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How to build team morale – without the cringe factor
There’s no i in team – that’s basic spelling. But if you want to encourage people to get along, tread carefully.
Or not. Assess the personalities involved and the situation they've found themslves in. Will straight talking serve them better than talking around the subject or pussy-footing? How bad are things? Do you have time to adopt a 'softly softly' approach, or is it time for action? Be ready to shoot from the hip and take a firmer line if needed - it may be what they've all been praying and hoping for.
Allow employees time off to pursue passion projects, such as charity or sport. And try not to disrupt personal schedules. “The millennial generation – both men and women – don’t want to live their entire life to work,” says Elisabeth Kelan, senior lecturer in work and organisations at King’s College London.
Hang on. I'm a confirmed, dyed-in-the-wool Generation X-er, and I need all of that too. Don't be fooled into attaching labels to people, assuming all 16-24 year olds want one thing and 30-40 year olds another. If it rewards you and enriches you, age is irrelevant. Putting people into neat little boxes may make things tidier for you, but it can restrict them horribly.
If people are actively pushed to contribute ideas beyond their job description, it makes them feel warmer about organisational goals. Ensure staff are aware of major initiatives, and invite feedback from everyone. Celebrate successes as a team, but don’t limit it to performance-related events – birthdays, engagements or babies are ready-made opportunities to get people together.
Goodness me, yes. You're dealing with human beings after all. They celebrate and find motivation, energy and happiness in all manner of stuff, but rarely is it being hauled in to applaud the 'Employee of the Month.' What to do if they don't offer feedback? Are you creating a space where they feel comfortable in doing so? Some people are't happy putting their idea on a company intranet for the world to see/ analyse/ pick apart. Make sure all possible channels are open for them to contribute- this includes face-to-face conversations, perhaps a physical 'suggestion box', and definitely employee groups and social media.
Don’t force it
New age motivational exercises, personified by “blue sky thinker” Stewart Pearson in TV's The Thick of It, may unite staff – but only in disdain. Out-of-office socialising can also be divisive. “Employees find it a burden,” says Jane Applegate, author of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business.
You're darn tootin'. Putting people drastically out of their comfort zone can sometimes be counterproductive if they don't see the point or grasp the relevance of the exercise. Sometimes, they just feel insulted if they believe they're being fed "a load of old tosh" as my five year old nephew recently described a TV show he's not fond of (and I wish more employees felt they could express a similar sentiment when they're being subjected to it.) Let them disagree and find their own place within the team. Don't force it or expect everyone to get along all the time. A degree of conflict can be healthy- it encourages fresh thinking, challenges the status quo and enables problem-solving- far preferable to the fixed grins and nodding heads that get us nowhere fast.
Consider if they want to succeed together, or exist closeted in their own role. Do they want their colleagues to win, or are they interested only in their own victory? Are they genuine?
Personally, I'd love to see less of the cheesy grins in the stock photo above, and more of the joy, shared achievement and relaxed and entirely comfortable mutual respect we see below. They seem to be having a little more fun, if you ask me.
So what's missing above? The standout omission for me is TRUST. Without it, any team will falter, no matter how many initiatives, rewards or coaching sessions you throw at them.
So if you're tackling a team problem, consider this:
Do they Trust each other? Do they Trust you, and you them?
Doesn't that seem a good place to start?