For many people, the connection they feel to their wider organisation comes through their team.
The team community that you experience within your department or division sets the tone for how you interact and engage with the rest of the organisation. Regardless of whether you are operating in a matrix or perhaps virtually, if you are well connected to your team, then you’re more likely to be connected and empathetic to the wider business.
In my experience, leaders that help to foster that connection, for example, have a few things in common.
They create a common purpose
In order to feel a connection to your team, each member needs to buy into why the team exists. Rather than assume, I think it’s interesting for leaders to ask the questions, “why do you think we’ve been put together?”, “what is it that we are supposed to be doing?” and “what is it that only we can do?” That’s when you can have a great conversation about the team’s common purpose and goals.
When I think back to my swimming career, having a common purpose was central to creating a high performing team around me. Although I’d train for four hours a day with my immediate team, there were other experts I worked with on a more ad-hoc basis such as a psychologist, physiotherapist and nutritionist. Despite working together less frequently, we were all bought into the common purpose of getting me to deliver my best possible performance.
Lane4 take the same approach when working with our clients. Ultimately, we’re a partner who is providing a service, but we’re at our best when we feel like an extension of a client’s team. Many of the conversations I’m involved with at the start of a new client relationship are about creating the best team possible to lead the project. We create a shared purpose so that those working on the project emotionally connect to the partnership rather than keeping the relationship at a transactional level.
They hold world class team meetings
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone leading a team it would be to evaluate the team meetings you run. At their worst I’ve seen team meetings become a place where everyone sits in silence whilst the team leader dumps information onto their team. But, at their best they’re places of conversation, vibrancy and energy, where if you walked into the room, you probably couldn’t tell who the leader was.
Regardless of whether you’re a first line supervisor or leading the entire organisation, I think we all share the responsibility of holding world class team meetings and for me, that starts with clear contracting. It’s a tool we use ourselves as well as with our clients as a helpful way of agreeing some ground rules and boundaries for the meeting up front. By discussing practicalities such as timings or logistics, the purpose or goals for the meeting and the psychological aspects such as people’s expectations, you set the meeting up for success.
Consider the content of your meetings as well. In my opinion, too many meetings focus solely on numbers and results. Of course, the performance standards you’re working towards as a team are important, but make sure you look wider than achievements. Have a conversation about what you’ve all learned recently or ask people to share something new they’ve been working on.
Ultimately you want people to want to be there so don’t be afraid to ask the question: “What would make you want to be in this team meeting?”
They can play two roles
This is most relevant for leaders who are part of an executive team. For me as a leader of an executive team, I need each of the directors of the business to be the most senior voice of their function, but I also need them to play a role in sharing the stewardship of the business. In other words, I need them to put their functional hat on, but also take it off again.
In my view, if you have an organisation where executive team members are only interested in talking about their own function and not interested in the other parts of the business, you run the risk of creating silos right at the very top of the organisation. As a result, that can easily go on to create a siloed culture deeper in the organisation.
The leader of the executive team therefore needs to encourage their team’s engagement in their entire enterprise. That involves creating an environment where people feel comfortable to comment on issues outside of their function. The IT Director needs to feel safe to be able to comment on financial matters, and likewise the Finance Director needs to feel safe to accept that feedback. For me that collection of voices is really helpful and when I see my team’s desire for improvement across the entire organisation, that’s when it gets exciting.