Want to know the secret about great teams and happy workplaces?
Humans are inherently social beings. What makes us really happy, apart from meaningful work, is social connections. The ability to connect with peers and share thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. A connection on a deeper level than merely sharing work-related facts and figures. Being able to have a personality and express it at work. The more connected, the happier we are, and this creates happy workplaces.
Regardless of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, we crave being part of a group. The more people can socially connect, the happier they are. Introverts might need less external stimuli than extroverts, that does however not mean that they don’t need to feel connected. Both equally have a deep need for feeling connected to the people they spend their time with and being in happy workplaces.
Spending on average a third of our day at work, it is essential that you are able to satisfy this need for social connection without any negative repercussions.
Sadly, however, most people are afraid to voice their perspectives at work as it might unintentionally offend someone. Add to that a culture where the only feedback received from your manager is when you did something wrong, and you have a disconnected workplace where people refrain from speaking to each other.
Now we’re talking!
If you want happy workplaces, you need to get your employees talking to each other. Once they are talking, they will be much more likely to collaborate on projects and thus increase productivity. The more they talk to each other, the better they will work together.
Here are a few simple ideas to help you get your team collaborating to create happy workplaces.
1. Play music
One of the best ways to motivate people is by playing music. Not only does it increase the energy, but it also creates a more social atmosphere where it is easier to talk to each other without the fear of someone overhearing your conversation.
Choose appropriate time intervals and play some music. For example, play music for half an hour each morning while waiting for your computer to boot, or Friday lunchtime to get into the weekend mood.
Ensure everyone’s taste in music is catered for by providing a platform where people can request songs. Also, make sure to keep changing the playlist to keep it interesting.
2. Give Kudos
Not a new concept, Kudos are a way to appreciate and recognize the skills and effort of your co-workers.
In a culture where feedback from your manager is often associated with negative feedback, this is a particularly powerful tool to build trust while opening the communication channels.
You don’t need an app for saying thank you, and an unexpected hand-written note is an awesome motivator, yet it might be a nice-to-have for your team with many alternatives available. For distributed teams or a workplace interested in analyzing the results over time, an online version or app might be a good choice to consider.
There are also plenty of resources providing ready-made templates for each possible scenario you can think of if you lack creativity but lack the idea.
But by far the best is simply a handwritten thank you on a sticky note to welcome you at your desk.
It’s free, it’s easy, it’s awesome to receive.
3. Communication style profiling
Even though this is such a well-known and accepted method for understanding your employees, mostly the results are kept secret in your personal file away from any lurking eyes.
In the few environments where the results were shared with the team, communication exponentially increased, which in turn resulted in better team performance, as well as happy workplaces. Simply being reminded that the colleague you think of as being dominant and bossy has a different communication style than you, softens the judgment and makes it easier to work together.
Whatever tool you choose is not that important, more important is that you share the results with the team.
Remember to view it as a process, not a one-off event and keep reminding the team of the different communication styles and how to react to it.
4. Team challenges
Many people are afraid to ask questions in front of their manager that might make them look stupid. People also unintentionally compete with each other trying to be seen as the ‘better’ performer in the team. This is counter-productive.
To allow teams the opportunity to work together without the interference or influence of the manager, give them a problem to solve and then walk away. The only rules are that each team member needs to contribute and that the manager will not be involved until the solution is ready. Make it clear that each person in the team is equally rewarded.
5. Silent meetings
Communication does not mean that you have to speak. It is about each team member is able to contribute, being understood and feeling valued within the team. If you have one or two team members who tend to dominate meetings, silent meetings are useful to involve the entire team in the discussion or decision.
As the facilitator, pose a question to the team and explain that no talking is allowed until they are instructed to. Each person then writes as many ideas on sticky notes related to the problem that they can think of without any influence from their peers.
Once all the ideas have been captured, post them on the wall and ask the team to categorize them, again remaining silent.
As the last round, give each team member a certain amount of tokens and ask them to vote for the highest priority items, yet again without speaking. Read more on this technique here.
6. Paper tables
Communication is about expressing thoughts and feelings to someone other than yourself. Few people are however able to articulate what is going on inside their head, even fewer how they feel about something.
Collaboration naturally happens when you feel that what you say are understood and matters.
So why not try drawing, not speaking, next time there is a misunderstanding around a given topic. As the saying goes – a picture speaks a thousand words.
Create collaboration spaces with paper tables and invite people to make notes as they discuss a topic over coffee. A paper table is simply a table covered with a large blank notepad or flip chart. As opposed to relying on the traditional use of words, visualize the problem by drawing or scribbling on the piece of paper for both to see.
To cater to the people who really struggle to withdraw, and to make it an even more comfortable setting. Add some old magazines. The magazines can either be used as a reference or to cut out or point at pictures best describing what you intend to communicate.
7. Eating meetings
Next time you have a recurring and boring meeting such as a monthly team meeting. Spice it up by changing the location to a place where the team can eat together while the meeting is taking place.
This works better for less serious and smaller meetings focused on information sharing and not decision-making or large teams.
Be careful that it doesn’t become standard or predictable however as it’s the element of surprise that makes it enjoyable. Don’t only use outdoor meetings for the positive feedback and in-house meetings for negative feedback. Use it as a tool for both positive and negative feedback.
Happy workplaces are social places where people connect with each other. To get your team to socialize, never force a social event on them. Rather provide the tools to enable them, and reward the desired behaviour as pointed out in this article.
How do you get your team talking? Post your insights in the comments and share on social media.
With more than 20 years experience in the software development industry, Kate specializes in helping teams get unstuck, communicate better and ultimately be more productive. She believes in efficiency through fun implementing lean, agile and playful design as tools for process improvement and organizational change. Her goal is to create more happy, healthy and whole workplaces where each person thrives and productivity soars.