of working with others towards purposeful contributions. This should be a regular agenda item at team meetings.
Most of us work in teams or at least work environments that call for high levels of collaboration. Hopefully you have experienced success in teams but no doubt you also have experienced the challenges. Why can working in teams be such a challenge at times? in a 2016 Harvard Business Review titled “Collaboration overload”, Researchers found that there has been a 50% plus increase in collaborative activity in our work over the past decade. With this increase comes a new set of skills and conditions necessary to be successful. Teamwork has gotten more complex with people working on multiple teams at once with sometimes very different focus and different members. Trust is the foundation of effective teamwork and is often left to chance, as with all of our relationships trust must be worked on and discussed in order to create and maintain it. How we create, kickoff, and maintain our teams is critical to long term success and overall team member engagement. In the attached article Bev Attfield talks about 5 common Challenges teams face in todays work environment. https://blog.jostle.me/blog/5-challenges-of-teamwork-and-how-to-overcome-them