5 Ways to Connect With Your Team on a Personal Level
group of business people giving a high five while sitting in a meeting.
not long ago, i was watching “the wizard of oz” with my family. I hadn’t seen the movie in years. however, during this visualization, I learned a new leadership lesson: the importance of connecting with your teammates like a real person.
Think about it: Throughout the movie, the wizard relies on mystery and fear to rule Oz. but when did it become most useful? when he revealed who he really was and became personally engaged to dorothy, the scarecrow, the tin man and the cowardly lion. From there, he was able to help them build the confidence to get what they had always wanted: a brain, a heart, courage, and a homecoming.
in kansas, or wherever you call home, the same idea applies. In fact, according to a survey of employee engagement and job satisfaction conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, 74 percent of respondents said their relationship with their supervisor was one of the top five factors influencing their performance. engagement at work. As Gallup discovered, when companies have a more engaged team, they are more productive and profitable.
How can you go behind the curtain and connect with your teammates on a personal level? here are five places to start.
1. communicate frequently.
As a leader, communication with your team is key. after all, it gives your team members the opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, and solicit feedback. As a result, they feel like they’re part of the bigger picture, as long as you actively listen and act on their suggestions. (Even explaining why you can’t act on it can go a long way.)
More importantly, it gives you the opportunity to get to know them better: their strengths, their weaknesses, what interests they have inside and outside of work. you’ll have a better idea of what they want your future to look like and how you and your company could play a role.
Best of all, there are a variety of ways you can communicate with your team on a regular basis. You can schedule individual sessions, plan team brainstorming sessions, or use communication tools like slack. you could have lunch with your teammates or visit them for a quick chat when they take a break.
2. go beyond “how are you?”
harvard business school research shows that asking a single question like “how are you?” you won’t get much response. instead, you should dig deeper, asking open-ended follow-up questions. and those should delve into what goes on beyond work. Know your personal background and interests. You don’t need to know every detail of their lives, and you shouldn’t, but knowing what brings them joy is an effective way to show you care about them as people, not just employees.
Personally, you can encourage your team to open up more by being transparent yourself. discuss your interests and tell stories about your life. that should be enough to make people feel more comfortable. Another icebreaker option is to engage in team building activities that can help everyone get to know each other’s talents and personalities.
3. help each employee achieve his goals.
“You have to hold people accountable for their goals,” Tom Ferry, CEO of Tom Ferry International, told CNBC. “One of the big steps in that process is for someone to identify their true motivation or why.”
You can do this by creating an environment that encourages this kind of growth. have team meetings to discuss goals as a group. set up one-on-one meetings with people to hear what drives them in their work. also ask about their goals outside of work: someone who wants to run a marathon or is looking for a medium to write can generate new ideas.
“Finally, act as a coach and responsible partner as they implement their goals,” says Ferry. “When you genuinely care about your employees and impact their lives beyond the office, you build lasting relationships and a more loyal tribe.”
4. recognize and celebrate.
I’m a fan of “the office”. one of my favorite episodes is when jim is put in charge because michael went on a field trip to become a “survivor man”. Jim decides to consolidate all of his birthdays into one celebration. obviously this is not going well.
individual birthdays were so popular at dunder mifflin because they made each employee feel appreciated. Even something as trivial as deciding what kind of cake to get for your birthday feels like a big deal.
Obviously, you can’t celebrate every day. But when it comes to milestones and important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, a little celebration can go a long way, even through a handwritten note.
and don’t forget to recognize the hard work of your employees. send a quick email thanking them for the thoughtful question they asked at the last meeting or acknowledging the improvement in their work. you can also surprise them with gifts that they will enjoy or that will be more effective.
5. stop saying you don’t have time.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it’s not worth my time and energy to make plans with people who don’t stick to them. For example, I had a friend who always failed our plans. Eventually, I stopped making plans with him and focused on spending more time with people who really wanted to go out with me.
The same idea is true as a leader. If an employee constantly asks you if you have a moment to discuss a project or conflict, only to hear “sorry, I don’t have time,” that person will feel like you don’t care. she will stop coming to you for help or advice, or leave your company altogether.
The best option is to make time for your team. that doesn’t mean you always stop what you’re doing. But, in the grand scheme of a day, we all have five minutes to reply to an email or refer someone to a resource they need. If the teammate needs more time than that, ask them to schedule a time to talk with you. It shows that you value your time and his, and that you want to give him your full attention when you can.
Connecting with your team on a personal level may not seem like a priority, but if you want to develop and retain top talent, it’s an area to focus on. When you do, you’ll be able to increase engagement, productivity, and profits, and build a foundation on which everyone can grow.