Do you know the good feeling when someone does something nice to you that you didn’t expect? The free coffee sponsored by a colleague or that heartwarming compliment given by the cashier!?
As human beings we are wired to feel loved and valued when we receive unconditional and unexpected help. We are more open to bond with someone that has seen a need or wish of us and responded unasked. And that human glue strengthens our teams at work and intensifies the joy of working together.
Knowing this principle we are capable of forming our own comforting environment by investing into our fellow human beings. Their emotional-well-being will increase. And with them feeling better the overall atmosphere will turn positive.
Let me give you some examples of what you can do:
Offer a hand or a ride
Recently, I met some clients in a remote area in the suburbs of my hometown. By the end of the meeting some participants needed to go to the headquarter that is 20 min away by bus. Since I had my car with me I offered them a ride – although I just had met them for the first time. We had a really good talk, I got to know whom they meet next and it was a valuable exchange for both sides.
Sponsor that coffee
I love coffee. And having a deep conversation with a tasty cup of coffee makes my day. I assume that others around me are quite similar. Therefore I never hesitate to invite people for coffee. Usually that behavior is mirrored back at me quite often – so I also get invited for a coffee a lot. Just last week one of my team members smiled at me and said: today’s coffee is on me. What happened with me? A huge smiling “free coffees are the best”. That relationship grew that day. It was a great investment into the team glue.
Make it a habit to thank people – even for little things like holding the door for you or taking your cup to the cleaning counter. Even if that means a short interruption in the conversation. Your spoken “thank you” signals the other person that you noticed and that you care for what they just did. It is a very small thing – but each time you add some glue to your relationship. Same is true for emails – you are probably never too busy to respond with a short “thx”.
Especially when you are a team lead make sure to appreciate your people on a regular basis. Despite the cleverness of your team mates, it never gets old to hear a “well done”, “I appreciate your time invest” or “thanks for giving your creativity to the company”. For sure you must ensure to be precise in your appreciation and specify what you mean. Just handing out “appreciated” as a standard answer won’t do the trick.
Personally, I like to write an email or handwritten note to my team members in order to appreciate their investment into the company and our team. It takes some time to think of specific situations and the strengths of each one displayed but the result that I am seeing in my team is worth the invest.
Is there a downside?
Yes. Sadly there is. Since these actions work more or less independent from the intention behind it, a lot of managers have used them as “leadership tools” to grow their own career instead of relationships around them. For a while that works well. Until people realize that they are being manipulated. And then they close down emotionally. Instead of feeling joy when getting a compliment, they react with disbelief and cynicism.
In turn, when these people become leaders themselves they are not capable to do “the small stuff” because they believe that everything in this area is manipulation. Consequently a culture evolves in which people don’t lend a hand, you won’t hear a “Thank you” or get true appreciation.
So, what do you believe: Does small stuff matter?