Week 4: Building a Supportive Team Culture
Being a leader means you don't do everything alone!
In our quest to become relaxed leaders, there’s a pivotal shift that happens when we move from solo achievements to team victories. It's about transitioning from the ‘I’ mindset to the ‘We’ perspective.
As leaders, supervisors, or self-directed professionals, the cultivation of a supportive team culture isn’t just beneficial; it’s essential. But strong teams don’t just happen because we wish them into existence. Strong teams are built upon a solid foundation of collaboration, open communication, and mutual respect, which are the bedrock for increased morale and productivity.
Collaboration and the Art of Listening
Collaboration is the heartbeat of a thriving team culture and, as relaxed leaders, we need to understand that it’s about more than just dividing up tasks; it’s about leveraging the diverse strengths of each team member.
Instead of taking on all the planning for a project, we begin by inviting input on strategy from the team. Depending upon the particulars of the project, we may even take a backseat and let another team member lead the effort. And when we’re doling out tasks, we remember that collaboration isn’t about giving all the shit-jobs to everyone else and keeping the fun or interesting stuff for ourselves. In fact, we strive to give the most desirable assignments to other members of the team. This approach not only lightens the load but also enhances the team’s investment in the project’s success.
A big part of effective collaboration is communication. It’s the lifeline of effective teamwork. It’s not just about talking; it’s about engaging in meaningful dialogue. Relaxed leaders don’t feel like we need to lecture and dictate. Instead, we start by asking open-ended questions that encourage thoughtful responses, and then we truly listen to what our team members have to say. Unlike many executives, we don’t just listen to reply, we listen to understand. This practice fosters a culture where team members feel heard and valued, leading to innovative solutions and a deeper sense of belonging.
Mutual Respect is the Foundation of Trust
Respect within a team creates a safe space for growth and creativity. By modeling respect and treating each team member as a valuable contributor, you lay the groundwork for a trusting environment. However, as I’ve discussed before, a relaxed leader’s understanding of respect differs from the standard definition because we believe respect is a basic human right. People don’t earn our respect, they inherently deserve our respect simply because they are human beings.
In my experience, everything falls apart without a foundation of respect, so starting from a place of respect has been key. When I respect my team members, I treat them as individuals and I take the time to understand how they can benefit the team and how helping the team can benefit them. By engaging each team member, understanding their skills, and assigning challenges accordingly, I’ve seen individuals flourish and teams achieve more than they believed possible. Acknowledging the unique skills and potential of each member and pairing those with complementary strengths can lead to remarkable collaborations.
As a relaxed leader, one way that we respect our team members is by delegating responsibility while retaining accountability. Delegating important tasks shows trust in their abilities, and we can hold team members accountable to us, but we must ultimately retain accountability for the outcome. When we retain ultimate accountability, it demonstrates confidence and respect in our team members and reinforces their trust in us as leaders.
Practical Steps to Enhance Team Culture
Entire books and countless blog posts have been written about enhancing team culture. I’ve written plenty about it in the past and I’m sure I’ll write a lot more about it in the future. But for now, let me share three things that I’ve found to be extremely effective:
Engage with Purpose: It’s not enough to simply dole out assignments. A relaxed leader knows the importance of maintaining that human connection. One way I do that is to regularly check in with my team members, not just about projects but about their professional growth and aspirations.
Challenge and Support: As I mentioned above, I try to avoid simply foisting off the tasks I don’t enjoy doing, and focusing on identifying appropriately challenging tasks helps me do that. I try to assign tasks that stretch a team member’s abilities, while understanding what level of support they need from me in order to succeed. This balance between challenge and support helps me delegate better, encourages development, and conveys trust.
Celebrate Diversity: Diversity is the buzzword du jour but relaxed leaders understood the value of it long before it became popular. One of the most effective means I’ve ever found for enhancing team culture is to embrace and highlight the diverse skills and backgrounds within my team. It’s not always easy, but I work to identify each team member’s unique skills and perspective, delegate tasks to leverage that uniqueness whenever possible, and then I show how each contributes to the team’s overall success.
Call to Action
Cultivating a supportive team culture is a journey, not a destination. It requires intention, effort, and consistency. As a relaxed leader, you can start by reflecting on your team’s current dynamics. Where could you enhance collaboration, improve communication, or deepen respect?
Select one area and implement a strategy aimed at improvement by making small, intentional changes. You can’t force a supportive culture onto your team, so just understand that this will be a step-by-step journey. But take these steps with confidence because the cumulative effect of these small changes will significantly enhance your team’s culture and productivity.
Remember, the strongest teams are built on the foundation of mutual support and respect, so your leadership in this journey can make all the difference!
If you’d like to go deeper into the REAL Values that Relaxed Leaders live by, then check out these articles from our archives:
RESPECT is a great place for any leader to start.
ENGAGE effectively with others (and the world).
ACCEPT others because of their differences, not in spite of them.
LEAD with these REAL values and learn to relax!