Connecting with your team is the first step in the team-building process. Trust forms the bedrock of a team, and trust builds through connections with people. Teams are built on human interaction. The stronger those interactions, the stronger the team! Without relationships, you’ve got no team.
The four keys to connecting with your team are:
The First C – Communication
Communicating is Not Necessarily Connecting
Many leaders mistake communicating with connecting. They are different verbs – connecting requires communication, but that’s only part of the equation. To make a connection – a relationship – also requires candor, context and consistency.
Don’t Let Technology Keep You From Connecting
Too often, electronic communication takes the place of human interaction. Connection to an individual or a group of individuals gets delegated to “send all/reply all” e-mails. That can be helpful when getting the word out about tactical updates, but be careful of it being your only means of connecting with your teammates. Used the right way, technology and social platforms can be a fantastic way to connect with people (look at what I’m doing with you right now) – but don’t allow it to be your only way to connect with people. There’s no replacement for human interaction. If your team is remote and you can’t meet face to face, make a point of scheduling regular phone or Skype calls. You’ll establish and maintain a personal connection that can’t be done in email, text or Slack.
Not All Communication Is Verbal
The fundamentals of connecting with people occur before you even open your mouth. Actions speak much louder than your words. Your body language is a critical component of connecting with people. Do you look your team member in the eye or do you hide behind your computer screen? Do you use your desk as barrier between them and you? Do you stand up to greet them when then come into your office? Better still, do you ever go to them to have a conversation?
Your office can be an imposing place – a zone where their heart rate accelerates just a touch and their brains go into “what does the boss want to hear?” mode. Go to their work station and you’re entering their zone. When you’re there, do you tower over them or do you kneel so you can speak eye to eye? Even better, kneel low enough so they are looking down on you as if you’re asking them for advice.
These types of communicating actions disarm, relax and most importantly, keep your teammates minds open to sharing the good, bad and ugly of things you NEED to hear in order to make better decisions and build stronger relationships. Remember, your people know more than you do. Building their trust starts with you.
The Second C – Candor
May I Be Candid?
Unstoppable teams have such tight connections among teammates that some will say “I know what he or she is thinking before they even say it”. That’s because in unstoppable teams, candor isn’t just reserved for the proverbial office water cooler chats – it’s the standard form of communication.
The most dangerous forms of communication are the ones where people feel they have to only report what others (you) want to hear – that’s a recipe for disaster. It’s a hidden landmine sure to sabotage any would-be team builder’s efforts to transform a group into an Unstoppable Team.
The tragic sinking of the US cargo ship El Faro in 2015 illustrates what can happen when a team is afraid to be candid with its leader. Audio from the black box revealed the crew knew the hurricane they were going into was far more serious than the captain believed, but no one spoke up. The ship ended up sinking and all on board died.
How do you get people to speak their minds about what they are seeing on their “battle fields”? You build an environment that is safe from ridicule or punishment. Guess who has to set the example? Yep, that’s right: YOU. You’re the one that has to open cans of candor every day and you have to be consistent. You’re the one who has to hang up the insecurity blanket called your ego before you walk through the front door. You’re the one who has to be vulnerable first. You’re the one who has to play the authenticity card so others will breathe a sigh of relief and say to themselves, “I can relate this person – he/she is human just like me.”
You don’t know how to do it? Sure you do – you just need to reprogram any management mumbo-jumbo you’ve learned over the years and start being real.
One way I relax my teammates is by asking for parenting advice every morning. I’ll tell them something funny or frustrating my boys did last night and say, “Anyone have any ideas how to get them to stop: beating on each other, throwing food, peeing on the floor (or their beds or on each other!)”. The list goes on and on.
What does that have to do business? More than you can imagine. Its gives teammates context about the challenges I have at home. It humanizes me and makes me relatable. It makes them laugh and when they do, they relax. When they relax, they’re more apt to share their insights and stories. When they share, they care — and caring leads to connecting. But you can’t connect if you’re not consistent about communicating with candor.
The Third C – Context
If candor disarms people, then context arms them. You need both to build Unstoppable bonds. Communicating a message or delivering a task without context doesn’t empower people to think, take ownership of the problem and seek different solutions. People are NOT machines — they are much better. Machines are built to do repetitive tasks – widgets don’t think, they do. If you give someone a task without the bigger picture, you’re treating them like a machine rather than a person. Offer them context and you’re not only sharing the big picture, you’re communicating “I want you to know what I know so you can help us find a better solution”.
Candor relaxes people but context focuses them – and when they are focused the real work gets done.
The Fourth C – Consistency
None of this will happen without you first making the effort to connect with your teammates. These actions can’t happen sometimes, they must happen all the time. Communication, candor and context won’t work without consistency.
Your communication, candor, context and consistency will be your greatest asset in building trustworthy relationships. Unstoppable Teams are built on trust, and building trust comes from the 4 “C’s” of connecting with people.
Open up and give your teammates all you have – I promise you won’t be disappointed.