We all know that meeting-after-the-meeting dude. It’s that team member who can’t wait to convene later at the bar and say what they wouldn’t dare say during the meeting. This scenario can manifest in many ways. Don’t get me wrong—I am all for team fellowship. It is an important component to real team strength. But, when the same folks are up late discussing leadership woes, criticizing initiatives and springing forth solutions after the meeting, I say buck-up whiskey cup. Stop working to keep your job and remember what you are being paid for: your expertise, ideas, contributions and opinions.

As a team leader, what are you doing about these meeting-after-the-meeting naysayers? Do you brush it off as part of the job, remembering “it’s lonely at the top”? That might be the easiest response, but it doesn’t have to be the nature of your team. There are techniques that you can easily employ to bring true transparency and productive discussions to your meetings. Then, you can let the bar talk become craft beer-powered creativity and collaboration. If you aspire to lead a team that is lockstep in vision and values, it starts with you.

It starts with you and two clear strategies you can employ that will improve sense of team, loyalty to mission and thereby productivity!

  1. Bond over common values
  2. Celebrate your team with specificity

Let’s make this easy and doable.

Bond Over Common Values

How many times have leaders invested in a team-building workshop or an obstacle-course, zipline adventure and expected it to translate into loyalty, productivity and increased profits? Bonding is not that simple, it’s not that costly and it’s not all that hard, really.

Let’s start with fact: people bond over common values. This was first discovered in 1954 and is known as value homophily: a tendency to associate with others who think in similar ways, regardless of difference of status. “Homophily structures the social systems to which people belong. It influences how communities form and recreate themselves, how status is distributed, and how subgroups evolve in occupations and organizations (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, and Cook 2001, Verbrugge 1977).

Think about it. Shared values and aligned priorities are the foundation for the most powerful organizations worldwide. For example, I immediately bond with mothers of children within The Epilepsy Foundation. We are a fierce force of warriors on a mission to create a seizure-free life for our children and anyone who faces a life throttled by epilepsy. Your team should have a similar connection, carrying with them the knowledge that they too are each a warrior united by a common value or mission. Team bonding cannot be leveraged for success without the commitment of the leader.

Don’t overthink the strategy though. Building connections is a perpetual journey of intention. It can be as simple as connecting with someone who is as big a Georgia Bulldog fan as you. Or it can be that an aspect of your community, parenting or leadership ideals is aligned. When we find ourselves relating, we begin to connect and to trust. This said, it is important to know your team. What does each person stand for? What is their why? What drives them to persevere? If you don’t know, be intentional about asking better questions. And, don’t let the size of your team deter your efforts. With each connection you make, trust will grow, loyalty will escalate, and the word will spread about how your team sees you. This takes time, but it’s a great place to start, no matter how large of a team you lead.

Celebrate Your Team With Specificity

You can do more that will wholly elevate your team’s strength and fervor now. Your meetings, and particularly your message, can significantly contribute to the growth, success and achievement of your team as a whole. When you craft your message to communicate your pride and faith in your team, you infuse serotonin into their minds. Serotonin is a small molecular neurotransmitter that directly causes feelings of happiness in the form of pride, confidence and self-worth. When you find ways to specifically commend and congratulate your team, you are gifting serotonin – resulting in the desire to align with you, your priorities and your expectations.

The critical key to this strategy is specificity. Generalizing your team’s ability to endure tough times and surpass goals is not going to be received as genuine or memorable. But, when we take the time to detail the challenges and efforts of actual incidents, we will infuse serotonin into the minds of our team. They will then be fortified with feelings of loyalty, dedication and energy to perform. In addition to citing particular events, we must be explicit in how we applaud them. As it is the same in parenting, congratulating a victory or a goal achieved is not ideal. We need to celebrate the effort that fueled the win. Rather than congratulating the team for working hard and hitting goals, call out the exact contributions and sacrifices that were invested. Did some team members sacrifice Saturday mornings to finish a project? Was crummy takeout food brought in nightly to meet a deadline? Did the marketing team find unique, creative ways to gain attention of a prospect? Did someone drive for hours to face a disappointed client late one evening? These are the stories that define your team. Share these moments with as much detail and color as possible. That is how you show appreciation with authenticity as a leader.

When people trust that they are respected and valued, their stamina for hard work is heightened. When they feel valued, their confidence escalates, and they respond with courage to grow and develop new skills. A leader’s message is the foundation on which a team’s ability to collaborate and align is built. The voice of a leader gives an opportunity to reaffirm and celebrate the values and strengths of the team.

Build your team with intention by asking deep questions of individuals and embrace the opportunity to bond over common values. And then remember to celebrate your team with specificity. With detail and respect, share those moments when dedication to mission was unwavering.

When all that they stand for, all that they believe is exemplified in your message – and when you champion their work by sharing their stories – they will in turn embrace your challenge and work tirelessly to surpass your expectations. Whether it’s coffee or whiskey, boardroom or bar stool, it’s happy hour……….cheers!

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