“If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb

What does it mean to be in a team? True to the African proverb, it means collaborating with a group of people towards a common goal.

And, believe it or not, it’s in our DNA to be part of a team – or many teams for that matter. Take some of the oldest cave art found in France, for instance. Dating back 45,000 years, it depicts people hunting in groups. According to the ADP Research Institute’s Global Study of Engagement, which examined 19,000 companies across 19 countries, 91% of us work in a team, of which 71% work with several teams. I have always maintained that work teams are like family.

So, Team Leader, ask yourself this:

How are you creating a sense of togetherness across real, virtual or hybrid spaces?

When people feel a sense of separation, you’ll find that isolation and exclusion usually follow – neither of which are conducive to creating vital psychological safety in a work, social, or family environment.

This begs the question…

Person vs place: Which is behind togetherness?

Research shows, more and more, that a sense of togetherness is created less by physical proximity and moreby psychological needs. This is especially important when getting work-from-home staff back to the office. As Team Leader, you determine the team connection and cohesion, wherever the team might be based.

Creating psychological safety and togetherness

In the Love + Work Leader Series I’m currently working on with Marcus Buckingham and the Harvard Business Review, we identify three leadership imperatives that closely align with my own teachings:

  1. Know me: “Get to know me and my strengths to understand how I can contribute to the team mission.”
  2. Focus me: “Ensure I know what is expected of me so I can direct my talents and gifts accordingly.”
  3. Care for me: “Develop a listening culture based on trust, not fear, without babysitting me.”

3 non-verbal questions you’re asked daily:

We tend to ask the important people in our lives three non-verbal questions each day. But not explicitly. They’re passively expressed, through words and behaviour:

  1. Do you see me?
  2. Do you hear me?
  3. Am I important to you?

We all want to feel needed and we all want to matter. That’s why people who consistently get ‘yes’ answers to these questions will stay – because they have no reason to leave. It’s human nature.

So ask yourself: What kind of verbal or non-verbal feedback are you giving to the vital people in your team, to make sure they stay?

To complete a puzzle, understand the pieces

In the past, taking everyone out for drinks on a Friday afternoon or arranging a team-building activity off-site, was how leaders created a sense of unity. As a result, the common bond was expected to develop enough team spirit to last until the next event six months later. In other words, everyone was treated the same and expected to get on board.

This doesn’t cut it anymore.

With critical skills in high demand, getting to know each team member individually, forms better building blocks for a solid team. Remember, they give you upwards of eight hours of attention every day, which is more waking hours than they give their families. So don’t let proximity get in the way of team togetherness. You can practise high-touch leadership and improve team dynamics from wherever you are.

Breaking the hesitation barrier

According to Amy C Edmondson, author of The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, human beings are inherently excellent risk managers. Raising a hand to contribute an opinion, idea, or disagreement takes a lot of courage, and when individuals feel ‘seen’, the barrier of contribution-hesitation breaks.

Leading and building your team by understanding the employee mantra know me, focus me, care for me can make a big difference in carving out a leadership style of trust rather than fear. As a result, your people will likely give you more of their discretionary attention by choice, and not by coercion.

Want to keep your team together, whatever the circumstances?

Create a culture of listening and paying deep attention to the individuals in your team, regardless of working proximity or the frequency of team-building events. Ensuring that your team members feel seen, heard, and needed can make all the difference in their long-term loyalty and contribution to the mission and the business.

Who am I?

I consult senior leaders on coordinating their teams (and their own positioning) to deliver on the promise of adding value to the business. Send me an email at info@nikkibush.com to chat a little more about how I can help you lead for survival.

Much love,
Nikki Bush
Human Potential and Parenting Expert helping you to win at work and life

Hot tip: Read Lead for Survival; Not for Strategy, or watch this video for more advice on how to slow things down, ramp up your people focus, and run a weekly check-in with your direct reports.