Here’s How Communication Turns Teams Into Tribes

By Lauren Lee Anderson

Studies released last year showed that between 60-70% of employees were actively disengaged or not operating anywhere near peak productivity. The most uninspired were often looking to jump ship, searching for a new position online while they were supposed to be working.

How do you get people to really show up as part of the team? Here’s how you hire for it and how you sustain it after day one.

1. The interview sets the stage

As companies grow, so do staffing needs that are often not linear. Sometimes growth is so rapid that new employees are simultaneously needed across a variety of departments. For example, customer support demands go up, product development accelerates and marketing becomes increasingly more important.

Finding and hiring the right people is an arduous task for any growing company, even the large and established ones who, despite having more resources, often don’t fare any better than startups.

Hiring is expensive and time consuming. Hours are spent writing job descriptions, reviewing resumes, and scheduling interviews among managers, directors, and executives. Sometimes you find an ideal candidate only to have things fall apart at the negotiating table. Or a competitor’s offer is accepted and you have no choice but to revisit the resume stack.

You may be tempted to hire someone who seems competent enough, just to get it over with. That mistake could cost you more than the precious time spent interviewing.

You must hire people who are not only a good fit for the role, but a great fit for the company culture. And the only way to discover that is to have detailed conversations during the interview process. These 3 questions will give you a sense of who the person is, and whether they will be a destructive force or the new hire of your dreams:

– Do you understand the company purpose and mission? How passionate are you about it?

Why your company does what it does is of paramount importance. If a candidate doesn’t understand that, despite all their skills and expertise, you’ll never get them at their full potential. If they aren’t completely aligned with the WHY of the company, it will be very difficult to cultivate long-term self-motivation that is essential to overcome inevitable obstacles on the path to success.

– Share your company values with the candidate and ask, which ones resonate most highly with you and why?

Leadership establishes the company culture that is lived daily by your team through the communication of well-articulated and shared values. A candidate who believes in the mission and the values will help strengthen your organization from the inside out.

– How have you brought out the best in another employee at a previous job?

A supportive employee has the makings of a good leader. Hire well and that employee can step into leadership and hire her replacement down the road.

If the hire is a poor fit, the best case scenario is that they will voluntarily move on before too long. The worst case scenario is that they poison the hearts and minds of others with different values or apathy to your company mission and ethos. Instead of replacing one person, you will then have to rebuild entire teams.

Don’t just fill seats and cross your fingers. You are not hiring a person, you are increasing your tribe.

2. Stay present

You have asked the right questions and made your decision, but you can’t just disappear and assume that the employee can succeed on their own. The other half of the battle is staying involved and present. How often do you check in? Once a quarter? Once a year? Annual and semi-annual reviews simply do not offer enough insight into your employee’s world.

We use our own weekly 15Fives to quickly gain visibility into team morale, align employees around company goals, and see where they feel challenged and need support. We have found the following questions to be phenomenally well-suited for leaders to gain visibility, employees to be heard and recognized, and to re-calibrate your team:

– Are you clear on the overall company strategy and how you fit into it? If not, what would help you get clear?

When an employee is unclear on strategy, you have a chance to step in and realign them. The big picture goals should color every detail of their work, no matter how small.

– What challenges are you facing?

Employers don’t actually have  to step in and provide help, but knowing they are there is invaluable to an employee. Leaders can act like a spotter who psychologically adds confidence when people challenge themselves by lifting more weight.

Challenge is important for growth, but too much challenge without feedback and support stunts growth for both the employee and the organization.

– What are your top 3 priorities for next week?

When your employee is aware of their top priorities, it means that they are working effectively by focusing on what is most important.

Once you communicate clear goals to the team, give each employee the autonomy to do what it takes to achieve them. Stay present with a fine balance. Micromanaging leads to stifling creativity and discourages employee engagement, but obtaining regular feedback is the first step towards fostering growth in your employees. The impact is enduring, you secure a mutual understanding of responsibilities and goals while keeping your finger on the pulse of progress.

3) Build strong relationships

When you ask specific questions, you encourage honesty and transparency — the pillars of strong relationships. People want to share their challenges and wins and feel safe and empowered to do so. This level of communication removes the adversarial element that exists in far too many manager-employee relationships, and you are left with a culture of openness and trust.

At a minimum, asking questions of each team-member will give them a voice. Instead of feeling like just a cog, let them know that the machine wouldn’t operate if not for their dedication.

Ideally, you will get a real in-depth sense of what each individual team member wants, how they feel, and what they think about the organization. You can learn to respond to needs and make changes so that ‘work’ transforms into an alignment with each employee’s greatest gifts. When managers connect with employees, strong bonds are formed that transcend team dynamics to create something even more potent — a tribe.

A modified version of this post appeared on Undercover Recruiter.

Photo CreditRetlaw Snellac Photography


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