Keys to high performing teams part 4 – Good relationships


This is the fourth article in a series on 10 keys to high performing teams. You can see the original post here.

The links between productivity and workplace relationships are so obvious they hardly need spelling out. You are much more likely to work hard and go the extra mile for people you care about. You are much more likely to let down people you don’t care about.

Not only that, good relationships are the number one reason for people to remain in their current jobs. A recent poll conducted by the Australian Institute of Management found that ‘good relationships with co-workers’ topped the list of reasons to stay. It was ahead of job satisfaction, flexible working arrangements, great work/life balance, feeling valued by the organisation, or job security. Salary came behind all of these other reasons.

And supportive colleagues can also help prevent lost work time due to stress-related illness. A major survey of 24,000 Canadians found that lack of social support at work more than doubles an employee’s risk of depression—the leading cause of disability worldwide.

So how to you get your team from being colleagues to being friends? Here are a few pointers:

  • Create space and opportunities for social interaction. The conversations around the kitchen or coffee station can be just as important as those in the boardroom, but they are less likely to happen if the physical space is unwelcoming. Creating social opportunities off site, whether through “team building” excursions or simply going out for a drink at the end of the week, are also important.
  • Encourage people to bring their ‘authentic selves’ into the workplace. The ‘defining moments’ exercise which I wrote about previously can help with this.
  • Zero tolerance for bullying behaviour. For people to have good relationships they have to feel safe and relaxed enough to let their guard down with each other. Unfortunately it only takes one toxic person to create a toxic work environment. Bullying behaviour includes making any demeaning or derogatory comments about someone. It may be around a person’s ethnicity, colour, gender, body size, sexuality or culture. It can include sexual or physical harassment. As well as having a legal responsibility to prevent bullying, leaders must understand that it has a major impact on productivity. People who indulge in bullying behaviour must be told it is not acceptable. If they continue to bully, then they must be removed from the team.
  • Equip people to understand and value diversity. This goes beyond multiculturalism to understanding that everyone is unique, and so our teams are going to be made up of people who see the world differently from each other. Sometimes those differences can cause friction. The two-hour Discover the Other workshop gives people some of the tools to grapple with those differences constructively. The Talent Dynamics profiles and workshop can give insights into people’s diverse talents and strengths. The discovery that the things we struggle with, others find easy (and vice-versa) gives a strong sense of why we need each other, and a deeper appreciation of our diversity.
  • Celebrate together whenever there is an excuse. Birthdays, individual achievements, team successes, people getting engaged or married, religious holidays – all are cause for celebration. Whenever there is an event which is significant to an individual team member, if it can be celebrated as a team it will strengthen relationships.

Mike Lowe
Helping individuals and teams get into flow

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