While you should be connected to all of your direct reports, you can’t be everything to everyone, nor should you be.

As leaders, we want to encourage our teams to be connected and support one another in a way that is integrated into our daily work and our work routines, rather than relegated only to special events. There are simple steps to help you create opportunities for your teams to learn about one another, build trust, and enlist everyone’s help to create a supportive and safe environment. 

As you begin helping your team find ways to connect, here are three important precursors to help you be successful: 

• Enlist a couple of connectors. Who on your team is already pretty well connected? Ask if they will help you implement these strategies. A couple of enthusiastic partners will make it easier for team members who aren’t willing to be the first ones to jump in. 

• Experiment. People like to connect in different ways. What sounds fun to you may be tortuous for others. Give them lots of ideas, and let them choose which they want to experiment with. 

• Allow people to pass if they are not feeling comfortable with exercises. Modeling and encouraging others to participate can work wonders, but forced participation can backfire, creating resistance and causing the opposite emotional and behavioral changes to what you want. 

Connect Your Team Together

Team meetings are also one of the most powerful places to integrate important connecting activities into the workday. One simple exercise at the beginning of your regular team meetings can make a big impact.

In-Meeting Connection Ideas

Check-in questions.  Start weekly meetings with a quick check-in question that participants respond to one at a time in a round-robin style. Set a 30-second time limit per person and discourage comments or questions during the exercise (the goal is to create later conversations), and as always, allow anyone to pass. 

Here are some good questions to get you started: 

  1. What are you looking forward to this [spring, fall, holiday season]? 
  2. What’s happened recently that you’re proud of? 
  3. What’s something you want to do in the next year that you’ve never done before? 
  4. Who had the most influence on you growing up? 
  5. What have you read or watched recently that you loved? 
  6. What’s your superpower?  
  7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

And if your group is larger than 8 to 10 people, as an alternative to sharing with the full group, the group can split into pairs and answer the question with a little more time for connection. A time limit still applies, and the goal is deep listening — no questions, no offering advice or comments, repeating back what you hear. Make sure pairs switch each week and that someone is assigned to folks participating virtually. You can use breakout groups or have them call each other directly.