build strong teams

How to build strong teams by developing relationships

Trust me, I get it. We’re busy. We have a long laundry list of all the things we need to get to but can barely manage, not just a list of tasks but even things like seeing our friends and spending time with family. It all gets crowded, never mind the added pressure of building relationships with each individual team member at work!

But, the thing is, NOT building those relationships costs us in the long run. Think about how much easier it is to work with someone you really know.

When you’ve connected with someone outside of work on some level, it’s a smoother process to ask something of them, to give them feedback, and understand how to motivate them and support them.

Great leadership can be made in small conversations and human moments, in the parts of the day that may seem inconsequential.

This time of year, around the holidays, is especially challenging but it’s also especially human. It’s a time where almost everyone is thinking about friends and family, and finding social time. The holiday season is an excellent time to start to connect with your staff.

The name of the game is informal one-on-one meetings. It’s where you can change your environment, switch up the pattern, and connect human-to-human with members on your team.

Here are three ways that you can sneak a little connection into any day.

What you can accomplish over coffee

I, personally, like to have to some structure. If you’re familiar with the “Everything DiSC” profiles we use with our clients — I’m pretty high on the D scale. So, I like to have goals and make sure that I connect with each member of my team for an informal one-on-one coffee at least once a month, on top of our normal work conversations.

Now, if you have a really big team this may not be plausible but set a structure that works for you, put it in your calendar and do your best to connect informally with each member of your staff.

A question I often get is whether or not you should discuss work in this informal meet up.

Sure, you can, but the idea is to understand and connect with something that is not work related. Ask them about their family, their hobbies, and if you’re going to talk about work – try to keep it focused on what they’re trying to achieve or what they’re looking for from the organization.

Keep the conversation focused on them and about them. That not only makes a person feel valued, it fosters loyalty. You’d be surprised at how a few informal coffees can build a relationship.

What you can accomplish over lunch

While coffee is valuable time spent with staff, lunch is even more of an opportunity to connect with and get to know your team. It also feels pretty special when the boss has lunch with you.  

When I worked in government, the Deputy Minister would have a pizza lunch with five staff from all levels of the department, every Friday. When I first heard about it, my immediate thought was that it was “hokey” and artificial.

But, as people around me started getting picked in the draw to go for lunch and they had their chats over pizza with the boss, they came back feeling valued, they felt heard, they had made a connection they hadn’t made before.

It could have easily been as hokey as I expected, but because the Deputy Minister was sincere, focused on her lunch guests, and was interested to hear from them, it wasn’t hokey at all.

How to pay attention to the little things

Building relationships may come easy for you. But, I would venture to guess that even if it does, there are a few practices that you can implement to help your staff feel that much more connected and that much more valued.

A few things you can do to “wow” your staff:

  • Put each of their birthdays in your calendar and be the first to wish them happy birthday or give them a card. And, not the one that’s signed by the whole gang, but one that’s from you, personally.
  • Note how they take their coffee and surprise them by ordering it for them.
  • If they tell you about an upcoming event, make a note to follow up and ask how it went.
  • Make a note of the names of their wife or husband and children so when you ask about them, you can ask by name.

Our Coach’s Questions:

What can you do TODAY to connect with your staff? Which ideas above, or your own, will you start this week?