Cohesion is pivotal to the success of any effective organisation. It is the means by which teams work in unison towards a shared objective, each member working closely with and bouncing off their colleagues to contribute to a larger goal.
Covid-19 impacted many aspects of work life, cohesion included. In some ways, by fast-tracking the shift to a hybrid working model, the pandemic enhanced our ability to engage with others easily, regardless of location, allowing us to leverage global insights that were previously unreachable. However, it also diminished our ability to build and develop the in-person connections that are so vital to forming an effective, synchronised team.
Type ‘team cohesion’ into Google and you’ll get over 17 million search results, with everything from courses, books, talks, techniques and opinions freely available.
But while heaps of information on the subject are easily accessible, specific context and sequencing are required if we are to turn that mass of information into actualised, meaningful team growth. Here, we outline the five essential elements that make for better team cohesion.
1. A unifying vision
For an organisation to thrive, the company and its employees must be aligned. Recognising that each employee brings their own unique set of values, motivations, fears, expectations, and growth potential is key. The best organisations know how to integrate these individual values within a wider organisational purpose.
2. Intentional leadership
Leaders wield immense influence in setting the right tone amongst a team, one that can be easily bought into and upheld whether they’re in the room or not. When that tone is right, mood and productivity go up. When it falters, productivity takes a hit. Leaders must embody their values and make them resonate amongst their staff to get everyone moving as a unit toward a single shared vision.
3. Management skills
Without fail, the best teams and organisations are led by figures who possess a distinct ability to empower others. Great managers recognise the untapped potential of those around them and know how to draw it out. They foster autonomy in their staff, hold themselves accountable, offer candid feedback and are open to receiving it as well.
4. Team dynamics
There are, of course, many challenges when it comes to maintaining team dynamics. Leaders need to be on the lookout not just for what their staff are telling them, but for non-verbal cues too – body language, facial reactions etc. It’s not easy, especially as work environments become increasingly digitalised. Still, there are some steps leaders can take to ensure their work environment is functioning at its best, such as promoting:
- Cognitive diversity: Fostering an inclusive environment that encourages a diverse blend of thoughts, experiences, and backgrounds to freely converge and collectively question the status quo.
- Psychological safety: The degree to which one expresses oneself directly correlates to the level of psychological safety they feel. Building a level of trust (outward) and felt trust (inward) will allow employees to drop their guard and be themselves, resulting in their best work.
- Friction: True innovation and learning are the product of differences. It’s only in challenging ideas that we learn their strength. Be sure to promote a healthy amount of challenge within your team, though one that does not impinge on psychological safety.
5. Individual performance
A team is made up of individuals. As such, every individual’s attitude and performance will in turn impact team cohesion. Further developing two aspects of individual performance can go a long way.
- Mindset: Encourage individuals in your team to develop deliberate behaviours such as habit building. A routine habit improves short-term performance and creates a robust psychological framework from which to build sustainable long-term improvement.
- Presence: Encourage employees to focus on the present. It’s all too easy to get caught up in future aspirations and past successes or failures. Connecting to one’s present surroundings allows for all sorts of previously impossible benefits. As well as benefiting staff experience and productivity, it allows for an openness that often proves fertile for coming up with innovative ideas.
Team cohesion is a fundamental driver of sustained, long-term success. Cohesion is a product of gradual development; building strong relationships requires a shared understanding that can only evolve from an environment that fosters mutual trust among team members. Understanding a colleague – their motivations, their life experience – and offering tailored support requires an investment that extends far beyond routine check-ins or daily project collaborations.
As we delve deeper into the ‘Future of Work,’ teams are in the process of establishing new behavioural norms and practices. Investing in and cultivating team cohesion instils confidence in organisations and generates substantial long-term returns on investment.
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