Have you ever watched an episode of a soap opera, then, a few years later, tune into the same soap opera to find former friends as bitter enemies, former enemies as close allies, and former actors replaced with someone bolder and more beautiful? So goes the way of the soap opera. I suppose if you were to write an hour-long TV show that airs five days a week, you’d need to have your characters stab each other in the back, break alliances, and form new ones in order to keep things fresh. In the real world, however, if you want to be productive and keep your company on the air for over twenty years, backstabbing, withholding vital information, and working solely for personal gain isn’t going to do the trick. It doesn’t matter if you work at General Hospital or you’re located in Dallas, Knot’s Landing, or your zip code is 90210, a toxic culture will ensure turnover, decreased productivity, and a lack of passion. Whether you’re the CEO, HR director, or an accountant, if you consistently demonstrate that you’re willing to go out of your way to support your team, it will build their confidence, eagerness to produce, and inspire them to support those around them as well. If your workplace has developed a culture of support, your team can focus on what’s important, rather than be distracted by the ill intentions of others, and you increase your chances of success. Since we only have one life to live, we might as well live it to the fullest and transform work into something that excites us, so here are five simple ways to to demonstrate to your team that you’re there for them:
1. Create connections
You should probably see other people…
If there’s someone you work with who you aren’t very familiar with, make it a goal to learn five things about that person. Even better, take the time to learn about those who you don’t exactly see eye-to-eye with. Do they have kids? Pets? What are their names? What kind of things do they do together? What sort of hobbies do they have? What’s the coolest thing they’ve ever done? Learning about your coworkers will transform them from just another colleague to a real human with needs, desires, and passions. When you build a rapport with another person, it will be easier for you to take a step back and see yourself in them (but with different kids, experiences, and needs) through their humanity the next time you disagree on something. It also gives you a repertoire of conversation topics if you happen to get stuck on an elevator together.
2. Get excited about going the extra mile
You’re slogging through a looooong stressful day and the clock seems to be going backwards when suddenly, Janet from accounting knocks at your door and hands you a cup of coffee without you even asking. Even if you don’t drink coffee, this small action offers you a split second opportunity to reframe and refresh your situation because it communicates that someone cares about you. If you’re going out to pick up lunch, ask people if they would like anything. When you’re walking across the office to make copies, see if those around you need anything copied too. Distribute foot massages without expectation of reciprocation. Okay, maybe check with people before you crawl under their desks and start to remove their shoes, but the spirit of caring remains the same and can build goodwill between team members.
If someone had a rough morning with kids who don’t want to go to school, an argumentative spouse, or a coworker who doesn’t understand that “I don’t want a foot massage” means they actually don’t want a foot massage, a smile can go a long way. Simply making eye contact and sharing a genuine smile as you pass someone in the hallway can break up the snowball effect of a bad morning. Make it a habit to be happy to see everyone and others will be happy to see you.
4. Celebrate successes
Sure, it’s great to recognize the professional accomplishments of a team member, but to get the whole team invested in and excited for the successes of someone outside of work demonstrates that you care for their personal well-being too. Anyone can give a pat on the back for a job well done at the office, but to be interested in the success of someone outside of work bridges the gap between professional and personal relationships. It also gives them the internal inspiration to continue bettering themselves and to celebrate your personal successes too
5. Root for the home team
The people around us are the most important tool we have at our disposal. The beautiful thing about life is that we all have goals and, though some may be the same, we all have different reasons why we want to achieve these goals. A common misconception is that “there isn’t enough to go around,” however, this is blatantly false. We are wired to compete for resources so that we can survive to produce offspring and keep our species strong. The resource-abundant world in which we live has made this wiring obsolete, yet it still can rear its head and dominate our thinking: “He didn’t deserve that promotion, I did!” If, instead of competing for superiority, we worked together to make each other better, we would tap into a resource we don’t have at our disposal if we decide to fly solo: a supportive teammate. Focus on achieving your goal, but if the opportunity arises to share information, resources, or connections with others, don’t hesitate to do so. This has the potential to establish a supportive relationship that can flourish even more in the spirit of mutual growth. Disclaimer: be sure you aren’t working against yourself; the goal is to be constantly working to better yourself and those around you. In addition to being wired to compete, human beings are also wired to reciprocate; an evolutionary trait that won’t become outdated anytime soon. By shifting the focus away from being better than those around you, you can use that energy to focus on bettering yourself and those around you, a focus that can pay exponential dividends in the long run.