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7 inclusion hacks to build a highly engaged team in 2021

It’s the beginning of a new year and I’m sure you’re already asking yourself: “how can I build the best team this year?”

The start of a new year is a great opportunity to reset everything and get started with the best mindset to build and nurture the best team yet.

The big lesson from 2020 is: organisations can only succeed if their people are highly engaged.

As a leader, a manager or someone who wants their organisation to thrive, you play a big role in keeping your people engaged. Your behaviour at work has a much bigger impact than you know.

I wanted to share with you some techniques than YOU can use to build the best team ever, to transform your organisation from the inside and to drive organisational success through inclusion.

1. Unexpected gifts and tokens of appreciation

Small, unexpected gifts and tokens of appreciation are a great way to show your team that you care. It’s not about bribing employees with expensive presents; it’s about demonstrating that you are grateful for all they do by sending something they will appreciate. Your people are your greatest asset and everyone wants to feel appreciated. Don’t wait for a special occasion such as Christmas to demonstrate your appreciation. Send a thank you note with some flowers to someone who went above and beyond; Say words of appreciation to your team member who has been showing a great contribution. Unexpected acts of appreciation will go a very long way when they are done in an authentic way.

2. Daily or weekly check-ins

We are all busy and we are all guilty of being sucked in to our daily affairs, especially at work. However, nothing builds trust and connection like when someone checks-in with you. Remember the last time you received a call or a text from someone asking you “how are you”? How did that make you feel? Checking-in with your team member, colleague, work partner is the single most powerful way to create trust and a deep connection, which will make them more engaged with you and with their work. Be the person who initiates the check-in; if you can, check-in daily with a text; if not, check-in at least once a week with the key people you work with; you will never regret time spent checking-in with your people;

3. Celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries & more

This one seems like an obvious one, however it seems like most employers forget to celebrate their emp[loyees. According to a 2019 Tiny Pulse survey, only 26% of employees feel valued at work and forgetting to celebrate a team mate’s birthday is a sure way to make them feel not valued or appreciated. Some employees may prefer a quiet celebration so make sure you adjust the celebration to your colleague’s personal preference. An introvert might prefer a birthday card sent to their home address with some chocolates while some extrovert employees may enjoy the spotlight and a big, loud, birthday message on a company Slack channel. Work anniversaries are another important milestone to celebrate. Send a card with a personalised cake; make a phone call and surprise your team member with an old-style phone call saying “happy anniversary!”. After all, most people spend more time with you at work than with their partner at home, so be the one who celebrates anniversaries and make them feel special;

4. ABC: Always Be Celebrating (small wins!)

Celebrate the small wins every week! Celebrate a new contract sale by sending some chocolates to your sales rep! Celebrate a successful webinar by sending your marketing manager a bunch of flowers! Celebrate a new customer success story by mentioning your marketing assistant in your weekly team meeting! Celebrate a new hire by sending a thank-you note to all your coworkers involved in the recruitment process. When you celebrate small wins, you create a culture that focuses on success and where your people feel appreciated all the time, not just when your company achieves a big milestone.

5. Ask what YOU can do to help

Be honest: how often do you ask your co-workers how you can help them right now? Most of us feel so busy, so overwhelmed with our daily tasks that even in our one-to-one meetings, we don’t ask our colleagues how we can help them. If we are honest with ourselves, we are afraid they will add even more work for us and we won’t be able to cope with it. The reality is that when we ask our colleagues how we can help them, the appreciation they feel is significantly bigger than any additional work they may ask us. It is less about what “work” or “task” they will give us, and more about how they will feel about being asked how we can help. Of course, if they ask you to help them with something specific, keep your promise and do it. The small amount of additional work you will do will be tiny in comparison to the deep gratitude, appreciation and engagement you will receive in return.

6. Shutting down bullies

This is a big one. If you are serious about creating the BEST team ever, it is your responsibility to shut down bullies. You can not create a highly engaged, highly productive team if you allow one team member to be disruptive, cynical, negative, to make offensive jokes or to perpetuate small acts of aggressions. Most people know when someone is disrupting so if you know one person in your team who disrupts, take action now. Talk to them in private, call out their behaviour, give them a warning. Failing to shut down the bullies in your team will block all your efforts to create a highly inclusive, engaged team.

7. Getting to know your team, really!

When was the last time you asked your colleagues what they value most in life? Do you know your colleague’s favourite hobbies? Ask your team what they like doing, what drives them. Remember the little things. Ask your colleagues how their kid’s birthday celebration went, or what progress they are making on their personal fitness goal, or where they will travel on their next holiday. When you ask them about the things that matter to them most, you show them that you care about them outside of work and they will feel appreciated. Active listening is a great technique that you can use in your one-to-one meetings to better get to know your team and create a highly engaged team. Here’s a video if you want to learn more about active listening.

As you work on building the best team ever for your organisation, you will realise that this is a journey. Your work as an inclusive leader will never be finished. However, what you learn and how you grow on this journey will make you become a better person and will also make your team become the best they can be too.

Remember that all the work you put in will come back in a much bigger way than you ever thought possible;

I believe in you, start today!

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