One of the most important aspects of work culture that any line manager or leader needs to nurture is a strong sense of team spirit. Open and honest communication, a collective set of goals, a great work environment and the right mix of skills and personality will help you create the ultimate team. So once you’ve invested a lot of time, energy and expense in constructing your team, how do you know that there is a strong sense of team spirit? Achieving revenue goals, SLAs or objectives don’t tell the whole story, so here are my observations from my teams on when you know your team has cracked it.
Camaraderie – one of my teams has had a really tough time of late. They have a very high workload, and a few challenges around balancing time between the day job and being able to make changes to improve the process and service delivery. I’m really proud of their consistency in service, and regular thank you emails from customers confirm that they are doing a great job, but I worry about their morale. The reality is that the team manager is well respected and cherished in the team. Not afraid to roll up their sleeves when things get tough, creating a real sense of camaraderie. So even when things get tough, they pull together as a united team. The impact of the team manager is critical – making sure that each team member is valued for their input, throwing away archaic attitudes around hierarchy to embrace a common set of goals.
United we stand – There are certain points in the year for many businesses which are crunch times. Christmas for retail, financial year end for banking, summer holidays for leisure companies. For one of my teams, that crunch period results in a trebling of workload, and very tight delivery deadlines. The team can only achieve success by working across a number of other teams. When stress levels rise, there is always a risk that tempers fray and communication breaks down. This team focuses on the customer outcome to ensure that despite any frustration, they get stuff fixed on time. The efforts to build bonds beyond their own team pay dividends, and in times when workload permits, the cross-team bonds are reinforced. The team displays mutual respect, not just within the team, but with their colleagues who they rely on, so that when the going gets tough, they pull together rather and reduce the stress.
Welcoming – One observation on teams with a strong sense of team spirit is that it is often driven by a few members of the team. This doesn’t always mean the manager. This can be extremely beneficial, because rather than always looking to the manager for steer and guidance, the team looks to each other. On occasions, that can also impede a team, for example, making the team into a clique, that becomes impossible to penetrate. In turn, this make the team become more insular and isolated, and will ultimately have a negative impact on their perception, performance and value to the business. One of my teams recently had a new addition – the newest team member had some experience, but was not fully familiar with our set up. The team were incredibly welcoming, each making a connection with the new team member, nurturing their success. End result – within 2 months of joining the team, the new team member is firing on all cylinders, delivering an exceptional job and already delighting customers. Whilst this team clearly has strong bonds, they are not impenetrable – making this a team that is united and yet humble at the same time. They will continue to be high performers because they see greater strength comes from new skills and knowledge from outside the team.
Nurture top to bottom – Of all my teams, one particular team lives the values of the business. Inclusive, supportive and really fun to work with. Anyone who spends time with the team always talks with fondness and respect. This is absolutely driven from the top – the leader of the team has a clear vision and continually works with the team to take them on the journey together. The passion of the team manager to get people excited about what we do, and just how impactful their work is on the customer experience is relentless. But in a good way – every team member feels valued and respected, each team member is positively encouraged to come up with, scope out and implement the changes that they know we need to make. Though this continual nurture programme, the team manager is creating a solid succession plan, individual career paths and team loyalty. Being able to “feed” other parts of the business with passionate, highly skilled and customer-centric people is the added bonus from this approach. The leader of any function can’t be caught up in too much detail, but needs to be close enough to nurture each team member – it’s a tough balance to get right.
These factors combined create a halo effect – the positivity and happiness of a team with a strong bond rubs off on others. People become engaged and inspired by a strong sense of team spirit. Some may aspire to join that team, whilst others will start behaving in the same way, thus creating a new sense of togetherness within their own team.
If your own team does not feel so united, seek out a team with a strong sense of team spirit. Rather than feeling resentment towards a strong and united team , it’s far more effective to observe what unique traits the teams and work out how you fan the flames within your own team to replicate the success. Align yourself with those who have a strong sense of team spirit, be open and ask how they achieved this and be prepared to listen and make changes to get your team into that healthy spot.