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Cohesive teams blog
Megan Kirk | 27 June 2023

Building cohesive teams

Starting with connection at the top

Leading a business has many challenges and it can often feel like there is never enough time to lead your strategy and vision, lead your people and keep up with business as usual.

Taking time to work ‘on’ the business while you’re working ‘in’ the business is a difficult balance. It is crucial to dedicate time to focus on the strategic aspects of the business, rather than getting caught up in day-to-day operations. Alignment on priorities, what you are trying to achieve and what this looks like needs to start at the leadership team level. Having a cohesive and aligned leadership team will lead to sustained organisational performance.

In our experience the main hurdle is often finding the time to gather your leaders together to connect and collaborate. Here’s our thoughts on how you might do this.

How to prioritise leadership connection

At Humankind we recognise the importance of creating space and time for leadership connection and alignment and we work with many of our clients around deliberate action to make this happen. This could be through developing the right operating rhythms and ways of working or the design of leadership retreats and offsites. Deliberately bringing your leaders together sends a clear message that you are invested in their future as trusted leaders in your business.

How we have worked with our clients to achieve this recently

Last month I had the privilege of developing and facilitating a Leadership Retreat for 19 leaders. Early discussions with the business owners highlighted a genuine motivation to spend time off-site following three years of an unpredictable and difficult environment, and the realisation that leaders needed direction.

Over one and a half days, leaders came together from Auckland and Wellington to spend time connecting, learning, sharing, and aligning on organisational strategy. Preparation began weeks prior, spending time with the business owners to understand their vision for the future strategic direction and to uncover challenges that exist across the business from an organisational design perspective.

What we first envisioned as time together to talk strategic direction and build a plan together, evolved into a much more powerful connection of learning and alignment on all areas of the business.

Setting the scene

Setting the scene and providing context on the journey, the business, and its people was a powerful way to kick off the retreat. This was also a chance to align on vision and mission which we consider a crucial step towards creating a cohesive team who are all heading in the same direction.

We spent time talking about how, as a collective, leaders can regularly come together to align and how leaders can effectively translate the vision and mission to their teams. We established that by clearly defining the vision and mission, leaders could understand the aspirational future state of the business, their collective goals and could more clearly articulate the impact they seek to make.

Knowing yourself and others well

After a quick coffee and some fresh air, we leapt into our next session, Communication and Working Styles. Effective communication starts with building awareness about your own style and those around you, and is essential for fostering understanding, resolving conflicts, and sharing ideas. Using the ‘Birds’ profiling tool, we spent time understanding each style, individual motivators, and how behaviours show up in stressful situations. Each style spent time collaborating on their preferred way of communicating and how others can get the best out of them and sharing with the wider team. This session was a great way to provide leaders with a common language and awareness of how to not only recognise but adapt communication styles for different situations. This awareness allows leaders to leverage each other's strengths and strengthen their connection as a collective.

Building a cohesive team

The leaders were really on a roll now! The ground we had covered in just one day was astounding. We were observing a team who were connecting with each other and building trust and awareness of themselves and each other. This was a great time to conquer our next session, building high performing teams.

Here, we explored what current ‘dysfunctions’ are evident and worked through strategies to overcome. Leaders reflected on their individual dysfunctions and how they can work towards overcoming them.

We know that operating as a high-performing team requires deliberate focus on collaboration, trust, and accountability. Collaboration encourages diverse perspectives and harnesses the collective intelligence of the team.

What can we hang our hats on?

Our last session was about leveraging our learnings from the last day and developing some key outputs – some tangible goals and direction that we can take back to our teams.

From the insights gathered over the previous sessions, we developed our key strategic ‘buckets’. We allowed cross-pollination of ideas by leaders providing feedback on what resonated with them or what needed further context or explanation.

Aligning on the collective pathway forward allowed leaders to leave the retreat with clear alignment with the broader organisational strategy and an understanding of how their individual teams and work contribute to the overall success of the business.

What we achieved together

We certainly left the retreat on a high, energised by the journey we had been on together and excited by the future. This was just the beginning!

We had covered huge ground - aligning on purpose, vision, mission, and values; getting to know each other's communication and working styles; operating as a high-performing unit and coming together to develop and understand the strategy.

The investment in the leadership team went far beyond the time taken out of the business. By investing time and effort into building a strong foundation and nurturing a positive and cohesive team culture, organisations can pave the way for sustained success in today's competitive business landscape.

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