To build a strong team, there are three key ingredients that can inspire unity and increase creativity and productivity.
Recognition is one of the simplest, easiest ways to encourage your employees. And employee encouragement is essential. People want to know that they are appreciated and that their work matters. You can give them that encouragement with a few well-chosen words or a sincere compliment.
You can also build more formal ways to recognize employees. Upon project completion, recognize individual and team contributions. Or set up regular (monthly or quarterly) achievement awards, work rewards, and levels for employees to reach individually or as a team. It's the daily gamification of your workplace, and it increases individual engagement
as well as team motivation
If you don't have regular recognition built into your leadership style, you're getting much less from your team than you could be. Start with simply speaking - out loud - the times when you notice effort, creativity, a good idea, initiative, or any other behaviour you want to encourage. Then begin building recognition systematically with scheduled one-on-one meetings, team achievement awards, and gamification programs that make recognizing good work a regular part of the way you do business.
Rewards differ from recognition in that they are actual items or experiences of value rather than verbal praise or awards that are meaningful but not fiscally valuable.
Rewards don't have to be monetary, however, in order to be valuable. Cash is always welcome, but earned perks such as increased flexibility, and increased leadership opportunity, and opportunities for advanced training can be just as valuable to employees.
To use rewards for a stronger team, implement team rewards as well as individual ones. Having a tangible reward waiting at the end of a project, timeline, or big effort helps to unify, motivate, and strengthen the team as they work together.
Rapport is an essential dynamic developed between team members. It doesn't happen automatically, and it does take time. So if you're leading a new team, or one which has just undergone significant changes or survived a crisis, don't be alarmed if the rapport is just not there yet.
You can help your team to develop that connection, however. Start by thinking about why your team members do what they do; in other words, you know what you want to see them produce. But why do they want to produce it? What intrinsic reward is there, or internal motivation, or built-in reward that they feel compelled to achieve? The key is not just to understand it, but to bring it out in discussions, team meetings, and one-on-one conversations so that they can remember and focus on their why.
Next, get in the habit of responding positively when team members share ideas or even complaints; saying "That's an interesting perspective," is a positive way to respond to negative statement. Then ask open-ended questions to help team members think through ways to overcome challenges or solve complaints.
Finally, build rapport by encouraging shared stories and experiences. This means allowing some time at team meetings for one person to share an insight or experience related to what the team is dealing with currently. It also means setting up casual, low-key experiences in which team members can interact away from the pressure of deadlines and clients.
These can be simple activities: a dessert party, a company lunch, miniature golf. You can also encourage rapport with work-related activities that allow your team to solve problems, learn new skills, play with ideas, or otherwise have fun with their work together.