A highly functional team is everybody’s ticket to success. Your team can make or break your career. Here are six ways to improve the relationships on your team.

1. Dedication – “If you don't make a total commitment to whatever you're doing, then you start looking to bail out the first time the boat starts leaking. It's tough enough getting that boat to shore with everybody rowing, let alone when a guy stands up and starts putting his life jacket on” – Lou Holtz. Commitment to the relationships on the team is one of the greatest assets a team can have. Every long-lasting human relationship suffers strains and setbacks. Team members will never agree on everything. Even the closest friendships can expect to face conflict. So the issue is, what are you going to do when the inevitable conflict comes? Are you going to stand up and put on your life jacket or are you dedicated to maintaining the relationships on the team? Your answer just might determine whether your team is long-term or merely a group of people who happen to work in the same place. When the tough times come, reach out to your team to find the solutions.

2. Communication – “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou. How can a team form without communication? It often begins with casual communication, but it is sustained with intentional communication. I define intentional communication as an “exchange” of information. Communicating is not just about clearly expressing yourself, but also listening for understanding of your teammates. If you don’t understand or worse fail to try and understand another member of the team, you are doing damage that will not be forgotten. Allow all team members to play their part in communication. If your team leader doesn’t search for clarity, step up yourself and ask for it. By insuring everyone has an opportunity to be heard, you build bridges that cement the relationships within the team.

3. Camaraderie – “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you” – Dale Carnegie. We sometimes take for granted the people closest to us, and as a result the relationship suffers. Remind yourself constantly to be a friendly colleague first, before trying to be anything else to your team. Try putting their concerns first. And when there is conflict or if your teammate is in doubt about making a decision, remind the group that you are looking out for them. Decades ago President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill battled publicly over legislation. But weekly, Tip visited the White House for a drink with the President. They took an interest in each other as individuals and on these occasions put politics aside. Both men recognized the value of the other. As a result the liberal democrat and conservative republican brought America through a difficult time. Never underestimate the value of camaraderie.

4. Memories – “The true art of memory is the art of attention” – Samuel Johnson. Shared memories are a source of connection and bonding. I have a friend who I met when we were twelve years old. We were in Boy Scouts together. We were SCUBA diving buddies. We roomed together in college. After college my friend took a job out of state. In his work he traveled constantly and we lost touch. The first time I saw him again was twenty years after college. When we began talking the years fell away and we were instantly connected again. This connection is the result of being aware and paying attention to our shared experience. Pay attention to what is happening with your team. Use your shared experiences in discussions and problem solving. This is the value of company newsletters and recognizing birthdays and other significant life events of the team members.

5. Development – “Promise may get friends, but it is performance that keeps them” – Benjamin Franklin. When you begin any relationship, it is filled with promise. But you have to find ways to keep team relationships fresh and strong so the team continues to have potential. One way to do this is sharing personal development. I owned a consulting business, which employed mental health professionals. Someone was always attending a conference. I instituted a tradition that the attendee always gave a report back to the staff about what he/she had learned. Frequently a discussion would grow out of the shared knowledge. This allowed all of us to develop professionally as a team. Benjamin Franklin recognized the importance of a team’s performance holding the group together. Sharing personal and professional growth is an important avenue for team development.

6. Kindness – “We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life” – Edwin Markham. Try to extend small kindnesses to your teammates frequently. Let your team know how much you care as often as you can. Don’t leave room for doubts. This is a lesson I learned through loss. In the past I owned a small manufacturing company. I had an extremely valuable young man running my sales force. He was doing an excellent job and making both himself and the company a lot of money. One day he walked in to my office and announced he was taking a position with another company. I was stunned. He said he felt the new company would offer him a better work environment. What I discovered was he never felt appreciated. He was not leaving for money or more responsibility. I had lost him because I failed to commit to the Gold Rule for my team.

The relationships we develop with our team enrich the quality of our lives. But we cannot sustain them if we don’t cultivate them. Make a commitment today to the individuals on your team – both at work and at home – and watch your relationships prosper.

Author's Bio: 

Richard Highsmith, rick@qualityteambuilding.com, is President of Quality Team Building. He has twenty-five years experience training and coaching. He has built and sold two successful businesses. To learn more about becoming a team leader visit our website at http://www.qualityteambuilding.com or call Rick toll-free at 1-888-484-8326 X101.