It’s actually quite shocking if you think about it: there are endless numbers of coworkers who have worked in the same team for years… and they still don’t know much more about each other than their names.
Some people might shrug, thinking that “I don’t need to know more to work with that person”. And this is where I — and luckily: science — strongly disagree!
Relationships are critical for building successful, long-lasting teams. And no: if you only know your coworker’s name, you don’t really have a relationship with them.
Alright. After delivering such a passionate introduction, I should probably prove that my sentiment is actually correct — that strong, positive relationships at work really matter.
Luckily, there are countless scientific studies that prove this. To make just one example: a study, conducted by MIT researchers at IBM with over 2,600 employees, found that the more socially connected people were, the better they performed.
This means that social connection is tightly connected to performance — and the bottom line, ultimately! It’s really in a company’s best interest — even from a financial perspective — to help its teams build stronger social connections at work.
In our Building Better Teams masterclass, we teach several tools and practices that help build stronger relationships at work. We strongly encourage every founder and leader to invest in this area — because it’s really at the heart of successful, long-lasting teams.
But we also mention a little caveat: that there are no quick-fixes here. You can’t build resilient relationships in the course of a workshop. It takes time and effort.
But the benefits are more than worth it.
I already mentioned that there are multiple ways / tools / practices to help you with this. But not all of them are equally effective!
One option, for example, would be to encourage people to simply have more “coffee chats”. Let them meet and mingle… and you’ll surely get stronger relationships as a result. Right?!?
Well... probably. But there are much more effective ways to do this!
One is surprisingly simple and pleasant: let’s talk about “Random Acts of Kindness”!
The positive effects of altruistic behavior are well researched scientifically. In one study of more than 2,000 people, for example, it was proven that acts of altruism — giving to both friends and strangers — are able to decrease stress and contribute to enhanced mental health.
And on top of that, they work wonders for building stronger relationships!
But the best part about them is probably that they are so simple and low-effort. Here are some options — choose whatever feels most accessible and doable to you:
Most of these things take just a couple of minutes. But their impact makes for an outsized return!
Even more so if the person performing these “Random Acts of Kindness” is in a leadership position: A manager telling their direct report how (truly) impressed they are with their recent work. Or relaying a compliment to them from inside the team. Or simply bringing them a cup of coffee…
Does that undermine your authority in any way? Certainly not. Because real authority doesn’t come from “who brings whom a coffee”. It’s earned through being a trustworthy, generous, and knowledgeable leader. One that interacts with their colleagues at eye level, not from “higher up in the org chart”.
Give it a try! Pick three items from the list above and three people on your team. Perform one of these little activities every day for the next couple of days. And see what happens.