The pandemic led to many societal shifts—including the normalization of seeking therapy. The sudden and awkward adjustments to daily life increased the number of people admitting that they needed help and sharing that they were working on their mental health. Companies expanded their employee assistance program benefits to include better options for counseling services and more employees took advantage of this. Everyone became more attentive to the importance of improving emotional health and interpersonal relationships, connecting with purpose and learning to invest in their personal growth.
Just as people work on their individual emotional health, self-awareness and relationships with others, leaders are increasing the focus on team health. Team health includes ensuring cohesive relationships between the members of the team. This is not only about strategy and execution but also about how those discussions take place. You need to pay attention to team strengths and developmental needs.
Seven essential steps that support the ability of teams to function effectively:
- Invest in quarterly check-ins for your team to talk about how they’re doing, not just what they’re doing. Devote meetings specifically to this topic and meet regularly just to assess fitness (such as flexibility and adaptability) and growth.
- Spend time understanding individual personality profiles and the team profile through the use of an assessment. Give each person an opportunity to share their profile along with examples of how it manifests. Understand the team’s strengths, and where they may need to focus greater effort. (Several examples of such profiles are DiSC, MBTI, CliftonStrengths and Birkman.)
- Identify team values to guide your interactions. Consider curiosity, respect, listening, what “winning” looks like, how they best connect with other teams to support organizational results, what behaviors support trust and how should they manage conflict.
- Revisit difficult discussions and how they were resolved. Everyone knows when the team is having a tense interchange, when people are jockeying for power or when they’re shifting blame. There’s no such thing as ignoring the impact on relationships and moving on. People carry their feelings to the next discussion topic, and it blocks the process of making good decisions on behalf of the organization. If team members know that they will be held accountable for these behaviors, they will begin to self-reflect and make better choices along the way.
- Establish decision-making processes and roles to guide discussions. This may include determining when an issue is discussed in the full group vs. a small group and the latitude given to a team member in developing a high-level or detailed proposal. For each topic, it should be clear who makes the decision, who is consulted, who is informed and who is responsible for execution.
- Have fun. Share meals, laugh, participate in teambuilding exercises, share appropriate personal stories, find out what each of you has in common. This relationship-building helps to break down barriers between members, to navigate difficult situations and lift the load of the daily pressures of work.
- Use a facilitator/consultant to guide the discussion. This person is responsible for learning the needs and interpersonal styles of each team member, guiding the discussion, spotting growth opportunities and ensuring a psychologically safe space for dialogue.
Why team health matters
Teams who focus on their health are self-aware, able to have open and honest conversations and make better decisions for the good of the organization. They are more engaged and able to perform their best work. And the leaders of these teams show the way by modeling desired team behaviors, holding members accountable, publicly self-reflecting on how they want to improve their own contribution to the team and focusing on the development of others.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to invest in your team’s health and to ensure they know you care.
For more tips on building a strong crew, listen to the Power Up Your Team podcast.