Anytime you bring a group of people together from different walks of life, there are going to be some growing pains. But with the right attention to detail, you can unify even the most diverse team and build a more successful organization.
Diversity, Not Division
In today’s business world, diversity is a focal point of many companies. (We use this term to describe gender, age, race, religion, etc.) This is particularly evident in how they approach hiring, who they hire, and even certain organizational policies related to opportunity within the company. And while all of these are good things, poor execution on the back end leaves many organizations vulnerable to certain problems.
Diversity within a company is great. It should be pursued and celebrated. But in order to make diversity work, there has to be a plan for cohesion. Some people will naturally connect and feel unified, while other people will not. And if you don’t establish a proactive plan for bringing your team together, diversity will ultimately lead to division.
The goal is to create a team that’s diverse, yet cohesive and unified. It’s at this crossroads that productivity, profitability, fulfillment, and powerful change occur.
5 Tips for Unifying Your Team
It would be foolish to sit here and tell you there’s a foolproof prescription for every organization. (The reality is that every team and culture has a highly unique dynamic.) But if you study companies that are having success in bringing their people together and cultivating unified teams that work towards accomplishing the greater good of the organization, you’ll discover that they focus on similar rules, techniques, investments, and actions. Let’s explore a few of them here:
It Starts With You
Do you want your team to come together and build healthy relationships with one another? Do you want them to become more open and transparent communicators? Do you desire a sense of connectivity?
It all starts with you.
“It is really amazing how much an organization sucks up the behaviors of the leader,” says Nick Tolley, CEO of Harris + Hoole.
You can think of your team like a sponge. They’re going to soak up whatever is there. If you create a negative environment, that’s what they’ll embody. If you cultivate a positive and unified culture, they’ll follow suit.
“I didn’t quite appreciate this until I started this business,” Tolley says. “You can very easily see this when you are having a bit of a crap day, and you are a little bit downbeat. It is infectious. Very, very infectious. It not only affects your team, it also affects the customer experience. Similarly, if you come in positively inclined, or happily optimistic, for whatever the reason, that is also very infectious and obviously beneficial to the business. And I think that contributes directly to how you impact values and behaviors.”
What kind of leader are you? Are you someone who practices what you preach, or are you all words?
If you want to bring your team together, emphasize this in how you interact with people. Grab lunch with coworkers. Create experiences that catalyze people and force them to rely on one another. Hire people who fit the culture, rather than negatively disrupt it. Do your part!
Leverage the Right Tech for Collaboration
Technology can play a key role in facilitating healthy collaboration that unifies your team. However, it can also create division in your company and have the opposite effect.
The goal with collaboration technology and communication tools is to implement quality tools over quantity of tools. In other words, why have five or six different apps when you can have one streamlined solution?
Whether your team works out of one office or you’re operating remotely, you may find a social intranet helpful in improving communication and connectivity.
“Social intranets are equipped with all the tools an organization needs to connect and engage employees and to provide access to colleagues and information,” Happeo mentions. “All this leads to better collaboration, connectedness, knowledge sharing, and to a stronger culture.”
Companies like Happeo offer social intranets that make it easy to store and share files, communicate with team members, share information, and facilitate engagement. Think of it like Google Drive meets Facebook. It’s an all-in-one digital location – private to your organization – where your team can hang out and work.
Don’t Ignore Differences of Opinion
One of the biggest problems we see in organizations these days is an unwillingness to address differences of opinion in an effective manner. When two people disagree with one another, one of a few things typically happens:
- Nothing (leading to resentment, frustration, and/or silent aggression).
- Aggressive behavior
- Workplace gossip
- Finger-pointing and accusations
When there are disagreements in the workplace – whether philosophically, professionally, politically, etc. – there’s almost this desire to walk on eggshells so as not to come across as intolerant, spiteful, or difficult. But failure to address these differences is actually highly problematic.
The first thing to understand is that disagreement and differences of opinion are good. (If everyone thought and did the same things, the company would fail.) Secondly, disagreements shouldn’t be mistaken for disrespect. (You are allowed to disagree with someone!)
The key to dealing with these differences isn’t to convince the other person that you’re right. It’s to come to an understanding of where each individual is coming from and then reach some sort of compromise. This means both parties will have to give and take. And above all else, show respect to the other person.
Create Bonding Opportunities
As a business owner or manager, you can’t force your team to come together and like each other. You can, however, put them in positions where they’re more likely to bond and grow close together.
Not sure where to start? Here are a couple of ideas:
- There’s something about eating a meal together that can really make two people bond. Create a standing lunch hour once per week where you use some sort of random generator to pair people off. (You can do this in a physical workplace or over Zoom.) By making it random, you ensure that people who would have never chosen to eat lunch together get to connect for 30 to 45 minutes. Do this for several months and you’ll be amazed by how much more connected your organization becomes.
- If you’ve ever participated in an escape room in person, then you know just how much you can learn about the other people in the room. But did you know that there are virtual escape rooms for remote teams? It can be a really fun and unique way to bond over Zoom.
Don’t be afraid to have fun together. Everything doesn’t have to be serious and professional all of the time. There’s something to be said for relaxing on occasion. And if you want your team to do this, it all starts with you.
According to a survey of more than 2,000 employees, people are less likely to express gratitude at work than virtually any other place they spend time. Roughly 60 percent of respondents say they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.”
Interestingly enough, the same survey shows that 7 out of 10 people would feel better about themselves if their boss showed more gratitude for their contributions. An impressive 81 percent of people would work harder.
Gratitude is something that we believe is important in our personal lives, yet few people express or receive in the workplace. And though it may seem a little odd at first, showing gratitude here can have profound effects.
For starters, showing gratitude makes the recipient of the gratitude feel good about themselves. And when they begin to receive it, they’re more apt to show gratitude towards others. It’s contagious!
Secondly, there’s ample research in the field of psychology to suggest that people who show gratitude – even when they don’t necessarily feel it – are able to coax themselves into being happier and more thankful. (They actually live out of a place of greater abundance.)
When gratitude becomes a part of your team’s DNA, it’ll create a sense of cohesiveness that can’t be replicated otherwise.
Building a Cohesive Business
There are a million and one ways to build a successful business, but you’ll be hard-pressed to experience any success without developing a cohesive team of people who are all on the same page. Hopefully this article has given you some practical application points that you can utilize right away to bring your team together, regardless of how diverse and/or physically separated your team is.