10 tips to create a strong teamspirit
Building teamspirit: where to begin?
Teams with a close group culture benefit from synergy. A cohesive group culture enables teams to create performance far beyond the sum of individual capabilities. And good news, according to New York bestselling author Daniel Coyle, such a strong culture can be created by practicing specific skills. The most important characteristic of a successful team is that the members communicate one powerful overarching idea: we are safe and connected. This may sound logical, but a lot of organisations unintendedly created a corporate jungle where a survival of the fittest strategy prevails. Unfortunately, our brains don’t process safety very logically. We are wired to be continually on the lookout for danger. When our amygdala senses a threat, it immediately sets of our fight or flight mode, triggering behaviour that our brain thinks we need to do to survive. Unfortunately, or not, that same amygdala also plays a vital role in building social connections. And the thing that makes it act like a guard dog or a guide dog, is it’s feeling of safety and belonging.
Safety is built overtime. It starts with consistent social behavioural cues, such as close physical proximity, eye contact, and physical touch, but also turn-taking, fewer interruptions, questions, active listening, humour, and frequent attentive courtesies. A steady pulse of such interactions helps answer ever-present questions: Are we safe here? What’s our future with these people? Are there dangers lurking?
Belonging cues, when repeated, create psychological safety and help the brain shift from fear to connection. The cues of belonging need to be continually refreshed and reinforced. Eventually, we experience a powerful switch in our minds and feel a chemistry: we are close, we are safe, we share a future. Building safety requires you to recognize small cues, respond quickly, and deliver a targeted signal. This comes with a learning curve and below are 10 techniques that help.
1. Show vulnerability
We have a natural tendency to try to hide our weaknesses and appear competent. But to create safety, we must do the opposite. Leaders better expose fallibility and actively invite feedback. Open up, show you make mistakes, invite input and actively listen. Sharing vulnerabilities creates a deeper connection by sparking a response of “how can I help”?
2. Embrace the messenger
It is not always nice to hear, but people who give tough feedback, bring bad news or point out weaknesses are necessary in a team. It’s important to embrace and encourage those members. It creates safety and encourages people to speak the truth fearlessly and with the best intentions.
3. Preview future connections
Successful teams share a common goal, a shared future. It helps to show the team where they are headed by continuously making a connection between now and the future. Explaining how team members contribute to that goal, increases the relevance of their work and thus their involvement.
4. You can never overdo thank-yous
Research shows that a thank-you from one person makes people behave far more generously to others in the group. So one thank-you has a much greater effect than just on the recipient. It is not only an expression of gratitude; it is an crucial belonging cue that generates a contagious sense of safety, connection, and motivation.
5. Hire meticulously and deal with bad apples
Who is in and who is out is one of the most powerful signals a group can send. Successful groups display zero tolerance to poor behaviour. A team member who does not perform well, has a negative attitude, or doesn’t behave in the interest of the team, can be toxic to the atmosphere and team collaboration. In such a case, it is good to investigate the cause of the behaviour together as soon as possible. If there is no improvement, then parting ways is the best option for all parties.
6. Create collison-rich spaces
Collisions, serendipitous personal encounters, are the life of any organization driving community, creativity and cohesion. Design of spaces should be optimized to create more collisions. Designing for physical proximity creates a whole set of effects including increased connections and a feeling of safety. Considering the recent COVID-measures this is a true challenge. So, when working remotely, it’s even more important to communicate, facilitate meet-ups, and keep up connections.
7. Make sure everyone has a voice
Leaders have the job to build connections and make sure everyone is heard. For example, some do this by making a rule that meetings don’t end until everyone speaks. Others do this by holding regular open-reviews where anyone can pitch in.
8. Give tough, truthful feedback
To solve hard problems together, teams require many moments of tough feedback and uncomfortable truth-telling. By creating a safe space to give effort, feedback boosts effort and performance immensely. In such an environment, a point of criticism does not have to be squeezed in between 2 compliments, but people can simply address each other. Of course it is just as important to compliment each other when things go well.
9. Give new members a warm welcome
When someone joins a group, their brains are quickly deciding whether to connect or not. Successful cultures capitalize on these moments to send powerful belonging cues. Welcome newbies, take time, acknowledge the presence of the new person and make them feel they are part of the team: we are together now. It creates long-term security, connection and loyalty.
10. Embrace fun
This is obvious, but still worth mentioning. Laughter is not just laughter; it’s the most fundamental sign of safety and connection. So there should always be room for a joke, for socializing and for celebrating successes. That’s not too bad, is it?