I recently led a leadership development and team-building program for an international food distribution company, and I was reminded yet again of the importance of team camaraderie. Despite their geographic distance as a diverse global team, I was surprised by their cohesion and mutual trust. This experience helped me to assess why the concept of team camaraderie is so important to increasing the bottom line.
The hallmarks of camaraderie
The positive feelings with this client took me back to the days when I had experienced this type of camaraderie in the military. We were diligently competitive and gave each other straightforward feedback in mission debriefs. To an outsider, it might appear that we were hard on each other, but we were actually very close. Our bonds of friendship and trust were strong, and we enjoyed socializing, having fun hanging out and talking about our work and sharing our lives together.
Reflecting back over the years, I’ve noticed that camaraderie is usually present in high-performing teams that endure over a long period of time. What are some of the hallmarks that we can learn from such teams?
• Time — They have taken the time and energy to build understanding, acceptance and respect so that individuals feel connected and secure.
• Results — Because they feel belonging, team members don’t want to let others down. They strive for excellence in accomplishing the mission (getting results).
• Communication — Healthier teams have more frequent and more effective communication. They pick up the phone and call each other to quickly solve problems.
• Team focus — Healthy teams focus on team results and not just individual effort. Team members help each other succeed and hold each other accountable.
We’ve been talking about the team, but it all starts with the leader. To have this kind of positive energy flowing from human connections, the leader must take the lead:
• Clarify the culture and set the climate. Alignment built around mission, vision and values is crucial, as is your commitment to be both leader and member of the team.
• Create opportunities and expectations for people to build bonds. Social time outside of work is clearly the best way to get to know each other.
• Connect with each person. Regardless of whether the leader is an introvert or an extrovert, he or she has to engage by connecting with each person making them feel important and welcome. This doesn’t mean that the leader has to be the life of the party. Typically I find more leaders that are introverts than extroverts, but the good ones look to the outgoing, social folks to provide the fun and energy that becomes contagious to the group.
As a leader, what are you doing to promote this powerful bond among your people? Building strong team camaraderie will have long-lasting positive effects on your organization.
Lee Ellis is president of Leadership Freedom® LLC. He was a Vietnam War POW in various prisons in the Hanoi area for over five years. As a military officer, his experiences as a POW piqued his interest in leadership performance in difficult situations.