Business is a contact sport and management is a social act. Until the robots take over, we need to get things done through people. And what that really means is that our relationships are the conduits for results. Think of a complicated telephone switch box with wires running to each home and then to the telephone company. Wires of different colors, some with stripes, some are hot, some ground the current. Wires everywhere making each conversation happen. If a wire gets kinked, cut, or corroded, the conversations stop. Your team is like that box and making sure you have each relationship wired and maintained is critical to ensuring the right conversations are able to occur.
Team members who know each other, work better together. They care about each other´s successes and are more likely to put up a big stink if things are not going well. That´s what we want — people looking out for each other and bringing potential problems to the fore. Tolerance, trust, respect, collaboration, and even anger, challenge, and confrontation come from knowing. We need to make sure our team members get to know each other, even if they are located in different countries or speak different languages. With the communication options we have available today, there´s no reason a team of peers cannot develop deep and productive work relationships.
To create the connection is basic — people need to spend time getting to know one another. I am not advocating a bunch of sit-in-a-corner-chanting team building sessions, or outdoor ropes classes or offsite golf outings. These get togethers are OK, but not necessary. I do like facilitates behavioral style team sessions — like using the MBTI (Meyers Briggs Type Indicator) — but otherwise recommend that you get to know each other by talking about the business. The business is what binds you together. If people have meaty and open conversations about the business during their team meetings and morning huddles, you will find that they will also have more informal conversations during other times. Pepper in a few informal team conversations and bring in Krispy Kremes and vanilla lattes and you will find that people will begin to connect — the sugar and caffeine help and are fun.
Be careful about the signals you send your team members because sometimes our efforts can cause a unintended reaction. A well intended act that ends up hurting relationships is when we coddle people who have clashes in personality. Variety is the spice of life and I hope that you have a team filled with people who are so different they might not want to go bowling together. That said, I have seen very diverse people enjoy a game of bowling. Business is business and we do not have the luxury of working only with those people to whom we naturally gravitate. In fact, that would be bad for business. As a manager, you should role model productive work relationships with all types of people and not tolerate immaturity from others. That´s right, immaturity. We all have a job to do and we might need to partner with someone distasteful to us — get over it and do great work!