It’s safe to say that the past 18 months has thrown into focus the importance of relationships within teams; many of us have found ourselves thrown from the familiar day to day working environment, to the paradigm of working from home; often physically isolated from our fellow team members. It is definitely far more challenging to pick up the usual signs that someone you work with is struggling when you only have a zoom call here or there, which may or may not include video. The Agile Avengers are no exception, and we recently realised that we had lost something of our collective spark. One extended retrospective later and our verve was restored; one of the key things we realised is just how important it is to continually revisit our relationships with one another as a team, to review, to check in with each other. We wanted to capture these thoughts in a collaborative manner, and so we asked ourselves: “How do our team relationships fuel team and personal growth?”Here are our thoughts.
Often relationships underpin how we feel; personally and collectively, strong connections with others can inspire growth in everything we do. Over the past few years I have had first hand experience of how strong relationships with those around me have fueled my own growth. Psychological safety is key to those relationships. When you get that sense of psychological safety within a team a series of things start to happen: sharing vulnerabilities, openness, honesty, trust, empathy, and confidence to be one’s self. You move from knowing your team members to truly understanding them. With the deepest connections you understand what makes them tick, what their values are and where they find their purpose in life. What we see everyday is people’s behaviours and actions, this is the tip of the iceberg. When we start to understand each other we get to know what’s driving those behaviours and actions. Having this level of understanding of one another fosters a stronger sense of psychological safety, this removes things like fear of judgement and fear of failure, people feel safe to try new things, share ideas, step outside of their “comfort zone” and that is when you really begin to grow both personally and professionally.
In the context of business teams, what you’re really trying to do is use personal creativity and ingenuity to solve complex problems together. It’s not just about completing tasks, it’s about overcoming challenges on a daily basis. It’s for this reason that psychological safety has become absolutely essential within business teams, as individuals need to be able to voice new ideas and potential solutions without fear of being exposed in front of the group. Psychological safety is fostered through the culture and relationships built within the team. This doesn’t mean you all need to become best pals, but there are a lot of qualities that you’d find in friendships that would really benefit in your working relationships. Good relationships within your team lead to higher levels of psychological safety, and higher levels of psychological safety enable you to communicate and collaborate better, and that will always lead to team growth.Drill down to a personal level and there’s no doubt that your own personal growth will be dramatically influenced by the people around you. Again, higher levels of psychological safety will enable you to process thoughts and ideas more effectively, whilst trusting those around you to support you in your own development journey. For me, I can pinpoint certain teams in my own career where the relationships were really strong (in many cases those relationships became friendships both inside and outside the workplace) and it was in those teams that I was able to develop the most as an individual. You feel safe to be yourself, to try new things, to ask for help, to seek feedback from those around you and to challenge the rest of the team to be better when the situation requires it.
I don’t need to be best friends with everyone in my team to build good relationships with them, but in my opinion socialising is a fundamental element of good team cohesion. I’m that kind of person, who needs some time to adapt to other’s personalities to feel included. But as soon as I get to know them better, I get more comfortable sharing my own ideas and not afraid to challenge others’. With all this confidence boost my productivity increases massively.From my experience the strongest bonds come from not common success, but failure. A diverse team can divide and conquer obstacles, while open-minded and honest people can also teach each other on the way. I seek to work with like-minded people whenever possible, because I know that it’s not only gonna be fun, but I can also benefit from it as much as everyone else. And to be fair a good amount of banter is highly appreciated too.
Personal growth is a ubiquitous and mutual feeling within people around the world. With little thought we can imagine the better version of ourselves that we are striving for. The problem with this is that we assume that all we need is our own willpower and belief. However, you are significantly influenced by your relationships and environment as well. Take the military for example. By aligning these influences they effectively grow recruits from civilians to combat ready in a number of weeks.As a team builds relationships the social and environmental influences get stronger. Social interactions allow you to observe how others work, get feedback and gain an understanding of the processes involved. Initially teams may be wary of each other's talents and competency, and this may stifle their development. However, time breeds tighter relationships, trust and honesty. With a continuous feedback loop system you will see your own value as well as the importance of a team as you overcome challenges and achieve goals together.
One of the keys to any successful relationship is communication. Open, honest and authentic communication is the foundation stone for building strong, effective and enduring relationships, and by extension strong and resilient teams, whether those be work, family or friends. I always find that when my relationships start to feel distant or strained, more often than not it is because communication has been compromised.Recently I found this to be the case with my fellow Agile Avengers; my engagement with our mission and daily meetings had gradually lessened, to the point that I was actually questioning my involvement! We arranged an overdue long form retrospective, where the key activity was to share what we were feeling, and how the last couple of months had been. Taking this opportunity to explore and share all that had been occurring opened up those precious communication channels between us all; reestablishing our common bond. I came away from that meeting feeling re-energised and reconnected, both with the team and with myself.
Relationships underpin all teams, whether those be within a working context, your family, local community, or even on national and international levels. How we relate to others in our networks, and indeed whether we even have those networks, plays a central role in our wellbeing on every level. We certainly believe in people over processes, but you know what… sometimes those processes, when leveraged well, can work wonders for building and sustaining our relationships - and our journey through this life.