Q I've been in a management role for some years, and have one area that particularly challenges me. I'm a quiet person, and while I'm good at the work assignment and staff development parts of my job, I have a hard time with the "team spirit" aspects. Any suggestions to make this easier?
A Draw on your current strengths, and use the strengths of others on your team, too.
The inner game
First of all, take a moment to acknowledge your strengths as a leader. Being able to keep work flowing smoothly and to help each team member develop are essential skills. Success in these areas provides the foundation for high morale -- all the happy hours in the world can't make it up if these are missing.
As you consider ways to bolster your skills in this other area, take care not to have a negative view of the situation. Catch yourself if you're thinking "why can't I..." and change it to "how can I..." It's a subtle difference, but bringing positive energy to the situation will create a much better outcome.
Now, consider the ideal team environment. What would more "team spirit" look like and feel like day-to-day? Is it related to camaraderie in routine interactions or work related social events? Or is it about having more energy in the workplace? If you aren't sure, think about examples you've seen, either in your past or on other teams that you've observed. And consider whether this sense of ideal is truly related to team needs so that you don't try to fix something that isn't broken.
Finally, consider the resources that you have at hand. Look internally -- perhaps there are ways you could grow that would be helpful. Also consider the inclinations of others on your team, as well as resources your company might have.
The outer game
Start by engaging your team. Ask each person for their perspective in your regular one-on-one meetings. Once you know what each person would like (because it's not going to be the same across the whole group), you'll be better able to make a plan.
You'll likely also found some folks who really enjoy developing spirit-oriented activities. They will be your go-to people for this, so create a group that works together and then brings you suggestions. This gives them a chance to take on responsibility and do something they enjoy.
Then bring the approach to whole team and see what they think. Have your committee offer their recommendations, and take other suggestions in order to build buy-in. There may be a naysayer or two; don't let that discourage you. If you've determined that this is something that will be good for the team, stand by your plan.
The clincher is to give some of the tactics a try. Have an event or do an activity, and then check in with the group on what they liked and didn't like. Fine-tune your approach if needed, and try something else. Remember that these don't need to be big steps, just stay consistent.
The last word
Set the direction and let your team take the lead on the social side of team building.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.