While there is no magic formula for creating a successful team, study them for long enough and common themes do emerge .
Here, Danielle Raven of Superfriend draws from her experience as Program Manager for Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing to identify three characteristics of well-functioning teams with connectedness at the core.
Why connectedness is important
Teams thrive when members feel a genuine connection both with each other, and the goals of the organisation for which they work. When those connections exist, people become more motivated, more creative and more collaborative. They communicate better, are more willing to ask for guidance, try new things, and pitch in to help others. They’re also more likely to learn from mistakes rather than see them as failures.
‘Connectedness promotes both mental and physical wellbeing’, Raven says. ‘A connected team feels safe and supportive. Its members feel valued; they enjoy respectful interactions and have strong interpersonal relationships; they trust and care about one another are more resilient, find the experience of working together energising, and look forward to coming into the workplace’.
While the advantages of connected teams are significant and multifaceted, their signature attributes are small in number and surprisingly straightforward. Indeed, as SuperFriend’s ‘Indicators of a Thriving Workplace’ research shows, the degree of connectedness within a team is largely revealed by just three characteristics.
Three Cs spell success
SuperFriend’s research—which captured the opinions of more than 5,000 Australian workers across various industries, businesses sizes and roles—established that the top indicator of connectedness is when a workplace feels like a community, in which team members support each other beyond just getting the work done.
The second most influential indicator, is that members of the team care about each other in a pastoral, as well professional sense. The third, is collaboration; the willingness of people to work together effectively, particularly when trying to accomplish difficult goals.
Changing for the better
Assessing just how connected people are within a team is one thing; understanding how to foster greater connection is the ultimate goal, so what’s a good approach to take? Raven points out there are several principal enablers, with leadership the most important.
‘A great leader provides their team with a role model’, she suggests. ‘Someone who helps others find their strengths, who communicates clearly and openly, and is inclusive, trusting and willing to be vulnerable, will invariably influence the behaviours and values in those around them.’
Clear communication is also the key to aligning team members around a common goal. Be it team-specific, workplace-based or organisation-wide, a well-articulated vision and purpose is a must. Another must is workplace diversity. For a team to feel like a community, it needs to engender a sense of belonging by genuinely caring about all its members.
Last but not least is the overall organisational culture, especially its approach to innovation. ‘People need to be comfortable about trying something new, even if it doesn’t work out’, Raven says. ‘Failure can be a great teacher, but only if an organisation encourages that learning’.
Focus on the fundamentals
The SuperFriend publication, ‘Building Thriving Workplaces Guidelines and Actions’, outlines a range of activities that can foster greater community, care and collaboration within teams. Just don’t expect to find party throwing or gift giving among them.
‘Our research suggests old school approaches don’t make people feel better about the team they’re in’, Raven says. ‘It’s the intrinsic issues that matter, like trust, great communication, feeling valued, being able to contribute and having your voice heard.
‘Change can be achieved without spending vast sums or drastically altering resources’, she adds, ‘simple tweaks to the way team members interact with each other can make a big difference at the end of the day.’
SuperFriend is a national mental health initiative focused on creating positive, healthy and safe working environments where every employee can be well and thrive. It is the only mental health organisation that partners with superannuation funds and group insurers to gain knowledge of the industry’s unique needs and respond with tailored solutions.
Their publication, ‘Building Thriving Workplaces: Guidelines and Actions’, can be downloaded here