11 Ways to Connect with Your Team that Every Team Leader Should Know

11 Ways to Connect with Your Team that Every Team Leader Should Know

A recent Gallup poll shows that only 29% of Americans are engaged at work (Gasp!). While this seems like bad news, the good news is that your business outcomes could improve considerably with just a small bump in employee engagement.

As a team leader, you have the power to move this number upward and improve the quality of your workplace and of your employees’ experience at work.

How? One sure way to increase employee engagement is by connecting with the team you lead in ways they will love. The hard thing is knowing what your employees will appreciate, but as a consultant who has worked with a multitude of teams and team leaders, here are 10 surefire ways to connect.

  1. We’re going to start simple here: say hello, smile, and acknowledge the presence of your team members. Yes, I know this sounds like common sense, but when you’re busy it’s easy to get so focused that you might forget to mind your manners. Do like your mama told you, and say hello to people when you walk into a room.
  1. Make a point to know and ask about co-workers’ lives outside of work.   I’m not saying you have to dig into deep, dark secrets, but generally, you should know what’s happening in the lives of your team members. Is Joe sending a daughter off to college, or is Morgan the bridesmaid in her sister’s wedding? This kind of info can be key to knowing when one of your team members might need a little extra encouragement.
  1. Have regularly scheduled staff meetings to keep team members in the loop. You may not have time to meet weekly, but at minimum, a monthly team meeting helps to keep communication lines open and may prevent future problems from surfacing. When a team sees that the leader is committed to a monthly meeting, it tends to up their commitment level too and increases their desire to help reach team goals.
  1. Along the lines of meetings, a great way to connect during those meetings is to allow a fellow team member the chance to take a turn in the spotlight. Suggest that a designated employee share a ten minute info session on a topic that the whole team could benefit from, or come armed with a discussion question and throw it out to the group for a ten minute round table discussion. Allowing peers to educate each other will help strengthen your team and increase the knowledge base of all.
  1. Know the motivators and stressors of each member of your team. When you know this kind of information about the individuals you lead, you can predict their behavior in certain situations and improve outcomes. A simple tool such as a DiSC assessment can act as a decoder and give you insight into how to best lead each of your direct reports to his or her potential. When employees feel understood, they are more likely to give you 110% effort.
  1. Give team members the benefit of the doubt. Even when the pressure is on and the workday is crammed full of to do’s, be sure to check in one on one if you find that a team member has made a mistake or fallen short on completing a task. They may be too intimidated to admit their faults to you, and only when you have shown that you won’t lose it when they admit their weaknesses can they truly trust you. Trust can help teams move forward quickly even when things didn’t go as planned.
  1. Allow team members a forum to give input on the state of the team and its goals in an organized, time designated framework. An annual team gathering or retreat is essential to creating a well functioning, cohesive team that stays productive and positive. A program such as The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, allows you to be a participant along with your team and let’s someone else elicit invaluable feedback and action plans from your team, a job that’s not always easy for the team leader.
  1. Plan unstructured time at least quarterly to allow team members the chance to decompress while forming tighter bonds. A team happy hour or dinner is a great way to provide carefree time necessary for team growth. You may be surprised at how such a simple gesture can create a shared experience that will be talked about for weeks to come.
  1. Talk about the strengths of individual team members in their absence with others on the team. This info is sure to get back to them, and the boost that an individual gets from hearing positive feedback via a third party source is huge.
  1. Remember that file you probably have where you save notes of thanks and kudos you’ve gotten over the years?   Now it’s your turn to be the giver of such gifts. A handwritten note trumps all, but even a quick email or voicemail has the power to keep an employee engaged long after it is received. Sincere sentiments of appreciation never go out of style.
  1. Laugh at yourself. There’s nothing more disengaging than a boss who takes herself or himself too seriously. Let your team see you have a little fun or be self-deprecating. Your humanity can go a long way in keeping your team connected to you.

Remember as the leader of the team, you have the power to create positive (and profitable) experiences in the lives of those you lead. Take the initiative and CONNECT.

About the Author

Monica Scalf is the founder of The Playground Group, LLC, a company that helps organizations increase bottom line results by investing in the development of their people. Since 2009, she has been teaching workshops on teamwork, productivity, and personal effectiveness in places such as P&G, Lexis Nexis, and Xavier University. Her mission is to help create positive and productive workplaces where employees thrive without sacrificing personal happiness.