From the department of “Captain Obvious”, this article in HBR makes the case that teams who share about their lives are stronger for it. Of course they are. How many times have you made that first impression judgement of a person, only to later revise your opinion when you learned more about the person?
Sharing our lives allows us to see how our teammates are the same as us, to see where we have shared experiences. This results in increased empathy. Hearing about the details of our coworkers outside of the office also helps us better understand our differences. Both these factors lead to a more tightly knit team that works more effectively together.
What’s of real interest to me is how to foster those connections on a remote team. Without the benefits of sharing meals and getting coffees together at the team office, remote employees have to take purposeful steps to ensure this bonding happens. Annual retreats are a great way to cement those bonds, but they are not a replacement for the daily and weekly interactions that need to take place to foster the bonds in the first place.
As someone who naturally places focus on tasks over relationships, I have to force myself to close the notebook and any task lists and purposefully make time to chat. I try to do this at least a couple times a week; I might start a DM with a colleague who I have a question for, but take the time to ask some personal questions during the conversation. And when new team members start, I like to have a private conversation in the first couple of weeks to ask more about their family, interests, and what gets them excited each day. I feel this is vital for new hires, as this article alludes to:
Consider that when joining a team, people have a strong desire to feel accepted by the other members. This desire can lead individual members to prioritize “fitting in” over contributing unique information and adding maximum value to the team.
Getting a good team fit takes work, but it’s worth the investment. And it’s truly more enjoyable.