Robert is the Founder of Patin & Associates and the Author of the international best-selling book The Agency Blueprint.
Your team is your most valuable resource. With a connected, enthusiastic team by your side, your business can blow open the doors of creativity, innovation and passion, leading to better outcomes and a boosted reputation for your company.
In my work helping creative agency owners grow their businesses, I’ve found that human connection is the true key to maximizing team efficiency. As social animals, humans’ creativity and cooperation thrive when they feel connected to the people they’re working with.
That connection, however, rarely comes naturally in the workplace. It takes effort and direction on your part as the team leader to make sure that critical connection grows and thrives. Here are five ways you can foster human connection and create more effective teams.
1. Get To Know Yourself
As a leader, your actions have more influence over the success or failure of your team than anything else. A room full of creative geniuses will flounder under bad leadership, and it’s quite stunning what a great leader can do to transform average employees into a passionate, dedicated workforce.
MORE FOR YOU
When you know yourself, you’re better able to connect with the people around you. Great leadership is all about connection, and that requires you to be deeply in tune with your own emotions, motivations and fears.
I am a huge advocate for therapy and self-exploration. Dive deep into what makes you think and behave the way you do. What are your values, and where do those values come from? What makes you respond to situations in specific ways? Spend some time, either alone or with a therapist, uncovering what makes you, you.
2. Relearn What Management Means
When I first started managing people, I was guilty of the “command and control” management style. You know the one, with a cutthroat, overworked staff that’s terrified of making a mistake and triggering the wrath of a screaming boss.
Until I realized it didn’t work.
The old “command and control” method was thought at one time to be the best way to boost efficiency. Turns out, it doesn’t. Millennials and Gen Z workers — who make up more and more of the workforce every day as they come of age and as Boomers and Gen X retire — thrive best with the “full safe and secure” management style. They need to feel appreciated and respected at work. These generations grew up with the oft-lamented participation trophies and acknowledgement for their efforts as much as their results, and they expect the same thing in the workplace. At the end of the day, they want more than a paycheck. They want fulfillment.
The older generation may scoff at millennials wanting personal fulfillment at work, but from my experience, when a younger worker is properly supported, they throw their hearts and souls into their work. For them, a career is tied into their sense of self-worth and identity, so they bring the full force of their passion to work.
This is exactly what you want in a team member. The more committed they are, the better the work is, so clients are happier, and you get more referrals and repeat business.
Don Rheem does a great job of explaining how and why the “full safe and secure” management style is the key to more effective teams in his book Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures. I don’t have any professional affiliation with the author or the book.
3. Fully Embrace Company Culture
“Company culture” is such a popular buzzword these days, but so many companies do it wrong. If your managers are micromanaging everyone, you can’t undo that damage by having Hawaiian shirt Friday.
Figure out what you want your company’s culture to be, and then really embrace it. What do you value most in your workforce? Is it creativity, ethics, innovation, honesty, old-school values or something else? Figure out what’s most important, and then build your company culture around that in real, tangible, all-encompassing ways.
A strong company culture gives employees something to rally around, a connection point at the hub of the wheel. Company culture helps define and design the way team members relate to each other, which can help foster connection to each other and the company itself.
This is not an easy process, so don’t go it alone. Do plenty of research, and consider hiring a consultant that can help you define your values, design your company culture and implement actions that bring it to life.
4. Improve Efficiency With Socialization
Google did an incredible study called Project Aristotle on what makes teams effective. One experiment in particular caught my eye. Google built two teams, both with equally talented individuals. At the end of the experiment, one group showed a much higher rate of effectiveness than the other. The difference? That more effective group spent the first five minutes of every meeting chatting about life. By connecting with each other on a human level first, they made each other feel safe and felt comfortable having uninhibited brainstorming sessions. The group with strict leaders and agendas was the less effective one.
Reading this study was an “oh crap” moment for me. I was the type of leader who likes to take control during meetings. I realized I needed to take a backseat in these situations and let my employees roll on their own. It was a difficult shift to make, but honestly, it’s worked wonders for my team.
5. Give Yourself A Break
When I was 20, I was promoted to the head of an accounting team. All of a sudden, I was managing people twice my age. There I was, bossing around people old enough to be my parents, and I thought I was hot stuff. I tried to do the “command and control” management style like I had been taught.
I doubt this will come as a surprise: My team didn’t like me. Eventually, I realized that I had to endear myself to my team members and earn their respect, not just bark orders through my office door.
It was very humbling to realize I still had a lot to learn. If you’re a strict leader now, you’ve got some hard lessons ahead of you. It takes strength of character to take a deep, honest look at yourself and change your ways, as well as changing the processes at your workplace. I promise you, though, if you stick with it, your teams’ enhanced efficiency will be worth it.