Leading connected and authentic teams
Meaningful connection is key to a well-functioning team. It's all too easy to become fragmented when everyone is focused on individual goals, to become blinkered when deadlines loom, and to become detached when challenges arise. But when everyone is communicating authentically in a psychologically safe environment, the whole team – and business can thrive.
We recently held a practical workshop that explored some of the ways we can foster connection, understanding, and belonging in teams.
Here are some of the main learnings from the session:
Create a designed alliance
Many relationships exist and function without explicit design, but if you want long-lasting and productive unions it can help to be open with expectations and boundaries.
A designed alliance can be useful for relationships between individuals but also as a way to introduce meaningful connection in a team.
Every team is different so the principles of every alliance will be to, but consider including things like:
- Engage and be present
- Assume the best in people
- Embrace vulnerability
- Listen to understand and ask for clarification
- Share to build trust
- Follow up on conversations
- Be imperfectly perfect
It's important to involve your team in the design of the alliance. How do they like to communicate and to be communicated with? How could their relationships function better?
Encourage authentic interactions
To truly connect, we need to truly listen. It takes work and practice to authentically engage but it's vital to developing strong relationships.
Encourage your team to employ active listening, here are some good starting principles:
Be in the moment – it seems obvious but be focused on the moment and think about your body language as well as your frame of mind.
Don't judge – keep an open mind, be open to new ideas and perspective and don't presume you know what's going on or what the other person is thinking.
Reflect – don’t presume you've understood what the other person is saying, if you're not sure paraphrase it back to them to check.
Clarify – ask questions to make sure you're on the same page, active listening is about asking not telling.
Recap – at the end of the conversation reflect on the key themes you've covered and ask the other person to do the same.
As a leader it can be really useful to consider the role values play in your interactions and to encourage others to do the same.
What's important to the other person? What motivates them? What are their values? Approaching interactions with these thoughts in mind can help us to connect better and understand the motivations and actions of others.
Try asking questions like:
- What is important to you about this?
- What would great look like?
- What value is at play here for you?
- What value is being stepped on here?
- What is an idea you have to solve this?
- How could you shift this?
- What is one thing you'll do this week?
- What if you did know?
- How would you like to be accountable?
We all want to feel like we're being, seen, listened to, and heard. Demonstrating authentic empathy plays a big role in this and shows you see the individual, understand their value and recognise the importance of what they are saying.
A good way to ensure you're demonstrating this is through empathetic acknowledgement. Some good phrases to use during interactions are:
- Sounds like...
- I am hearing / seeing / noticing...
- I sense...
The power of authentic leadership
People are drawn to authenticity, it makes them feel safe and valued. When you lead in a consistent, transparent and open way, offering your true self it inspires trust and loyalty.
Here are some key principles for authentic leadership:
- Be honest and truthful
- Create space for reflection without agenda
- Actively listen and curb your enthusiasm to speak
- Be respectful and empathetic
- Check-in and follow up
- Invite dissenting ideas and seek to understand
- Design and live by your alliance
- Get grounded and be available
- Think about the environment and adapt it
When communication is authentic, and teams are connected it can open up new possibilities in the workplace. Implementing just a few of the principles can help leaders manage more effectively and generate powerful and productive interactions across the business.