Finding the Secret Ingredient

As I start my commute back home (an hour and a half drive), I think about how it’s been a long week. We are coming close to the end of the year and, as I reflect on the year, I think about some of the challenges we have had as a team: from winning leadership buy-in, and elevating the employee experience through communication channels, through to forums to mobilize employees to cultivate the desired culture.

Despite the challenges, my team delivered consistently, with great energy and intent, which made me think about what it took to get through it. Of course, a successful team is full of individual professionals with expertise and experience who know how to do great work. But the best results come from how everyone works together. I have learned how being a conscious leader takes time, energy and effort and it’s our job to create the right space for a creative and high-performing culture. Here are my top tips for developing a high-performing team:

  • Listen and learn – and share. I encourage my team to leave the building and get out there – we visit other organizations, we each read our fair share of articles, attend conferences and listen to podcasts. We can only remain experts if we listen to the issues and learn from the industry. We are living in a time of unpredictability, therefore we must pay attention and only then, can we advise our stakeholders accordingly. But what really brings it alive is when team members take the time to share. After each learning session the team is encouraged to share their takeaways either by a short note or presenting at a meeting. And we debate what it might mean for us, how we can do things better or differently.
  • Keep pushing the status quo. Every organization has a budget planning cycle. I find that I usually have leadership’s attention during this period for new plans and ideas. So the team takes the time to challenge each other during off-sites to prepare new plans and think outside of the box. The team challenges each other, questioning which initiatives they should continue. Which of our own ‘pet projects’ should we stop? Which should we do differently? And what changes ought we make? It is an opportunity to give each other constructive feedback and pressure-test relevancy in a safe environment – so we are always making progress.
  • When you hire – hire smartly, but also differently. Hiring is the opportunity to strengthen diversity across our teams. Diversity of background, experience and opinion. Today, most companies around the world are dealing with four generations or more in the workplace. We need to think differently and more broadly. When my team suggested cinematic video content that looked like external corporate ads for internal use, to tell our employee’s stories – I thought it was too expensive. Today our “untold stories” is one of our most-liked curated content. When my CCO suggested a campaign to celebrate our support staff, I didn’t think it would get much traction – in 2019 this campaign had the highest engagement on Workplace compared to any of our corporate campaigns within the year. The dividends from diversity come from being open-minded, being challenged, and always learning from your colleagues. 
  • Work hard, play hard – and celebrate. In a high-pressure busy environment, the toughest thing can be to find down-time – to strengthen team morale and spirits, and find opportunities through the year where we can pause and breath. Finding time for the team to share their own war stories and comfort one another. Quite often I have found team members think their challenges are their own but in reality, everyone has similar experiences – just at different times. And even more importantly, we try and find the time to celebrate each other’s success – do a team lunch or go out for drinks. Invest in creating a community for your team – even if they think they don’t need it. 
  • Forge meaningful relationships – together. Perhaps the greatest value of being a strong team is how we can each go out there across the business and forge meaningful and influential relationships with leaders, and strengthen collaboration with other functions. We do this individually on behalf of us all – all of us as great ambassadors with clear common purpose and spirit. And we have each other’s back when some relationships get tough. 

The end of the year provides an opportunity to reflect and reset. As leaders, are we doing everything we can to energize our teams, ready for next year’s impossible challenges? Have we found all of our secret ingredients?