The secret to your team’s success is a gift you already have
Although I now nominally live in Los Angeles (in this line of work, travel is a daily occurrence), I used to spend a lot of time in Spain and I can still remember a sign that sat outside a hotel there. It was obviously translated from Spanish into English and even though this wasn’t a perfect translation, it resonated with me. It read, “The secret of a relaxed atmosphere resides in the human factor.” I haven’t seen that sign for a decade, maybe more, though it still sits with me.
When I think about the meaning behind the sign, it makes perfect sense. The hotel was clearly trying to lure in guests by saying that what they can offer – which is above and beyond that of their rivals – was something special because of their team. When I contrast that with a company I used to work for that told me on day one, “We don’t care what is going on in your personal life, don’t bring it to work,” the approaches are night and day. Yes, historically, people were reluctant to share personally at work, or they were told not to, but today, that thinking is outdated.
In the current world of the ironically titled future of work, where project teams are identified, created, onboarded, serve their purpose in achieving their ‘north star’, then disband, being able to connect personally and professionally is critical to achieving tough deadlines – especially when working across geographic, cultural, organizational, virtual, and other boundaries.
I recently attended one of our infamous Long, Slow Dinners, where over the course of a couple of hours, we asked a team of people who had worked together for more than a decade to open up and share something deeply personal with everyone at the table. I carefully set the scene for each person to share over two minutes or so, and explained that what we talked about would stay in the room and not be shared with anyone else, we’d listen and care for whoever was sharing, and we’d follow up with someone after the meal if something resonated and was worthy of a follow up question, suggestion, or “I’ve been there too” moment.
At the end of the experience, having enjoyed powerful shares from each participant along with delicious food and a glass or two of wine, we adjourned for the night and re-started the next day where I invited the team to speak candidly about what we call the team’s Blockers and Levers, or the challenges and opportunities the team faced. As we discussed these, and then moved to action to capitalize upon the possibilities, we created action plans that were stronger, deeper, and more value-adding than had been created before. At the end of the day, I asked the sponsor of the event what they thought. He said, “I’ve been doing my job for more than twenty years, and I realize now that I never knew anything about my team. The dinner last night opened my eyes to where each of them is coming from, and created a foundation for us to be honest with each other – regardless of hierarchy, expectations, and assumptions.”
The results kept getting better for this team, too. When I checked back in with the sponsor a few weeks later on one of our regular coaching calls, he explained how people who had previously been quiet and had not volunteered to take on additional work had started to own the initiatives that had come out of the session. Having a dinner is not the only way to get your team members or colleagues to open up to each other. Indeed, over 20 plus years of research, we have amassed a library of high-return practices that enable connections to be deeper, more meaningful, and more productive for all concerned. Clearly, then, the secret of a productive team is in the human factor. Isn’t it funny how a vacation can impact you like that?
Rob Whitfield is the CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a behavior engineering company that provides keynote speaking, coaching, and consulting services to organizations around the world. If you’d like your team to be more agile in mindsets, behaviors, and practices, and to achieve some of the benefits that are well within reach, get in touch and we can explore how you can empower your people to want to aim higher, together. Follow me on LinkedIn, or get in touch to start shifting your results.