How much time do you spend online? If you’re the average ‘global internet user’, then it’s almost seven hours per day, according to 2022 research. And for people who spend the majority of their working days looking at a screen, that might even seem like a conservative estimate.
While technology is undoubtedly a force for good (after all, organisations and individuals couldn’t have survived the pandemic without it), the rise of remote and hybrid working doesn’t mean we can ignore a simple, undeniable fact: businesses and teams are made up of people. And people need human connection in order to thrive.
Human connection is at the heart of teams flowing together – that’s being ‘in the zone’ and operating harmoniously with agility and resilience. While achieving ‘team flow’ means acting in sync as a group, it’s the focus on people as individuals and strengthening person-to-person connection that will enable this seamless collective experience. And once a team is in flow, every individual within the team benefits thanks to boosted engagement, wellbeing and positive emotions.
Here are four tips for leaders looking to bring the human into team performance…
1 Explore people’s unique contributions
Part of the joy of being human is we all have our own unique knowledge, skills and strengths. A team of people will naturally have a diverse and broad range of unique individual contributions to draw upon, and understanding our separate strengths and drivers will create meaningful separation between team members. Encouraging a discussion of our unique contributions increases self and other awareness, as we take time to understand the different strengths each team member brings and get to know our own more deeply. Appreciating the individuality of each team member on a human level builds positive team dynamics, leading to sustained performance and wellbeing.
2 Think about purpose
Just as we all have our own unique strengths, we’re all motivated by different things. While an organisation and team can have a shared purpose, it’s worth creating the space for individuals to ponder their own sense of purpose and how it aligns with the bigger picture. Knowing personal motivators can help shape and give additional meaning to the common goal. Encourage people to share their individual purpose, their sense of ‘why’ and where they draw meaning, with others in the team. Doing so brings team members closer together and builds a depth of relationship which enables teams to flow together.
3 Nurture respectful relationships
As teams are made up of people, the relationships we have to each other are the engine which enables us to fly – or which can cause us to crash and burn. When it comes to nurturing relationships, respect is critical: a Gallup study found respect is the number one driver for engagement at work. Focus on building high quality connections through everyday social interactions with others, getting to know people on a human-to-human level rather than just talking about tasks. As a leader, create safe spaces free from judgement, champion inclusion, and remember that empathy is the fundamental ingredient for building cohesion and camaraderie.
4 Make communication meaningful
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with communications, through different platforms and from different sources. To cut through the noise and create human connection, focus on making team communications meaningful. This means making communication positive, open and honest, and taking a strengths-based approach to feedback and praise. Meaningful communication is also linked to the courage to be vulnerable, opening ourselves up to others and creating a space where others feel safe expressing their thoughts and emotions – in other words, making it safe to be a fully rounded human at work. And when it comes to platforms, for teams to flow, tools and platforms need to provide opportunities for human connection, togetherness and belonging rather than just being seen as a means to getting work tasks completed.