A successful team has diverse team members that know each other well. Colleagues that work well together know each other’s strengths, weakness, and how to complement each other to work efficiently. Identifying strengths and weakness, how to support and challenge, and how to motivate members of your team takes time and effort but can pay off big in productivity and retention. Here are some ways to learn more about members of your team as individuals and how they work together.
Retreats. Sometimes the word “retreat” makes people think of dollar signs, but going to a fancy conference center is not required to have a quality retreat. Getting your team out of the office to learn more about each other and engage in some personal and team goal setting can be both energizing and informative. A change of scenery allows people to relax and express themselves in a differently. If you are feeling adventurous, visit a ropes course. With high ropes and low ropes options, you can find a setting that allows your team to showcase their natural talents and have some fun while doing so.
Get to know your time during team meetings. Setting aside five minutes at a team meeting to ask an “icebreaker” question can give you much information about members of your team. Some people may push back, saying “I can’t stand icebreakers,” but the reality is, they work; they break the ice and allow people to share about themselves in a creative way.
One-On-Ones. Building individual meetings into your schedule with members of your team provides a space for your to strengthen relationships. You can learn more about their strengths weakness, asking them about success and challenges, and build a personal rapport. One-on-one meetings can take up a bit of time in your schedule and may be very difficult with larger teams, but spending time with team members more than just at annual review time helps you understand how to support people in their work and makes those annual meetings a little less nerve-wracking.
Have treats in your office/at your cubicle. This is one cliché that’s true; candy, snacks, and goodies will make your office a hot spot. If you let folks know they can stop by for a pick me up, they will come in, and often, start up and conversation with you while they enjoy their snack. This is an informal way to build rapport informally and let your staff know that you are approachable and actually practice an “open door policy.”
Observe. Observation is particularly useful if you are new to an already established team. Watching team norms for interaction and communication tell you a great deal about strengths of the team and areas for improvement. Simple observation can give you a great baseline to ask more questions. One pitfall that can happen with observation is making assumptions. Teams have a history that may not be in the forefront. Make sure that you use observations to inform and not make decisions.
Getting to know your team can be as fun as it is important. Having a team that you understand can help you facilitate an environment where employees feel appreciated and energized to do the work.