High performing, values-aligned teams are a joy to behold.
And, common goals and shared values alone don’t make high performing, values-aligned teams. Those are key foundational pieces of the puzzle – but one more piece is required.
That vital required element? Leaders who create community: an environment of professional connection and interdependence between and among team members.
Community means that skilled, engaged team members view themselves as part of something bigger, part of a team that does meaningful work together. Team members are not independent, isolated players – they are aligned to their team’s purpose, values, strategies, and goals, alongside their peers.
Professional connection means that team members treat everyone – customers, peers, boss, even complete strangers – with dignity and respect, every interaction.
Interdependence means that team members cooperate with their peers to get things done. They find ways to learn from each other and leverage each other’s skills and passions daily in service of team goals.
Synergy – the aligned multiplication of team members’ skills and engagement – can’t consistently happen without community.
How can leaders build professional connection and interdependence? Here are suggestions to consider.
Create Team Structure
- Keep teams small. Workgroups operate best when there are 6-8 members on the functional team. They can work well with larger numbers, but it requires greater team activities to enable genuine connection.
- Keep functions small. One client of ours capped employee populations at their facilities at 300 members. Why? “When you have more than 300 members, people don’t know each other’s names. You lose the community factor,” one plant manager told us.
- Build team incentives. If compensation is based entirely on individual performance, effective teaming will be harder to accomplish. Create a portion of compensation based upon the team’s performance. You’ll get what you reward!
Create Team Time
- Conduct regular team huddles. Many teams I’ve observed have a quick, standing (literally – no chairs) huddle at the start of their day. In fifteen minutes, the team reviews targets for the day, issues that need attention, celebration of traction on efforts, then they’re off to contribute.
- Conduct weekly team connections. These meetings are no more than an hour in length. They build on the team huddle discussions. The longer timeframe allows for deeper analysis and discussion . . . brainstorming on possible solutions . . . greater inclusion of ideas from every team member . . . and greater partnering to move the team forward.
- Conduct regular celebrations that enable connections. Tom Peters spoke years ago about a company that was able to enable high performing, values aligned teams through BBQ’s! Casual yet intentional events like these allow team members to connect beyond work tasks – which builds a stronger network of team members to address work tasks down the line.
Create Team Service
- Create formal and informal avenues for the team to give back to the community, to serve the community in tangible ways.
- Consider allowing some community service activities to occur on company time. One client encouraged team members to mentor students in math and science; they allowed employees to do mentoring for up to three hours a month on company time. Another client organized service through Habitat for Humanity and let employees refurbish homes for the needy during a couple of workdays each quarter.
What do you think? How strong are your team’s professional connections and interdependence? What additions would you make to my suggestions? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.
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