I often talk about what leaders can do. What about followers? If you’re a team member and you’d like to add positivity to your team, what might you do?
First Build Relationships
In order to build relationships with your peers on your team, you will need to take a genuine interest in them as human beings.
That might sound simple, however it was a challenge for me for many years. Therefore, first assess yourself on whether you would find it easy or hard to take a genuine interest in other people as people.
(If it’s hard, no worries, it was for me too. That’ll be a column for another day.)
For now let’s assume you’re already good at being genuinely interested in others, or you’re willing to give it an honest try.
Build a spreadsheet or a simple tracking form listing each of your teammates. Use this to track your behavior in the next two steps.
Say Good Morning
Your first practice would be to methodically, each day, make a point of looking each one of them in the eyes, smiling, and saying “good morning.”
You would keep track of that on your tally sheet. You might even explain to them that you are taking on some homework regarding making yourself a better team mate, and part of that is greeting each team member each day. A lot of people need explanations for new behavior, and that would be a truthful one.
(Before you worry that this is artificial, ALL new behaviors feel artificial at first. Customer service leaders at Nordstroms and high end restaurants literally train their people to make eye contact a certain way, to greet every guest who comes within a certain number of feet of them, and so on. It works. Use it.)
A second task would be, to keep an eagle eye out for things your teammates are doing well, and acknowledging them with a one or two sentence acknowledgment. The brevity prevents it from becoming too awkward. I use a template I can memorize. Something like, “hey Terry, I see you got the Miller project completed yesterday” or “Terry, I noticed that when you spoke up in the meeting yesterday, everybody else opened up too.”
(Acknowledgements are VERY powerful. My friend Gabe Fasolino simply tracked acknowledgements at a company he managed, and by tracking it got a lot more — as you expect when the boss tracks anything. Within a month the mood of the entire firm rose dramatically.)
An acknowledgement is a statement of what is. It neither praises nor condemns — it states what the immediate impact of the behavior was. I recommend always smiling slightly during an acknowledgement. And maybe giving a thumbs up or a nod. (An advanced form is to also state the longer term effect of the short term impact: “Terry, I see you completed the Miller project yesterday — that’s going to keep us on schedule.”)
Again, you can explain that you are engaging in homework, practicing being mindful of what is occurring around you.
Make sure that your acknowledgements are always about positive things like task accomplishment. (A prior version of me would have used this exercise to make snarky observations, like acknowledging the chronically late teammate with “hey, you made it in” and a cheesy smile. Don’t be like old me.)
The assignment is to acknowledge at least one thing each week for each of your peers. You can be more frequent. Notice after 3 weeks whether anyone else is also acknowledging more, and whether anyone’s mood has shifted noticeably.
Getting Started with Acknowledgements
Since an acknowledgment might seem a bit random (as opposed to saying “good morning” first thing in the morning, which is highly predictable), use a formula so you can focus on the content:
“Hey _(name)_, I see that you _(did a visible thing)_. That _(has a specific impact in the world)_.”
“Hey, Sophie, I see you made breakfast for us. That’s going to get us out the door sooner and we’ll perform better today with a good breakfast in us.”
“Hey, Sophie, I see neither of us made breakfast. We’re either going to be late or going to arrive hungry.”
“Hello everyone, I see we’re all here on time at the start of the meeting. That will make it easier for me to end on time.”
Acknowledgments are factual and highlight the other person’s power to make a difference in the world. Focus on their desired outcomes, acknowledge them, and watch you grow closer to them.