4 steps to forging ties with your teams

I have tried to maintain relations with my employees, but the lockdown has created a divide in my team that I need to bridge in order to prepare for the future.

As a manager, you will have noticed just how true this is if your relations with employees and between team members were already fragile before COVID-19.

You may even have been thinking about the issue for quite some time.

As we are gradually coming out of lockdown, it may be time for you to anticipate the next stage and the future.

Building solid team relationships is the foundation of individual and collective success.

Yet, on top of these foundations, you still need to build a solid structure that symbolises the work of every individual.

If you think you are a Builder Manager, this article is for you.

What will you need to construct this great building?

A vision, explicit rules, communication and trust.

Make no mistake, every step of the process is important. It wouldn’t make sense to build a roof without first making the wooden structure, would it?

You need to respect each stage of construction and give yourself enough time to complete it before moving onto the next step.

Vision: the cornerstone of solid relationships

The following childhood anecdote perfectly illustrates this idea of vision: When I was 8 years old, my teacher at school asked the class to draw a picture of how we saw ourselves in the future.

It was a valuable exercise and could be perfectly adapted to your Builder Manager project:

What is the vision explicitly communicated by your company?

If this vision does not seem clear enough (vague or even inexistent), ask yourself the following questions:

How do I see this vision?

What is the company’s vision for each of my employees?

How could we define this together and share it with the team?

It will be helpful to focus on the essential elements here. Give free reign to your individual and collective creativity. Try using an image or graphic for example (particularly useful when communicating remotely).

A vision gives meaning; it tells us why we do something and to what end.

If the common cornerstone is solid and ready, we can move onto constructing our building.

Explicit rules: the structural framework

Set out the team rules: how the team runs and communicates.

These rules define the structural framework which underpins your building.

Do not let personal convictions or negative personal experiences influence you, i.e.: “rules are restrictive”, “they curb our actions”, “they inhibit creativity”, “we already have so many”, etc.

Above all, these rules should provide order and security. They will be very useful during times of chaos and incertitude. Your employees will be thankful that you put them in place!

Keep these 4 watchwords in mind: explicit, clear, practical and effective. In short, rules should help not hinder you!

Team rules must:

Be coherent with company rules;

Be jointly built by team members;

Be shared within and outside the team so that your company or external contacts may be informed about them if needed;

And above all, be regularly revised for example on the arrival/departure of a team member, company reorganisation, crisis (COVID-19), etc.

Communication: the bricks of team relationships

Without communication, there are no social, team or company ties.

By communication, we mean your ability as a manager to engage in dialogue with your employees and superiors:

What are the means of exchange that you have set up (one-to-one, video conference, group meetings, etc.)?

Have you adapted them to the context (i.e. “normal” vs “crisis”)?

How do you intend to develop them in the coming weeks/months?

How do you include all your employees/superiors in the process?

What are your strengths and areas for improvement when it comes to communication?

What elements are you missing to communicate more efficiently?

Communication relies on your capacity to deliver an audible message which is adapted to the person you are addressing. There is a wide palette of methods to choose from: questions, paraphrasing, etc. Take your pick!

It also relies on your ability to listen to feedback (positive or negative!) objectively.

Learn how to listen to words but also to the silences, gestures, noises, murmurs around you. These are valuable insights into what people say and what they don’t tell you.

Make sure you are truly present. When building something together, this is your strength as Builder Manager.

Trust: the mortar of team success

As German sociologist Georg Simmel puts it, “trust is a (positive) hypothesis about the future behaviour of a person or company (which would be impossible to accurately predict or know) in order to work more productively together.”

On what approach do you base your relationship with your employees (trust, wariness or defiance)?

What is your level of trust when dealing with your employees or superiors?

By first establishing a relationship based on trust between you and your employees you will ensure that communication is more efficient in every other aspect of their work.

Trust is underpinned by varying and complementary criteria: cognitive and emotional (reliability and affectivity).

Trust grows in time but can be lost easily.

You must strengthen relations and foster trust on a daily basis by being honest and genuinely caring.

Just like erecting a building, forging ties with your teams needs to be done in stages and it takes time.

But don’t forget the test of time on relationships. Pressure from the field (your company, internal constraints, etc.), external factors (pressure from markets, clients, suppliers, authorities, etc.) and unforeseen circumstances (crises, mergers, change of CEO, etc.) all have to be taken into account. As a seasoned Builder Manager, you know that the relationship with your teams will be solid if you work at it constantly and attentively. Keep a close eye on it and make regular adjustments when needed.

Constructively yours!