There was a constant drizzle coming down as I completed my walk this morning. I don’t like to look straight ahead into the rain, so I found myself with my head bent down, focusing on the sidewalk in front of me. Every few feet I came to a line in the concrete, and began thinking about why those are put in. Concrete joints are placed deliberately to prevent the concrete from cracking in multiple areas. Concrete will always crack a little as it shrinks during the drying process. It has the potential to crack if it freezes, or if too much weight is put on it. Putting a deliberate joint in the concrete can prevent unintended breakage.
Have you been deliberate about preventing “breakage” in your team?
As a leader, you have the right and the opportunity to take the steps to prevent issues within your team. What steps do you take? Here are three areas you can focus on in your prevention to keep your team whole.
The first area is also the most critical – getting to know your team.
Yes, of course you know their names, and how long they’ve been on your team, and if they are a coffee drinker. But getting to know someone goes deeper than that. I recently received a promotion, and a few days later, I came into the office to find a basket of goodies on my desk. My boss explained that his wife helped pick out the items in the basket, and that he had to assure her that I like practical gifts the most (thanks for the olive oil mister! I love it!). He had taken the time to get to know me well enough to know that I enjoy practical things more than pretty but less useful gifts.
How well do you know the members of your team? Do you know when their birthday is? Good. Do you know when the anniversary of their mother’s passing is? Even better. People have an innate desire to be valued for who they are, not just for what they do. It is your responsibility to get to know them for who they are. By getting to know your team as unique individuals, you will give them a sense of belonging and worth that will carry them through the times of uncertainty you will face as a team.
The second area to focus on when preventing team issues is communication.
Side note – you can’t even get to know your team without utilizing this skill. And yes, communication is a skill. Very few people are great communicators without having put much time and effort into improving. Communication builds the trust and unity required for a team to thrive. Without frequent, clear communication, your team members are left wondering about their importance. The vision you are trying to accomplish will eventually be forgotten, and your team will be left scrambling to find their identity.
The final area is awareness of stressors on your team and helping counteract them.
You may have a particular season that is difficult for your team – it might be around the holidays, during tax season, or at the end of every quarter. You know when these seasons come, so take some steps to relieve the pressure for your team when possible. Offer them a half-day off right before the extra shifts they are required to work. If you don’t have the authority for that, take deliberate steps to create a fun experience in the midst of a hectic time. Set aside 30 minutes for a quick ping-pong tournament. Provide every team member with a favorite treat. If you have a volunteer who is heading toward burnout, ask them to take some time off to refresh and renew.
It’s not hard to imagine what happens to a large area of concrete without joints, because we’ve all seen them. Huge, spider web- like cracks mar the surface, dips and holes form, and a once-smooth surface becomes hard to navigate.
Before your team starts developing cracks and holes, take the time to focus on the three areas that can prevent the majority of problems on your team.