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  • Writer's pictureJenn Donahue

5 Ways Leaders Can Get To Know Their Team


team sitting around leader, listening, learning, millenials

How do you get to know your team?


When teams and leaders don’t know each other, they communicate less effectively.


If we don’t know our teams, we can’t understand our team member’s strengths and weaknesses.


Whether you’ve recently moved into a new leadership position, you have to manage rotating teams, you have taken on new members, or you just want to get to know your existing team better, it’s important to create time and space for team building for you and your team to get to know each other.


In my time as a military officer and business leader, I have found five great ways for a leader to really get to know their team: set the tone, one on one’s, personality tests, creative team building, and story-telling.


Getting to know your team and helping them get to know you will help you all work together more effectively. This will increase trust and optimize communication.


Better communication leads to more effective teams. You will understand what people need to work at their best, and what challenges they are likely to face so that you can help them.


Here is the breakdown of the 5 ways you can more effectively get to know your team and develop that authentic connection that will help you lead them to success.


Leaders Set the Tone


I know what it’s like to be a team leader that is having trouble getting to know the team. I also know what it’s like to be a team member and feel like the leader clearly doesn’t know who we are or how we work.


Building teams begins with setting the tone. As the leader, you have to be the first on the ramp to show the team you want to get to know them better, and that you want them to get to know you.


This can take place in a variety of ways and communication styles, but the most important is to let them see your face and hear your voice. If an person meeting is not an option, then it will be important to set up a video conference.

Forbes offers: “The willingness of participants to be open and vulnerable is critical to team-building success.”

While it can be challenging to be open and vulnerable with your team, it’s important that you tell them about yourself, and not just your work history. They need to be able to see and interact with you as a human, and take cues from your tone around what is safe and appropriate to share. You can also share some of your challenges, setbacks, and wins.


By being vulnerable, you will create an atmosphere for more authentic communication.


Meet Your Team Members One on One


Your team is made up of individuals, and they each have a different background, personality, communication and leadership style. It’s your job as a leader to get to know what makes each member of your team unique.


Because if you’re like me, you’ve had a boss that doesn’t know your name. And that can feel disempowering and disheartening.


So, whether you lead five people or five hundred, it is important to set up time to meet with your team, all one on one if possible. Meeting with your team members will help to create a personal connection which will grow a foundation of trust, guidance, and independence.


In a one on one, you can both share a little about yourselves, and what you expect from one another in these roles. Check out The Muse for suggestions on great questions to ask to get to know each other.


This is also a great opportunity for them to share their suggestions for how things could be done better.


As a leader, we don’t always get candid feedback from our teams, so it’s important to create ways for them to feel safe to share what problems they see and what solutions they propose.


This not only helps to improve morale, but will ensure that communication and suggestions are more effective going forward.


Understand your team with personality tests


Being a researcher and a nerd at heart, I love tests.


The more quality tests you and your team engage with, the more data you will have to better understand each other.


The Meyers-Briggs personality test is a great place to start because it provides an in depth look at 16 distinct personality types. From here, you and your team can share how you see your personality type show up in your life and in your work.


The added benefit of people sharing their results is that you can see how people can best work together, and where common communication issues may arise.


The feedback from these tests can help you and your team better speak each other’s languages and translate misunderstandings into clarity.


Creative Team Building


Jobs and work are often associated with the mundane. When we get too focused on being serious, the colors of our personalities don’t shine through.


Create time and space for your team members to share their more playful and creative sides. While this may seem unproductive, it can actually be essential to see the parts of people’s personalities that they may ordinarily leave at home.


Whether it’s in person, or through an app, you can create space in the schedule for people to play as a team. Not only can these be team building exercises, they can also be artistic, mentally stimulating, or even child-like.


Creative team building will help reduce stress and stimulate creative and innovative thinking. It will also help you and your team get to know each other on a deeper level.


Get to Know Each Other’s Story


Whether we know it or not, who we think we are is largely based upon the story we tell ourselves.


While you may not have the time or desire to know everyone’s entire life story, by using some structure and prompts, you and your team can share the most important parts of your stories.


This can help them see how their story fits in with the team and yours as the leader.


This is a great opportunity for people to talk about what they really love in life, what’s most important to them, what adversity they have had to navigate, and what they hope for their future.


This will help develop your emotional intelligence which Tony Robbins says, “is the ability to accurately understand those being lead.”


Know Your Team to Grow Your Team


Too often in our work environments, we can feel like no one really knows us.


This is especially true between a leader and their team when there is a noticeable difference in roles. As leaders, we will often have new team members, or sometimes entirely new teams. If we don’t know them, and they don’t know us, we simply can’t work as well together.


By implementing these 5 practices, you can break the ice and create deeper, more meaningful connections between you and your team.


Not only will this allow you to lead more effectively because you will better understand your team, but it will also help your team to develop trust in you as you lead them through challenges.


By setting the tone, engaging one on one, taking personality tests, making space for creative team building, and using story-telling, you can effectively get to know your team members on a deeper level that is still safe and appropriate to the work environment.


I believe implementing these practices will boost clear effective communication, increase useful feedback, and will empower your team members to see their place in the larger picture of the success you are all working toward.


If you’d like me to speak to your organization about team building, reach out and let’s connect!

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