Team Building: Creating Strong Relationships at Work

Trust is the foundation of any relationship and work is no exception. Strong teams boast trust, respect and collaboration -- but how do they get there? Building a great team means understanding each team member as both an individual and a part of the whole; it means knowing how everyone works best and how to set each up for success. Being intentional about building a culture of transparency regardless of outside circumstances will result in open-minded and engaged employees. Here are our favorite ways to build strong teams:

Be Approachable

A great first step toward strong team relationships is establishing an open-door policy . This shows your team you are open to feedback and collaboration in a timely manner. Some things shouldn’t have to wait until you can schedule a meeting! Giving your staff the ability to pop over to your desk to discuss a challenge or ask for help is vital to building trust (and agility) with your team.

Hire the Right People

Building strong teams is a process that starts from the moment you hire someone. It takes careful planning and strategy to ensure a balanced team in terms of both skill and personality. Take a look at your team’s infrastructure and determine if a potential new hire is going to fit into the greater team dynamic. If your team is collaborative and high energy and the applicant is someone who prefers to work in quiet independence, consider how they react to those personalities. If they’re comfortable with others being boisterous when they are not, they could be the balance you’ve been searching for. If not, it may be best to keep interviewing. Hiring for attitude and team fit can sometimes outweigh specific skill competencies.

RELATED: How to Avoid Making Bad Hires

Onboard Mindfully or Thoughtfully

Building lasting team relationships begins immediately on day one. Though your new hire may not remember every person’s name during onboarding, make it a point to introduce them to team members in various capacities. Instead of having them train one-on-one with the same trainer the whole time, let them shadow a variety of teammates. Not only does this give your new hire a chance to see a variety of work styles and workflows, it also gives them chance to get to know several team members quickly.

Lead with Transparency

Leadership is all about developing your team, expanding their skillsets and preparing them for bigger and greater responsibilities, but not everything can happen at once. There are times when you may find yourself in caught between balancing business goals and managing team dynamics. Be honest with your team members when a requested change can’t happen – or can’t happen yet. Be humble in your faults when your plans to make changes fall through and how you plan to get back on track. The best leaders are the ones willing to say they made a mistake and demonstrate how to effectively bounce back. While you don’t have to share every intimate detail (and sometimes you can’t), it’s important to make your team feel included in the conversation. You never know, perhaps they have an approach or solution you hadn’t thought of!

Allow Autonomy

Some people work best being micromanaged, but many do not. Allow your team the freedom to meet their goals and expectations on their own terms. If someone needs to collaborate to finish a project, they have the option to do that. Another may need quiet solitude to finish up their projects. It could even mean allowing your team to work a flexible schedule to accomplish their goals. Just be sure to clearly state your expectations for production, especially if it involves creative scheduling or the privilege of remote work. Trust is the backbone to all working relationships, and by letting your team choose how they complete their work, you’re actively showing them that you trust their judgement.

RELATED: How to Retain Your Top Talent

Encourage Collaboration

Not everyone enjoys or excels at working independently and in the modern workplace, collaboration is valuable. Foster a stronger team bond by encouraging collaboration so your staff can learn from each other and form positive relationships. Is there a cross-divisional project looking for support that requires multiple areas of expertise? Perhaps one teammate is at max bandwidth while another is seeking additional responsibility. Special bonus if the need is in an area they’ve been wanting to learn! By getting to know your team’s individual interests and aspirations you can find opportunities to use those passions to solve problems around the office.

Model Empathy

The most important trait a leader can have is the ability to listen. Actively listening to your team (and checking for nonverbal cues) can give insight into what they’re truly thinking or feeling which can help you in the long run. How can you inspire someone if you don’t understand their motivations? Give your team your full attention during any conversations and you’ll begin to see what makes them tick, which will give you a better ability to communicate with them as time goes on. Emotions make everything seem bigger, so even small issues on the team have the potential to bloom into something larger. Recognize where those emotions come from and remove them from any situation in a compassionate way. Always try to get your team to see the situation from a different, more empathetic perspective.

Show Your Appreciation

Appreciation goes a long way to building open communication and respect within teams. It could be as simple as offering to go out for coffee for your 1:1 meeting instead of staying in the office, bringing treats for holidays or special occasions, or even letting your team go home 30 minutes early after a busy week. Team lunches or activities outside of the office are great ways to bring your team back together after difficult seasons, but you don’t have to wait for a scheduled event to give thanks. Offer words of encouragement and thanks when you see a team member going above and beyond. Waiting to applaud them in a more public environment is fine but doing it in the moment will reinforce that behavior immediately. Recognizing and appreciating that we are all human beings outside of work goes a long way to building healthy team dynamics as well as work-life balance.

Need help growing your team? Reach out to our account management team today!