The higher you get on the career ladder, the colder and lonelier it becomes. You may be a talented leader. Nevertheless, you will make mistakes or unpopular decisions. In the long run, your job is to make people do what needs to be done. And they feel it.
Now you add the reality of the workplace. Companies compete each other in the perfection of covering up Herzberg’s hygiene factors. They think of efficient workspace, convenient offices, competitive compensations. Still, they forget about main motivation factor – relationships.
It is cheaper and easier to keep people distracted from the stress at work with cookies. It is safer to keep employees separated, so they don’t leave in packs. Or at least don’t have enough frank talks about how unfulfilling the job is.
As a boss, do you have control other it?
Sure. It is simple.
Moreover, you don’t have to be a top executive to implement it. Be that a department, project team, or a few people you lead – the rules are the same.
Have meals together – don’t talk about the work.
Whenever possible try to have a group of people to have meals together.
There are many ways to get this going.
– Just ask if you can join another group.
– Initiate a lunch and invite anyone who wants.
– Invite for a paid lunch.
In any case, it is just starters. If you can make it a pleasant time, you can quickly make it a habit.
There are several rules that I usually try to imply invisibly.
1. No cell phones. Just say something like: “I don’t want anyone distracts us, so I just turn it off.” And do it.
2. One topic at the table. It is not a problem when there are about four people. However, if it is a lunch for ten, they will break into the groups.
One crucial thing you need to be on a lookout.
It should not transform into a close circle group. Keep the doors open for anyone to join. Put some effort to rotate and add new people from the team.
OK, what should you do on such lunches?
Encourage people to talk about themselves.
The goal is to let people feel safe to talk about themselves. You can take the lead and tell them something interesting or funny about yourself.
Just remember to keep out of the work topics. Also, make sure that you are telling things that they can relate to.
People tend to talk about things they like. Just let them do that.
“Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.” – Stephen Hawking
The benefits are huge. You get to know your team better. You find out their desires and goals. Sometimes, they will share fears and insecurities. Most importantly sooner or later you will get permission to care for more private and intimate matters.
You can leverage all of that in different ways. Develop better motivation strings. Show compassion and care during their difficult periods. Become a friend.
There is also an excellent practice for newcomers. Ask them to provide a small visual presentation about themselves. It can be a photo collage, a mind map, a story. Again, the catch is to describe non-work related sides of a person. It helps to find similarities and connection points for the people.
But it is not enough to build bridges between several persons. Moreover, not all them will be able to become friends and match with each other.
So what can you do?
Lead by Example – Care About Your Team
You can set the tone and baselines.
Show that people can interact and have fun. Show that it is OK to help and care for others. Let them see that you care for healthy relationships in the teams.
Lots of articles on this topic suggest approaches applicable for some tragic events, difficult emotional periods, etc. I say, start from the communication on a basic level.
People spend more and more time on social media for a reason. It is more rewarding and pleasant.
If you want to engage your team in old-fashion talking, you need to suggest something better in return.
And you can do it.
Talk to people to reduce stress and uncertainty, to encourage, to laugh and build connections. Show them, how recovering and relaxing it may be to have a cup of coffee or a mug of beer with you.
They will follow and soon you will see how seamless it will be become to introduce similar activities.
As a leader, you need to encourage your people to talk and interact on a personal level. With all the benefits of social media and world outside the office, you have to work hard. Moreover, you need to make a conscious decision yourself to make the work a better place. Do you actually want that?