No matter how deeply you’ve honed your leadership skills, you’ve no doubt felt them tested over the last year. Due to unforeseen global events and public health concerns, companies have found their existing strategies, systems, and structures tested like never before.
That includes their ability to maintain strong team bonds.
Remote Work and Team Bonds
While remote workers have existed for quite some time, the last year has increased the scope and scale of the remote workforce.
Remote work has certainly served a helpful purpose over the last year, keeping business afloat and allowing people to keep working; however, both work-from-home (WFH) and hybrid systems have eroded team bonds and employees’ overall trust in one another.
Without being able to see one another from day to day or even (in some cases) predict how the workday would flow, remote teams found their rhythms breaking down.
Predictability is the foundation of trust. We’re willing to be vulnerable — to expose ourselves to potential risk — when we have reason to believe that someone will not take advantage of us or disappoint us. This comes only when we think we can anticipate how others will behave. (Harvard Business Review)
During the pandemic, our overall sense of predictability declined. This proved true both in our personal and in our professional lives, and we saw what these fluctuations did to our teams. Without patterns, systems, and structures to undergird our team interactions, even formerly strong bonds among teams began to lose their cohesion.
Fortunately, there are steps we can take to strengthen our team dynamics, even if we’re not returning to in-person, in-office work anytime soon.
5-Step Checklist to Strengthen Team Bonds
As leaders in our companies, it’s our responsibility to step up and be proactive in strengthening our team bonds. If you’re not sure where to start, we suggest these five steps.
Step 1: Managers using empathy and transparency.
Identifying and understanding other people’s feelings is a key aspect to leadership. That’s why empathy is no longer considered an optional skill for leaders.
In fact, empathy bonds people together and acts as glue in existing relationships. When leaders are able to maintain strong bonds with those on their teams, they enjoy distinct benefits.
- Better communication
- Greater sense of loyalty
- Increased willingness to cooperate
Better still, those working under empathetic leaders are much more likely to behave empathetically to those under their guidance. This creates a chain reaction of bonding that benefits the entire organization.
Step 2: Recognizing employees’ unique circumstances.
No two employees are dealing with identical issues. From work situations to team dynamics to details of their personal lives, everyone’s unique matrix affects how they’re able to thrive at work.
As leaders, none of us desire to know everything about everyone we work with. And yet, there’s a sense in which it hurts us all when we don’t know enough about what’s going on with those on our team.
Knowing and appreciating our team members as individuals can go a long way toward increasing our team bonds.
Step 3: Fostering a culture of improvement.
A culture of continuous improvement is one that allows organizations to reach one milestone after another. This is only possible when everyone involved is committed to improving their own knowledge, skills, and abilities day by day.
They key to promoting a culture of improvement is to focus on consistency. Rather than setting impossible, outlandish goals with your teams, setting ones that are consistently and incrementally higher allows everyone to improve while still feeling that achievement is not only possible but also probable.
Within this culture of improvement, team bonds strengthen naturally as everyone works together toward a common, reachable goal.
Step 4: Welcome critical feedback.
Embracing criticism rarely feels good, yet it’s a natural aspect of leadership. When you’re able to demonstrate that you welcome critical feedback, it’s good not just for team morale but also for the health of your entire company.
By using criticism constructively, you can position yourself as someone who learns from mistakes. This contributes to a culture where executives, managers and employees feel comfortable offering criticism focused on improvement. (The Globe and Mail)
To gracefully accept constructive criticism, be sure to
- Separate the personal and the professional
- Ask for specific details
- Solicit help to solve the problem
- Share your progress with your team
- Partner with others to offer self-improvement ideas
When your team sees that you’re open to adjusting and working together, you’ll enjoy stronger relationships and better team bonds as a result.
Step 5: Quick check-ins with remote workers.
By now, we’re all aware that managing remote workers requires different strategies than managing a fully in-person team.
Some common challenges of WFH teams may include:
- Lack of face-to-face supervision
- Inadequate tech and workspaces
- Lack of access to pertinent information
- Social isolation
- Distracting home environments
- Overwhelmed inboxes
- Screen time fatigue
Taking these issues as a whole, we can see that WFH team members are in need of check-ins, but that most of them would not appreciate ones that exacerbate their already existing challenges.
Scheduling quick check-ins with remote workers is vital. In order to keep these check-ins from feeling like an added ordeal, be sure to provide remote workers with a variety of communication options with pre-determined sets of expectations so that everyone is on the same page.
In addition to work-focused interactions, remote workers can also benefit from:
- Emotional support
- Regular social interaction
Teams that enjoy these consistently experience stronger bonds and better working relationships.
Platinum Group Can Help
Though times are hard, resources and tools are available to help leaders survive and thrive.
Platinum Group is a full service human capital management (HCM) resource that allows businesses to manage their payroll, benefits compliance, track time and attendance and other various human resources functions in a way that maximizes efficiency and eliminates redundancies with the platform, iSolved. For more information about Platinum Group or to schedule a demo of iSolved please visit our website.
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