One-third of the day, we sleep, the other third we spend with our friends and family or simply live our personal lives, the last third of our day we spend working with our colleagues in a professional environment. It goes without saying, that people are the very core of any organization who want to grow or achieve their goals.
However, as a team leader, how well do you actually know the people who make up your team?
In order to reach our common goals and aspirations, we can work like robots if we wish — tick off successfully completed tasks from our to-do lists, achieve okay results, pat ourselves on the back and move on to new ones. But where’s the fun in that? Or for that matter, is it worth spending a third of your day with people you barely actually know?
On a daily basis, we are all driven by specific emotions and value sets that determine how we best work, communicate and collaborate with each other. Therefore, as a team leader, the more you know about your people the better you can work with them, and consequently enjoy the process a lot more and deliver better results. Here are a few ways you can get to know your team much better.
It really is that simple. If you have a question, you’re doubting something or you’re simply curious, the easiest way to find out is for you to vocalize whatever is on your mind. Sticking your nose into other people’s personal lives is definitely not the way to go, but showing genuine interest in what they like to do in their free time, what books they’re reading or which movies they enjoy, or what they are thinking about at a random moment time is not annoying or irrelevant. If you’re not able to have a casual conversation with your team, what makes you think you can do it well in a more important matter? In order to get a head start in building meaningful interpersonal relationships and finding a common ground on issues big or small, work-related or not, you just have to start from somewhere.
Research shows that 78% of people who work 30–50 hours per week, spend more time with their co-workers than they do with their own family. Think about how frustrated and bored one can get if all this time is filled with all work and no play. That’s why teams should put more emphasis on doing fun things together and through exciting and playful activities, learn more about each other. Be it a team sport, an occasional board game or anything else slightly adventurous which you can do together — it will help you realize much more about your peers than hanging around in an office and working together. Through playful situations, you will learn how people manage stress, how they deal with winning and losing, how the communicate, what they prioritize in teamwork, are they by nature rather a lone wolf or head of the pack. Make that learning experience a pleasant one and you’ll make a few friends along the way.
Be it birthdays, anniversaries or important personal or professional achievements — celebrate them! Even if some achievements might come across as natural parts of the working process, they are still worth noticing because it’s something you’ve put collective effort into. 81% of the working population believes that celebrating personal or professional achievements with the team makes them feel more valued at the workplace. However, celebrations have another useful side to them — they’re a perfect excuse for letting your hair down and spending quality time with your team in a more informal setting and get to know each other on a more personal level.
Do 1:1 meetings
1:1 meetings are actually nothing new, they’ve just become more popular in recent years as a mean of boosting employee engagement and happiness. If done correctly, this meeting format can prove to be very effective in receiving feedback and identifying important issues. The main thing about the 1:1 is that even if done in a rather informal setting, they should always be scheduled and pre-planned. It’s about having a private conversation mostly about work related issues, but in their essence, they’re much more personal than any other meeting. Use this possibility and time not only to discuss work but to get to know each other a little better. Build trust and get things off your chest if needed. Go for coffee or for a walk, but above all, as a manager, make the situation as comfortable as possible so that your team members would feel that the environment initiates openness and trust.
Gut feeling and guessing still play a major role in getting to know your employees and team members. We assume that we know someone, and think we know their characteristics, what drives and motivates them. Therefore, more often than not, team leaders make wrong decisions in how they communicate and work with their people or how they motivate and engage them. No business would make marketing or sales decisions based on assumptions — they’re done based on metrics, facts and numbers. The same can be done with people. There are many tools out there that help you make right “people decisions” based on actual data. People analytics and team assessment technologies help you to understand your team better, bring actual facts into the process of hiring and building your team, and tell you what your team’s strengths and weaknesses are. Plus, they’ll tell you what to do to make improvements to your collaboration and team dynamics and eliminate any risk factors. That’s exactly what Teamscope does, for example.
It really does not matter which method you use, if you use one or many, or find your own that work for you. What matters is that you really know the people you manage and work with. Much too often we find ourselves in a room with the people we work with, while knowing everything about the work we do and goals we need to achieve, but at the same time knowing close to nothing about each other. This should change.