It takes an engaged team, or a group of well-connected teams, to build and run a business today. The days of a single autocratic leader are gone. In my consulting work with small businesses and startups, I find that real teamwork is still a rare commodity.
Fortunately, it's a skill you can start to develop at any stage in your career, which will pay off now, as well as in future leadership roles.
You may be convinced that your technical expertise, and your passion for the product, will allow you to succeed without reliance on team members, but in my experience, I have seen many careers and businesses fail due to a lack of team synergy, or even in-fighting and dysfunction. Here is my list of actions that you can start today to improve your impact through real team interaction:
1. Personally get to know all key team members.
A business and a team are more about relationships than roles. Even in this age of more remote teams, it's possible and necessary, through phones, email, and social media to have individual conversations about individual interests and drivers. Take the initiative to build personal connections with key members.
For some of you introverts, this may seem like a chore, or you may feel it is an imposition on your busy work schedule. It doesn't have to be that way. I have found that introducing fun and creative activities is a great way to inspire people to share a few details about themselves.
2. Be authentic and transparent in every communication.
Every team needs to trust all other members and their leaders before they give their full commitment and effort. You never trust people you don't know, or you suspect are just playing a role. As a team member or leader, it's time to speak up more, ask more questions, and proactively find common interests.
One of the biggest barriers to trust and authenticity I see is the misuse of power. I encourage you to always take a humble and balanced view of your position and expertise. Showing any bias towards or against another team member destroys their self-esteem and reduces trust.
3. Find time to publicly recognize peer contributions.
Most leaders and team members are quick to criticize but slow to provide recognition for a job well done, especially in front of peers and other leaders. Research has shown that public recognition is usually more of a motivator than even monetary rewards. If you will recognize them, they will reward you.
When was the last time you took the time to hand-write a note to someone in your team, or a related team, on a job well done, or for giving you a helping hand? I still remember the last one of these I received, and it made a big difference in my desire to return the support.
4. Be visible and communicate regularly with the team.
Especially when team members can't see you due to remote work or industry activities, may sure they know what you are doing and why. It's easy to minimize the efforts of someone who hides in their office or often seems to be focused on some outside activity not relevant to their team responsibilities.
5. Help other team members reach their personal goals.
Showing a genuine interest in the personal objectives of other team members goes a long way toward creating a more engaged team. Providing real help in reaching these goals and keeping team members on a path toward success shows that you're invested in their success as well as yours.
6. Live by your team's mission and company values.
A sure way to connect and build trust with other team members is to demonstrate your commitment to the mission and values of your business. Walk the talk during all work processes and team interactions. Let your engagement be a role model for other members of your team and management.
7. Remember that consistency in delivering results is key.
Team members naturally migrate to people they can count on to deliver positive results, without unpredictable delays and frequent excuses. Team connections shouldn't be top of mind only during good times, but also during times of stress and crisis. Make sure that you under-promise and over-deliver.
Whether you are a member of a single team, or the business owner and member of all teams, I am convinced that the initiatives outlined here will lead to better team engagement and positive team interaction all around.
The result will be more productivity, but also a business culture where everyone is happier and feels more satisfaction with accomplishing your dream as well as theirs.