Things for teams to try: Improving Team relationships

Relationships form the very heart of teams. Strengthening them raises positivity, empathy, communication and trust.

Team relationship tips - team

1. Improve the quality and quantity of your meetings

Bringing people together helps build empathy. We can’t have relationships with people we don’t spend much time with, so invest in team meetings and make them more frequent.

How to do it:

  • For fully remote teams or teams going through a crisis, we suggest touching base once a day.
  • When things are going well, meet once a week to discuss your Friday Pulse results and other priorities
  • Social interactions are shaped by eye contact and body mirroring so meet in person when possible.
  • If you have to meet virtually, use video conferencing and make sure everyone has their video switched on
  • Spend ten minutes of your team meeting reviewing what went well the previous week; this will raise energy levels to help tackle any challenges in the week ahead.

2. Arrange social events

Informal gatherings are good for building relationships; they help us relate to each other and find common interests and values. Research even shows coffee breaks help employees manage stress and emotional pressure by creating space to share perspectives, vent frustrations, and support one another. Plus regular, hourly, breaks actually boosts productivity!

How to do it:

  • Arrange summer or winter parties.
  • Try a team lunch or a virtual coffee break.
  • Ask everyone for social event suggestions
  • Promote the breaks to encourage everyone to come and share in the social interactions

3. Talk and walk

Taking our conversations outside can create a safer space to discuss work. We also feel more like a team when we walk side-by-side and this makes it easier for us to speak up, collaborate and find solutions to problems.

How to do it:

  • Arrange to have one team meeting a month outside
  • Plan as many 1:1s outside too
  • Make sure you pick accessible routes so that everyone can take part

4. Take a social network approach

What kind of network characterizes communication in your team? Does all communication go through a central person or is it spread across the team? Take ten minutes to map out lines of communication, then consider how to strengthen them.

How to do it:

  • As a team, write everyone’s names in different colors around the edge of a large sheet of paper.
  • Think about who communicates with who most, draw lines between colleagues showing lines of communication.
  • If you are a team that communicates a lot, think about important lines of communication, like how decisions are made.
  • Take a step back and look at the team map. Consider how to strengthen the network and improve speed and accuracy of information flow.

5. Assess your team's communication style

Successful teams have been found to communicate well with each other. Professor Alex Pentland's research on communication styles in successful teams can be used to review your team communications, helping you think about how to improve the way you communicate.

Communication styles in successful teams:

  1. Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short and sweet.
  2. Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
  3. Members connect directly with one another - and not just the team leader.
  4. Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.
  5. Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back.

How to do it:

  • Consider the communication styles in successful teams. Discuss which ways you communicate successfully based on this list and where there could be room for improvement
  • Think about any changes you can make to your team to more closely resemble the kind of team you want to be.