How would you describe the connections among people in your organization? Do various departments have an “us vs. them” mentality? Or does everyone work well together?
Well-connected teams have high trust levels within their inner circle and in other areas. A person who is well-connected will be better able to achieve goals during cross- functional projects. They will be respected by other departments.
Let’s look at some examples:
Sally works in marketing at a local convention center. She’s been tasked with creating a promotion for an upcoming sports event, and a boss suggests offering signed baseballs to the first 150 ticket-buyers. The building security policy does not allow objects that can be thrown and potentially cause injury. Chances are, no one will toss the signed baseballs as they are keepsakes. Nevertheless Sally’s boss told her to “Make it happen.”
Here’s an example of how a positively connected employee will act:
Sally respects the other departments. She’s built relationships with many of the managers. She decides to approach the security manager with the idea to get his input. She knows there must be a way to make this work that’s safe and effective for everybody. Since she’s worked well with them in the past, they are usually happy to see what they could do to accommodate her request. Together, they come up with a plan that will increase sales, please the customers, and abide by all required safety regulations.
Now, here’s the same scenario if a person does not have positive connections:
Sally is unfamiliar with company safety policy. After all, what does it have to do with marketing? Her job is to sell, and the more she sells the better her department looks, thus the better she looks.
She wonders if this will be an issue with the event security team. She doesn’t know any of them very well, and fears that if she asks she’ll end up having to find a different promo to use. Or, she’ll have to remind them that her boss is higher up on the corporate ladder and they need to listen to what he suggests.
Either way, it’s something Sally doesn’t have time for right now. She assigns people to hand out “promotional materials” without telling them what they will be handing out. The less people know the better. She’ll worry about the backlash when it comes.
You can probably guess how this is going to end up. But I’ll give you a few thoughts first. The promo team will hand out baseballs; the customers will proceed into the stadium, where security will see and attempt to confiscate the baseballs. There will be a level of chaos until everyone figures out what happened and how to fix it.
It’s easy to see which the preferable scenario is. So how do you get there? What can you do to encourage your team to build positive connections all throughout your organization?
- Allow them to develop their people skills. Encourage them to take classes on emotional intelligence and working with others. Send them to networking events with each other.
- Hold team building events regularly. Mix up the teams.
- Let them know it’s okay to spend time building relationships. Demonstrate by asking others about their weekends, their kids, etc. Let people see you asking members of other departments their opinions on current projects.
- Create cross-functional teams. Praise them when they do well. Encourage off-site meetings when possible, as this has more of a relationship-building atmosphere.
- Celebrate personal and professional moments. Celebrate birthdays once a month, give people time away from their desks to enjoy cake and conversation. Have a good sales month? Buy everyone lunch and bring them in at the same time.
- Once people build camaraderie, they are more likely to trust in each other. They will express their ideas and opinions more. They will respect others’ opinions and viewpoints more than they did before.
- Employees that get to know members of other departments will learn who the experts are. They will then know who to ask in the future when something is needed.
- Positive connections promote collaboration and the exchange of information and knowledge. Not to mention, it creates happier more satisfied employees. The Gallup Organization has shown that people who have best friends at work are seven times more likely to feel engaged and dedicated to their job.
If you’d like a better understanding of the current connections in your organization take our assessment: