Many teams across the world are still working remotely. Although it feels like a continued state of uncertainty, there are things that team leaders can do to keep their teams connected and on track. Whether working remotely, in the office, or via a combination of the two, you can still make a concerted effort to build relationships with your team members.
Healthy work relationships between managers and employees can strengthen work cultures and positively impact performance. After all, humans are naturally social beings that look for interactions and connections across every life situation. Not to mention, we spend nearly one-third of our lives at work.
From manager and employee relationships, to team member relationships, relationships at work are crucial to success. Positive work relationships build trust, often boosting productivity and performance in the process. Here are some authentic ways that you can build relationships with your employees – even when you can’t all gather in the break room.
Schedule and Keep Frequent 1-on-1 Meetings
Meetings abound in the corporate world, which has made the topic quite polarizing. Love them or hate them, meetings with employees actually save you time in the long run.
Meeting with your team members in a 1-on-1 setting will likely make them feel more comfortable opening up and trusting you. It also shows that you value them as an individual, not just as a team member. This personal connection can create a sense of camaraderie and help employees feel valued as employees and as people.
Regular check-ins also keep you attuned to how your employees are doing with work- related responsibilities. Take the opportunity to ask for feedback on the company’s direction, and ask open-ended questions about your employee’s work experience. You’ll find key insights about where your employee might need support and gaps where your company could be doing better.
For remote employees, virtual communication is more accessible than ever. If you can, check in with employees with a video call so you can make eye contact and read facial expressions and body language.
Even with numerous digital options for communicating, there’s something to be said for the connections people make in person. Use your best judgement to determine what’s appropriate based on local regulations, health guidance, and your employee’s personal situation. And whether it’s for lunch, coffee, or another event, try to meet up in a social setting as a team quarterly, and at a bare minimum once a year. If you meet as a team, be sure to acknowledge everyone’s contributions and review team progress.
Great managers empower their teams. To do this, strive to promote autonomy and to share responsibility with your reports.
As a leader, you can show employees that you trust them by letting them decide how to get something accomplished, rather than simply following your orders. Many employees today are more satisfied when they are granted the ability to create something of their own.
Give employees the opportunity to run projects and make increasingly larger decisions. Position yourself as a support system they can lean on when needed, rather than a micromanager. They’ll feel like they are contributing more and strive to do better because you trust them. Take a step back and motivate your employees by showing them what to do, while giving them the freedom to determine how.
Let them know that there won’t be negative consequences for falling short on an innovative task. Instead, model and encourage a growth mindset and your team members will learn that obstacles are opportunities to help the company grow stronger.
Include Them in Big-Picture Planning
Understanding the bigger picture will help employees understand why day-to-day operations are necessary. When team members feel out of the loop, it can be difficult for them to stay motivated and productive. People have a tendency to question why certain tasks need to be done if they view them as minutia. By involving them at a strategic level, you’re clarifying the connection between their work and the company’s purpose.
Always communicate your vision of the company’s trajectory and mission, and make sure employees see their part in it. When the vision isn’t clear, employees are left to rely on your next order blindly. Instead, show them how their efforts tie into something larger and shared by every team member. Relationships are much easier to build when everybody is on the same page.
A leader who appears approachable is one that focuses on the people within their organization. Being accessible to your employees plays a critical role in company success. Accessible leaders often possess and demonstrate the key qualities of curiosity, empathy and authenticity.
Why are these qualities so important to accessibility? A few reasons. First, curious leaders naturally strive to continuously learn. That tendency to seek knowledge puts them in a good position to be receptive to employee feedback. Empathetic leaders can often gauge the workplace climate accurately, read emotions, and easily understand others’ feelings – skills that make people eager to turn to them for support. Finally, employees feel comfortable being able to report their concerns to a leader who is transparent with them and open about their own struggles. This self-awareness can help managers guide employees in the right direction when their wisdom is needed most.
People want to be heard, and smart employers recognize this. In fact, 64% of businesses list communicating their strategy, values, and purpose to employees as a key priority.
Having the ability to actively listen to employees and provide them with insightful feedback strengthens relationships in the workplace. We all have a tendency to think about what to say next when someone is talking, but that’s not active listening. Active listening is giving your full attention to what someone is saying and showing them, through verbal cues or body language, that you are listening.
Apply your listening skills in every interaction that you have with team members. Use paraphrasing techniques while you communicate, such as summarizing what you think the speaker said, to show that you understand.
Ask thoughtful questions to demonstrate your genuine curiosity and willingness to dig deeper into concerns. You can also actively listen by using positive encouragement, encouraging employees to say more and to speak their minds.
Building a Better Workplace
Workplace culture is often defined first by leaders and then trickles down to the rest of the company. As such, it’s often up to leaders to set building great internal relationships as a high-priority item.
Building a work community where people feel psychologically safe and valued for their contributions is key to employee performance and retention. Take the time and make the effort to build authentic relationships in the workplace by amplifying your focus on your people, and your business will reap the rewards for years to come.