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.
Managing relationships in teams is critical to high levels of effectiveness, results and employee satisfaction. In my last article I wrote about the misnomer of personality conflicts and how what we call personality conflicts are actually relationship conflicts. How we interact, communicate and work with others is the foundation to how we experience life.
There are 14 core relationship principles described by scholars Finkel, Simpson, and Eastwick in 2017. The factors are distinct from one another, though interrelated, in how they influence relationships. I have applied these sound relationship principles to teams.
Uniqueness: Relationship outcomes depend not only on the qualities of different people but also the unique patterns that emerge when they interact. Positive or negative feelings are generated by the interpretation of difference and ability to integrate those differences into team output.
Integration: Through interdependent interaction, team members will start to blend together. Self-regulation can get replaced by mutual regulation and a sense of shared identity. Research has shown that when people get closer to each other they tend to think of each other in more positive terms and will help to further one another goals.
Trajectory: The trajectory of teams relationships over time is affected by team members continuous perceptions of interactions and experiences over time. Relationships grow and develop in stages. Much like the stages of group development; forming, storming, norming and performing.
Evaluation: People on teams typically evaluate their relationships based on commitment, trust, caring, contribution, reciprocity, safety, and satisfaction. If evaluations are only private, no one gets the feedback to help improve team relationships.
Responsiveness: Responsive behaviors are important to teamwork. The ways teammates are responsive to each other can be seen in different light. One may feel others responses are too quick or too late, lack depth or sincerity. Higher levels of support promote higher levels of well-being.
Resolution: How well teammates communicate about relationship events affects long-term quality of the relationships. Negative events have a stronger impact than positive events. A teams ability to share openly, listen to each others experience, and respond with empathy is critical. Forgiveness is key!
Maintenance: Positive team relationships are maintained by thinking and behaving in ways that show a willingness to put self-interests aside for the good of the team. Team relationships are a series of deposits and withdrawals over time. Teams must maintain a positive relationship account. Withdrawals will occur in the life of a team and so intentional positive deposits on a daily basis are a must. A good start is just with manners and social kindness and recognition of each others value.
Predisposition: People bring basic personality and temperament qualities with them into teams. Some of these will be seen as strengths for the team and some will be seen as liabilities. The more neurotic the team members predisposition, the more difficult and challenging the relationships will be. Emotional intelligence is important as well as high levels of trust that allow for individual growth within a team setting.
Instrumentality: Teammates bring their own goals and needs into the team relationships. The dynamics of the team can positively or negatively affect the degree to which each team member is able to meet these goals and needs. The teams ability to discuss, understand, and integrate these goals and needs is critical to continued commitment toward the teams results. In high performing teams members goals and needs are understood and the team finds ways to support and assist in meeting these.
Standards: Team members bring relationship standards to the team. Shared values, expectations, and desired outputs need to be clearly understood and realistically managed. Standards can be too high or too low depending on the team member and perceptions of each team member. High trust teams manage this by coming to understand each others standards and then being willing to flex these standards into a common understanding and agreement. College student team projects often run into this dilemma when talking about expected grade. Where the single unemployed student expects nothing but A’s and the single mother of two who works and goes to school is ok with a B grade due to all of her life reponsiblities.
Diagnosticity: Team members tend to assess themselves and others, and the environment they are in. People naturally assess how their team relationships are going and what is going right and what is going wrong. When under stress teammates tend to have a higher propensity to think about their relationships and identify problems. When one team member sees something as a positive and another sees it as a negative, relationship “strain” occurs. Taking risks during times of uncertainty and working through them successfully can actually build trust and commitment.
Alternatives: FOBO (fear of better options) occurs when team members are disgruntled with their current environment and so rather than focusing on working through issues and developing the team, they instead are focused on wishing they had a better option/team. Teams can avoid this by working on relationships in an environment of psychological safety where openness is not just valued but practiced and supported. If you have invested yourself in a team there is a tendency to want to invest in its continued improvement.
Stress: High demands on a team can exceed the teams resources for coping. Stressful situations test team relationships. Team members are more likely to be defensive and retaliate when their buttons are pushed. Breakdown in communication occurs as team members try to distance themselves from each other. Recognition of the stresses and team adoption of effective stress management skills are important to surviving stressful times.
Culture: A team culture (values, beliefs, behavioral norms, traditions) exists whether intentionally created or not. If not intentionally created a default culture will develop and many times it is not optimal for achieving results. Teams need to align their culture to a shared set of values that are aligned with the organizations values. Identify your teams culture and agree on elements that help move your team forward effectively.
How to Build Good Work Relationships
1. Develop Your People Skills. Good relationships start with good people skills. For instance, how well you collaborate, communicate and deal with conflict.
2. Identify Your Relationship Needs. Look at your own relationship needs. Do you know what you need from others? And do you know what they need from you?Understanding these needs can be instrumental in building better relationships.
3. Schedule Time to Build Relationships. Devote a portion of your day toward relationship building, even if it’s just 20 minutes. These little interactions help build the foundation of a good relationship, especially if they’re face-to-face.
4. Build your Your EI. Spend time developing your emotional intelligence(EI). Among other things, this is your ability to recognize your own emotions, and clearly understand what they’re telling you. High EI also helps you to understand the emotions and needs of others.
5. Appreciate Others. Show your appreciation whenever someone helps you. Everyone, from your boss to the office cleaner, wants to feel that their work is appreciated. Genuinely compliment the people around you. This will open the door to great work relationships.
6. Be Positive. Focus on being more positive. Positivity is attractive and contagious, and it will help strengthen your relationships with your teammates. No one wants to be around someone who’s negative all the time.
7. Manage Your Boundaries. Make sure that you set and manage boundaries appropriately – all of us want to have friends at work, but, occasionally, a friendship can start to impact our jobs, especially when a friend or colleague begins to monopolize our time.
8. Avoid Gossiping. Don’t gossip – Gossip is a major relationship killer at work. If you’re experiencing conflict with someone in your group, talk to them directly about the problem. Gossiping about the situation with other colleagues will only make the relationship more stressed and will cause mistrust and animosity between you.
9. Listen Actively. Practice active listening when you talk to your teammates. People respond to those who truly listen to what they have to say. Don’t try and be right. Focus on listening for understanding and you’ll quickly become known as someone who can be trusted.
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
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/
Do you wonder if investing in Team Development actually works?
In the attached article research was done on the effectiveness of team development efforts as well as research on which approaches are actually effective. I think most of us have felt that in our gut team development made sense but have also questioned its actual effectiveness and so its value in investment of resources. As I shared in my last blog, practice has always been the foundation of teamwork outside of work but not so much in the work world. The article attached goes into the science and research findings behind the effectiveness of team training and which approaches are the most effective. What the research finds is that “classroom” lecture and didactic training is the least effective and simulation and experiential training with review are the most effective.https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0169604