The way we interpret what’s going on at work fascinates me. The other day, I went for coffee with an ex-colleague. We used to work on the same project, but in different teams. As we reflected on “the old days”, the conversation went:
“That was fun”, I said.
“Are you mad? Never again”, he replied.
OK. From one team to the other, a similar set of events can shape dynamics and business culture in a completely different way.
So, in the end, it went:
“Maybe we’re not fit for the same team ecosystem“.
I believe teams create their own ecosystems; culture, ways of working and preferences for interacting. Do you want yours to be “a great place to work”?
Here’s how to create a team ecosystem to inspire and motivate.
What is an ecosystem?
Do you remember your biology lessons? An ecosystem is a place where individuals connect to grow mutually; each element has its own role, so that it contributes to the development of the whole thing.
To create a team ecosystem to inspire in the workplace, you need to open a safe space where people can perform, grow, and find fulfilment at work. In other words, experience their work in an elevated way.
If you look at how ecosystems grow in the wild, you will find 2 main conditions: diversity and symbiotic relations.
Isn’t it the same for any group of people at work? For them to become a team, they need:
– to embrace cultural diversity in order to enhance their depth of thinking.
– to create symbiotic relations between people so that the group lasts, and hopefully, grows (here, I’m thinking about interconnected perspectives, free flow of ideas and awareness of the human aspect of work).
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The 3 core elements of a team ecosystem
Diversity and symbiotic relations can help with growth. But do all diverse teams who have clear operating rules perform, or at least work well, together?
Not necessarily. They need first a space to call their own. If you want to create a team ecosystem to inspire and motivate your people, you still need to work on leadership, people/relations, and promote positivity in the workplace.
1. Value-based leadership
There’s no “secret sauce” for performant teams. They have a strong leader who communicates a long-term vision. They undertake value-based work. Each team member can connect vision and values to make strategy real in the day-to-day.
A good team ecosystem is the child of a great company culture. People know what they do, and why they do it. But more importantly, they know the boundaries of their work territory. They feel safe to explore which is a strong motivation driver (think “hero’s quest”).
2. Bonded people
Symbiotic relations (between individuals) can be fragile. You’ve surely heard of Warren Buffett’s reputation rule:
The true strength of a team is its ability to cooperate at all times (to be clear, “all” includes celebrating team success, and going through hard times). But growing meaningful relationships take time and dedication. How often do you send an instant message instead of talking face to face (especially when dealing with contentious issues)?
It takes hours of quality time to build social ties. If you want your team ecosystem to inspire and motivate, develop genuine interest in your team members. What’s their personality? What matters to them? What’s going on outside of the office? Role model these behaviours by maintaining a positive attitude and encourage your people to do the same.
Social interactions create emotional connections, and this is one of the strongest motivation drivers for human beings.
3. A positive atmosphere
There’s nothing worse than a place where you feel you need to watch your back every other second (good luck with cooperating under these conditions).
You can have a strong leader and bonded people, but if the atmosphere deteriorates, individuals will retreat into their shells. In this situation, you can’t expect people to take a risk, gain confidence to explore unknown territories, or develop!
As a leader, are you working on creating a humanistic workplace?
A team ecosystem to inspire and motivate starts with a culture of openness. Promote innovative thinking and risk taking with statements like “no idea is a bad idea” or “it’s OK to be curious and bring something new to the table”.
When you allow your team members to get creative, you trigger neuro-chemicals that make them feel good, and you tap straight into their need for self-realisation.
As human beings, we have certain needs at work; to know where we’re going (the hero’s quest), to have social rules (need for socialisation), to understand the “what’s in it for me” (sense of meaning and empowerment) and to know what can make you better (need for self-realisation).
A positive team ecosystem can provide a territory to explore these deep needs. It inevitably impacts performance, but the side-effects on motivation are real.
Think about expressing your best ideas, developing strong boundaries with your colleagues through gratitude at work, and becoming better at what you do. Isn’t this what makes your work day juicy?