How to Create a Team That No One Wants to Leave

In the second half of 2021, more than 25 million workers quit. The “Great Resignation” is in full swing. And quitting breeds more quitting, to the point where newspapers developed the term “quitagion” to describe it.

What is causing so many individuals to leave their jobs? Employers believe that it is compensation or work-life balance. But employees who are leaving tell a different message. They resign for two primary reasons they don’t feel: 1) valued or 2) belonging. During the pandemic the most productive businesses defied the quitagion trend, increasing employee work satisfaction by 48 percent. What do these thriving teams have in common? They follow five guidelines to help their teams flourish.

Put People First

Success becomes a zero-sum game when people are driven by their self-interest. Relationships may give the illusion of teamwork, but they are transactional. The team suffers because if one person succeeds, their teammates feel threatened. 

Leaders must reset the table. Show the team that they can do more as a group than they can as lone wolves. The more individuals give, the more they get. One person’s win is a win for the whole team. We can transform teamwork into a positive-sum game. That’s when people feel like they’re a part of something greater than themselves. As the level of enjoyment rises, so does productivity. 

When team members authentically trust and care for each other, they are no longer in a transactional zero-sum game. They have each other’s backs. Team members can trust each other to respect each other as people with their own aspirations and needs. Known as shared empathy, this is a leading indicator of productive teams. Shared empathy can be as simple as celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. It’s showing an interest in each other’s lives, such as inquiring about people’s hobbies, spouses, and children. 

There are practical ways to establish this empathy as a team leader. When you first step into a new role introduce yourself to your new team as a human being. Share pictures of your interests and family. For example, create a channel on Microsoft Teams devoted to fun. Make time for humor and create room for personal connection. Post memes and questions that create engagement. Open meetings with personal and professional development from last week. You can also use ice breakers like, “What made you laugh this weekend?” or “What was a happy event and sad event of your week?”

Send teammates worksheet that asks for details about them. Then use that information to do special things for them throughout the year. Privately ask each teammate questions from the below list so you can manage them based on their individual needs. 

  1. What are you shooting for in your current role?
  2. Where do you see your career heading?
  3. What personal goals do you feel comfortable sharing with me?
  4. How often do you want to meet to discuss your progress?
  5. Do you like praise in public or private? Written or verbal? Who is your best audience?
  6. Please tell me about the most meaningful recognition you have received and what made it so significant.
  7. How do you learn? (Visual, Verbal, Experiential, etc.).
  8. Have you had any mentors that have helped you? How did they help?

Keep that information written down so that you can reference it when you’re managing that individual. 

Rally Around Shared Goals

Players on sports teams understand the bonding experience created by winning together. Team members struggle together and challenge each other to deliver their best. When we share the excitement of learning and winning together, it multiplies across the organization. Challenges bring teams together, but only if they share the conviction that striving for victory brings them together.

Use the theme of “beating your best” to rally behind ambitious goals. When it comes to setting team goals, focus on two questions with your team, “What must we do to authentically serve our customers’ needs and fuel growth?” and “How can we beat our best results to build on our greatest achievements?” To achieve the larger purpose, colleagues are pushed to explore, study, and push boundaries. 

Model Humility and Curiosity

People become closer when they share values that make them feel that their group is unique. Two ideals that boost bonding are humility and curiosity. Humility is the acceptance of our limitations. When a leader illustrates humility, it allows others to contribute. The team feels like they can be wrong without judgment. That creates a place where bold ideas are cultivated. Curiosity stems from the realization that there is always something new to learn. Experimentation and progress become more exciting as a result. 

Recognize chances to demonstrate humility by reacting to comments with curiosity and openness rather than defensiveness. Begin with a question and make it clear that your suggestions are a starting point. This promotes diversity of thought and innovation. As a leader, demonstrate curiosity by asking a lot of questions. And don’t be afraid that they may make you look dumb. Let people know you want to learn more. They will start questioning processes that they inherited. There are many things teams do because “we’ve always done it this way.” Those processes need to be examined to understand the “why” behind them. 

Allow others to take the lead. Assign each team member an opportunity to lead a team meeting. This provides each person with opportunities to lead others. It also shows that the team is more important than the leader. Build consensus on learning together. These can be weekly podcasts or books that the team reads over the quarter. Highlight your values with a weekly email that emphasizes one of your core ideals with a Ted Talk or blog article that goes into more depth about the value. 

At one-on-one meetings, ask team members how they failed this week. But before they answer, you must share how you failed. This shows an intoxicating level of vulnerability. It provides everyone an opportunity to improve next week. And it also allows you as a leader to learn about issues before they balloon into a career-limiting mistake. 

Celebrate Wins

Bonds are created by sharing the joy of team wins. The pressure of meeting goals can drain satisfaction from our work. By celebrating wins as a group, it reinforces the team’s focus on working together. Publicly praise a team member at least once a week. Microsoft Teams has a “praise” button that you can use to highlight a team member. Encourage your team to do the same for someone on another team as well as their own. This fun approach emphasizes the variety of opinions and marks modest strides forward.

Connect the Dots 

People don’t remember rules. They remember reasons. Motivation and performance improve when teams know their “why.” Two of the top five predictors of a high-performing team are knowing that one’s work makes an impact and feeling that one’s work is meaningful. So connect the dots between the task and the larger purpose. Help everyone understand how their effort contributes to success for all. Become a great storyteller so that your team understands the reasons they do their work. 

So keep in mind that connection is what is important to people more than anything else. Their job ties them to customers, other areas of the company that rely on them, and, most importantly, to one another. Teams who make a conscious effort to build these ties stand out. They not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity. These are the groups that individuals desire to join. Build those teams, and no one will want to leave.

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