There is a growing body of research that suggests a healthy climate leads to higher job satisfaction, a healthier workforce (both physically and mentally), lower turnover, higher employee satisfaction, and improved outcomes. This has led to the current organizational movement of focusing on healthier team climates. The key motivation: higher levels of turnover, fewer people entering a particular field or, in some cases, a competitive job market. Attracting and retaining top talent and then ensuring an organization is one in which employees can thrive now sit at the top of leaders’ priority lists.
A healthy climate is one in which team members feel comfortable being themselves, asking questions, sharing ideas, and trusting that their co-workers are there for them when needed. A healthy climate is one in which team members feel valued, respected and safe. The health of the climate is affected by each team member’s actions; it is not just up to the leader to create a healthy climate — it is everyone’s responsibility. However, the leader’s behaviors are indeed essential to creating a climate that minimizes burnout and ensures teams are thriving.
We recommend leaders support their teams by adopting these six practices.
Regularly assess team and climate health
Take time for the leader and team to reflect on and assess team behaviors and practices. Too often unhealthy climates are left to grow and become the norm because leaders do not fully understand the root causes of the negative behaviors and attitudes and, as a result, feel at a loss as to how to affect positive change. An important step in combating turnover and burnout is to invite the team to provide honest feedback about the team’s effectiveness through the completion of a team assessment. This gives the team the opportunity to truly reflect on and share in a safe and anonymous way what they believe the team’s strengths are and, more importantly, where the team needs to improve in terms of its culture. The results of an assessment can give the leader and team valuable insight into how to best support the team, the team’s strengths, and the behaviors and practices that require improvement.
Let go of the past and start fresh
I have led countless team development sessions over the years, and in almost every session, I ask, “What do you need to let go of in order to be an even more effective team?” By letting go, we don’t mean specific tasks or responsibilities; we mean anything the team or individuals are holding onto from the past that is affecting how they engage with one another in the present.
How often do you hear, “That’s not the way we do things around here,” or, “They’ll never go for that,” or, “Our manager has never been a in our position, so he/she will never understand.” These are unproductive assumptions that prevent dialogue, innovation and the building of healthy relationships. The leaders and team members who are able to develop the habit of challenging their own assumptions and those of others by asking, “How do we know that is true?” are the ones who are able to grow. The more teams are able to identify unproductive assumptions and challenge them, the greater the dialogue, trust and respect can be established within the team.
Develop stronger interpersonal relationships
Every interaction is an energy exchange. We can either fill people up or deplete them. Stronger relationships are developed when we consciously choose to be kind, respectful and compassionate toward one another. This happens more easily when we let go of past issues and unproductive assumptions of one another and choose to see each other in a positive light.
Look for what’s right in others, rather than what’s wrong
This goes hand-in-hand with No. 4. We are more able to build stronger relationships when we focus on the talents of our team members and respect the unique qualities each person brings to the team. What we focus on grows. If we focus on one another’s strengths, we will continue to see strengths; if we focus on weaknesses, we will only see weaknesses.
Take time to recognize teammates and celebrate accomplishments
Feeling consistently unappreciated can lead to burnout. Praise doesn’t cost anything and has priceless benefits when it comes to workplace happiness, motivation and a sense of value and belonging. Leaders who model the way by genuinely taking the time to recognize team member accomplishments, no matter how small, will create an environment of recognition and value. A simple, “Thank you for taking such good care of the client’s request yesterday. I noticed you went above and beyond with them,” will go a very long way to ensure team members know that their contributions make a difference.
None of these practices is difficult. Simply assessing the team and identifying strengths and opportunities for improvement helps lay the foundation for each of the other practices. It is rewarding and often surprising to both the leader and team members to see just how quickly the health of the climate can improve.
About the author: Nicole Bendaly is the President of K&Co. For more than 20 years, Nicole has been researching and training teams to weed out apathy and amplify the best in themselves. As a published author, dynamic speaker, co-creator of the Team Fitness Tool and president of K&Co., she has established herself as a respected thought leader in team development and organizational behavior.